Executive Summary Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership is integrated business application software for resorts, developers, marketers, re-sale businesses, management companies and home owners’ associations operating in the vacation ownership industry. Merlin has multiple resort, company and currency capabilities and manages all known products from conventional timeshare, through points to fractionals, whole ownership, travel and vacation clubs and trial products. All the functionality required from marketing and sales to front and back office is incorporated in the Merlin software application including a fully integrated accounting package and property management system. Companies using Merlin have no need for any other software to run their business other than e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet software. Unique Selling Points Three things differentiate Merlin from its competitors. Merlin is Software as a Service (SaaS or Cloud Computing) and Merlin has been built by people who know and understand how vacation ownership works, having been directly involved in that industry. The business logic and functionality built into Merlin has been acquired over more than 25 years of actual business operational experience. Thirdly, unlike other suppliers in the market place, Merlin is in the growth stage of the product life cycle (more on this below). Technology Merlin is a web based application, built on the “Application Service Provider” business model where the software is hosted on web and database servers in a secure data centre and served to clients over the internet. An alternative to this can be offered for larger clients for them to host the application and store their data themselves on their own servers. The technology platform for Merlin consists of a Microsoft SQL Server database back end with the front end built using Active Server Pages (Browser Front End). There is a middle tier of components and stored procedures. The database structure is normalised and because Merlin is a third generation design based on years of business operational experience, the logic and database are clean and uncluttered by cobbled on tables and functionality that comes as an afterthought. Development and Product Life Cycle Development of this third generation of Merlin commenced in 2000 and it was launched at the OTE Conference in Prague in November 2005. Merlin has passed through the product development and introduction stage and is now in the growth stage of the product life cycle. The Merlin team continues to improve the product offering, adding new features and support services. At this point, the vacation ownership industry is aware of the Merlin software product and understands the benefits of the technology available to them. As a result, Merlin is building brand loyalty and increasing market share while competition from other suppliers remains low simply because their technology is unable to match Merlin’s capabilities. Specifically this relates to two areas:
Inability to adapt old fashioned client/server technology to the Internet based Cloud Computing. Inability to adapt legacy database designs to cater for the latest product variations and flexibility within the vacation ownership industry. This can only be achieved at great cost and time by totally redesigning the database. This has been done in this third generation of Merlin.
Merlin is in the growth stage of the product life cycle curve. This is typified by:
Rapid acceptance by the market place
Constant product enhancement
New distribution channels
Brand loyalty and increased market share
Client partners include developers and resorts from Tenerife, across Europe to the Middle East (including Dubai and UEA) as well as USA. Significant clients include Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, DeVere Resort Ownership, Regency Resorts and Hutchison Trust Company. The following pages give a summary of the main features of Merlin and are neither an exhaustive nor detailed list.
Merlin Vision Our vision is to create a single business application solution that meets the total needs of our client partners. Because this solution is web based it can also provide a secure platform for a globally integrated industry while at the same time ensuring total data security and giving our client partners the ability to provide online interactivity for their owners and to do business with others in the industry should they wish to. We are uniquely positioned to achieve this vision:
Our direct involvement in the past in all aspects of the vacation ownership industry, as well as being software developers, means we have a unique insight into the business needs of others in the industry.
We develop software that is different and refreshing to use. And we use the software that we develop ourselves.
We employ new and innovative technologies in order move into the future.
We assist our client partners to remain profitable and competitive by helping them to improve their efficiencies and reduce their costs.
We share with our client partners the know-how and expertise that we have gathered over many years in business.
We have set new standards and offer affordable functionality with ease of use in a single integrated application, which is currently unavailable elsewhere. Creativity, innovation and advanced technologies together with knowledge and expertise are the cornerstones of our success. We regard these as our core competencies and in these competencies we lead the field. With Merlin we have created a new generation of software that incorporates the knowledge we have built up over more than 25 years in business. Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership is set to revolutionise the way you do business.
