In any business, when it comes to choosing whether to go it alone with your own bespoke software or leave the hard work to someone else with an off-the-shelf SaaS solution, there are no easy answers. In the fast changing and seasonal nature of the tour and activity industry, it's particularly tricky deciding which way to go.
Both bespoke software and SaaS apps for tour and activity companies are long term investments that have their own risks and payoffs, and the difficult decision for every entrepreneur or business owner is always: which one will pay off in the long run?
The key to making the right decision is to understand the needs of your business, as well as the risks involved. Let's jump straight in, shall we?
Why create your own bespoke booking software solution?
Advantage: You're in full control
The biggest obvious advantage of developing your own bespoke software is that you own the piece of software. This is not only advantageous from the aspect of being able to tailor it to your precise business needs, it can also be a very lucrative asset as you can lease it out to other companies.
With bespoke, there's no commitment to annual or monthly subscriptions for the technology and you have full control over the future direction of the booking system. And if you don't like having all of your sensitive business stored in the cloud by a software vendor, you control exactly how and where your business data is stored.
Disadvantage: High costs in terms of time, energy and money
On the flip-side, the initial costs in manpower and development time of a bespoke solution can be very high. This is not to even mention added costs if the project runs into overtime and problems - which almost every software development project invariably does. In terms of time, you are sure to be looking at several months of development time in order to create your own bespoke solution whereas with a SaaS software solution, you can be up and running in literally days.
There's also the question of who exactly builds your bespoke software. Whether you go in-house or contract it out, what do you do if the development team or designer moves on? No one will ever know the product like that person or team, meaning you can end up over a barrel when there are technical problems further down the line. If your booking system crashes or fails this can be a nightmare, or at least extremely expensive, if your development team is on a retainer contract.
Why use an off-the-shelf solution?
Advantage: It's a plug and play solution, easy as that.
In the tour and activity sector, there are an increasing number of SaaS booking solutions out there, so it may be tempting to pick an existing one instead of investing the considerable time and resources required to build a bespoke system. SaaS vendors such as TrekkSoft, for example, provide a sophisticated online booking software that works on any platform or device and can instantly solve your problem for a modest monthly subscription.
For software solutions like TrekkSoft, it is our best interest to keep up with changes in the market. Leaving this responsibility to us saves you considerable hassle and worry as it's our job to constantly stay on top of new technologies, platforms and industry trends.
There are also specific seasonal advantages when using a SaaS too. With solutions like TrekkSoft, which is widely used across the industry, your seasonal hires are more likely to be familiar with our software, saving you time and energy training them. Plus, there are a lot of video tutorials that can turn the most inexperienced staff into a full-blown Trekkie in no time.
Disadvantage: It might not fit your business in the long run
It's worth remembering that what fits your business now might not suit your needs a few years down the line. While TrekkSoft plans to move with the market, to a large extent, you are tethered to the direction we choose. Being stuck with a SaaS solution that no longer fits your needs, financial resources or changes in the market in a few years time can work out a lot more stressful and expensive in the long term.
The worst case scenario is buying a SaaS solution that simply doesn't provide what you need as your business grows. If you've purchased multiple licenses and invested time and effort in training your team, this can work out very expensive and messy. A bespoke solution can avoid all of this heartache by putting you in the driving seat rather than a third party.
To mitigate these risks, make sure to sign up for a free trial or a demo of the software. Get to know the people you will be working with, who will be supporting key aspects of your business. More importantly, take your time to research and compare different booking software solutions on the market to find one that's the right fit for your business.
5 ways an off-the-shelf booking solution will grow your business
1. Cloud-based solutions will work on any device and platform. This also means that the software can be accessed by different team members while they're out of the office, allowing them to manage admin and take bookings on-the-ground.
2. Stay on top of market changes and tech trends. Pass on the responsibility of staying on top of market and tech trends. Focus on creating great tours and delivering fantastic experiences and let us take care of the rest.
3. Save yourself the high costs of building, updating and maintaining your own software. Instead of footing the complete bill, subscribing to a software solution can give you substantial benefits for a small monthly fee. (Check out our ROI calculator so find out how much to stand to save with TrekkSoft!)
4. Let SaaS vendors figure out how to create the best software experience for you. You shouldn't have to figure out where you want to
5. We're ready to support you at all times. Whenever you onboard a new hire, simply direct them to our documentation and video tutorials to learn their way around the software. If you face problems with the software, we're available to help. Got feedback for the software? We're prepared to listen and improve.
While SaaS isn't perfect or without its drawbacks - maybe the developer will make changes to the software's functionality or the company may be bought out - it's still an obvious choice for tour and activity operators.
SaaS solutions will constantly stay on top of new innovations due to the raft of competitors in the market, and most solutions deliver regular updates, often with features you have requested. As a contrast, bespoke software can get out of date very quickly. Add to that the predictable cost of a SaaS license, the inherent scalability, the reduction in IT support needs, and the customer support from the software vendor if something goes wrong, and you have a strong business case for buying a cloud-based online booking platform.
This article was adapted from a blog post published on GetApp.
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.