Who is behind Merlin? Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership has been developed by Mike Pnematicatos and his highly motivated team of software developers in Cape Town, South Africa. Mike is an internationally known and respected authority on all types of vacation ownership including timeshare, fractionals and points clubs. He commenced property development in 1983 and in 1987 pioneered the development of one of South Africa’s very first points clubs. Not that well known is that he also undertook fractional ownership developments in the early 1980’s, well before this product became the global buzzword it is today. Together with his partners, he built one of South Africa’s largest timeshare and points club development and management companies with over 40,000 members in four different points clubs and 16 managed resorts. The business was vertically integrated and covered every aspect from property development through marketing and sales to after sales management. Integral to the success of this business was the fact that the software on which the business operated was developed in house. He partnered with Roy Peres and Club La Costa, one of Europe’s largest and most successful timeshare developers to form the CRI Points System, the forerunner of RCI Points. He sold his various timeshare businesses to RCI in 2000 and assisted them for close to three years in designing and launching the RCI Points program in Europe and the USA. He has spoken at international conferences in Europe, USA and Australia on the future of timeshare and points clubs. He has also served on the boards of a number of timeshare resorts and owners’ associations and has occupied the position of chairman on many of these boards. His main business interest today is the ongoing development of software for the vacation ownership industry. His extensive knowledge and firsthand experience of how to manage these developments and clubs means that the software he designs supports the best practices in vacation ownership business processes.
Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership comprises five main modules described on the following pages. 1 Marketing Module
Key point – Track each lead from source to sale This robust and all-embracing module will be your resort’s complete CRM system. It allows users to:
Build a database of prospects
Record all your marketing activities
Track what marketing activities people respond to
Determine response rates and cost per response
Decide what marketing activities work and what don’t
In addition the module includes sophisticated data mining tools that allow you to mine your data and continue to market to the prospects in your database in four different ways:
SMS/TXT Messages to Cell/Mobile Phones
You are able to build multiple complex cascade marketing programs using all of the above communication methods and set these to run automatically. The module includes functionality to build outbound calling lists and for call centre operators to make outbound calls to prospects in these lists. Call centre managers can allocate calls to individual call centre operators who are able to access their calls to be made using a customised and pared down Merlin Lite front end. The marketing module also includes functionality to:
Create tours and to book prospects into these tours
To allocate tours to sales representatives
Track tour results, qualification status and show status
Report sales representative statistics including closing rates, efficiencies and VPG.
Add client notes and actions
Develop sales pipelines
While this module has everything that you would expect from a standard timeshare marketing module, it includes functionality that is not found in competitor offerings particularly the data mining and cascade marketing capabilities. This includes:
Full CRM case tracking
Web forms/interface to capture data directly to the database
Flybuy/mini vac management – automated, robust, feature rich and comprehensive
2 Sales Module
Key point – Pick a product and Merlin manages it This wide-ranging module allows you to take control of the entire sales process. Users can:
Create all sales inventory/products
Manage this inventory
Track all changes of ownership including developer sales and owner re-sales
Easily add to and adapt the vacation ownership products you are selling
Create many different inventory or product pools
All known forms of timeshare are catered for including:
Private residence clubs
In addition inventory from one pool can be moved into other pools to create different product types for sale. (Timeshare weeks into a points pool to create points for sale being just one example). Sales inventory can be created from source such as units/real estate or can be created in some secondary form from other underlying products. Every owner is allocated a specific piece of sales inventory despite the fact that the use may be floating. Alternatively non inventory linked products can be created and sold. You are able to manage internal and external cessions, conversions, trade-ins, upgrades and downgrades etc. as well as re-sales inventory of owners and reciprocally traded in inventory from other resorts. Using set ups and price lists, all financial entries made at point of sale are directly posted using the double entry accounting module making it unnecessary for any transactions to be taken on in a secondary accounting package. All income and expense transactions including commissions can be automatically created and posted from this module, saving time, people and work effort. You are able to print sales contracts using your own predefined templates where the specific data is merged into the contract template. All documents are stored on the server and linked to the purchaser’s record including scanned, uploaded signed paperwork. Multiple contract tracking paths with user defined milestones can be created. All sales can be linked to marketing information (lead, source, tour, sales representative etc.) in order to automatically determine marketing efficiencies and provide statistical information.
Contract cancellation and non payment of annual dues repossessions are all automatically handled, with all financial transactions being automatically written and posted to the predefined accounts. Changes of ownership (developer sales and owner re-sales) automatically result in recalculation of annual dues and reservation rights and bookings based on specified dates. Additional buyers and notes can be linked to sale contracts and multiple contracts can be merged for single, combined monetary entry and statistical analysis.
3 Front Office/Condo/Hotel Module
Key point – Maximise your inventory utilisation and yield management This powerful module for front desk, rental and central reservations allows you to:
Create all reservation inventory
Manage this inventory
Make reservations for owners
Track owners’ annual reservation rights and use
Create different reservation pools for exchange, rentals, marketing etc.
Move reservation inventory into these different pools
Track balance of trade between these pools
Make reservations for these non owning guests including rentals
Perform all front desk functions
There is functionality for automated uploads and downloads with RCI for owner deposits and inbound guest. Owners can be automatically booked into their own weeks each year (fixed week owners) with status “Confirmed” or “Unconfirmed” if required. The front desk functionality includes the ability to:
Check guests in and out
Merge and de-merge reservations
Add additional guests to the reservation
Record arrival and departure information including ETA and ETD as well as arrival and departure transport requirements
Track equipment moved in and out of units
Manage guest and concierge services
Perform all guest accounting and front desk accounting functions including night audits and shift changes all of which interface automatically to the general ledger accounting package using simple account alias’s
Perform all housekeeping functions including cleaning schedules and managing unit maintenance tasks
Merlin can be linked to third party point of sale, telephone and key card systems using API’s between Merlin and the specific systems. Additional programming is required for these API’s.
4 Back Office Module
Key point – See the difference between cash flow and profitability - easily With its complete double entry accounting package interface, this comprehensive module allows you to perform all accounting functions for multiple companies including:
Raise annual maintenance fee invoices
Receipt all payments made by owners and others
Report on all accounting matters including production of financial statements, trial balances, account movements etc.
Collection and reporting of all outstanding sales income and bad debtors
Debtor ageing and invoice ageing
Additional features include invoice matching and automated suspense account movement functionality. The back office accounting module integrates with both the sales and front office modules resulting in transactions that are processed in these other modules being automatically posted to company accounts managed from the back office module. True multi currency, multi-company and branch accounting capabilities exist. While having all the standard accounting package functionality you would expect, there is in addition accounting functionality specific to the vacation ownership industry. This makes the Merlin back office module more than just an accounting package. By integrating double entry accounting into vacation ownership software Merlin becomes a complete and integrated solution that provides:
Full financial reporting
Trial balance financial statements
The ability to drill down to the lowest level
Complete contract income and expense tracking
G.P. per sale
Commissions including travel agent
Automated suspense accounting
5 Set Up Module
Key point – Where the magic begins! The set up module allows you to perform all the set ups necessary to make Merlin work for you and meet your requirements. The set up module has simple wizards for the most common set up tasks which take you sequentially through the set ups required in order to get going and start your business. In addition there are detailed set up structures for the more competent users. Here are some of the actions you can perform in this module:
Set up your businesses
Set up accounts for each business
Set up users and user groups
Set up user rights and restrictions
Set up your resorts
Configure units at these resorts
Add features, descriptions and photos for these resorts
Add reservation calendars and rules
Add your multi lingual document templates
Set up price lists
Set up annual billing
Set up marketing activities
Build sales teams and venues
Establish commission structures and rates
Build front desk items price lists
Set exchange rates
Set VAT and tax rates
Develop POS interface
Key Point – Defined access to specific data for selected staff Merlin Lite is designed for call centre operators and sales staff. It gives them a view on the data from their perspective showing them
Who their clients are
What calls they have to make
What action items they need to complete
Their personal diary
What appointments or tours they have been booked on
Their Sales Pipeline
Additional information Support Merlin provides immediate support on line. Merlinâ€™s support module allows users to log support requests directly from the pages they are working on. Details of the page are automatically captured allowing the Merlin Support Providers to immediately get to where the user is stuck. Users are also able to provide written details of their problem. As soon as a support request is logged every Merlin Support Provider is immediately sent an email with the details of the log and the support log is also updated on screen for Merlin Supporter Providers. Support logs are actioned as they are received and emails are sent automatically to the users giving them updates regarding the status of each support request they have submitted. Instant support is also available via Skype instant messaging simply by clicking on the Skype icon that is visible on every Merlin page. Users are able to see which Support Providers are online at any time and to request instant support from a Support Provider. Current and historic support logs are available to view and users are able to add their own comments to these logs at any time. Support is provided via e-mail, Skype Chat, Skype Calls and telephone. Training Merlin provides a combination of personal training on site or online using www.GoToMeeting.com Implementation Merlin is a turn-key solution with minimum risk that follows a simple discovery, set up and implementation procedure. A computer and an internet connection are all that are required to get started. The implementation process is as follows: 1. Product and process analysis 2. Set up 3. Data upload 4. Data validation 5. Full training 6. Go live with hand holding 7. Further training and ad hoc support
Published on May 9, 2011
A detailed introduction into Merlin Software for Vacation Ownership describing the different modules that make up the software, the vision o...