Case Study: Sykes Cottages Property Owner Management System

Background

Sykes Cottages are the UK's leading independently owned holiday letting agent. With 25 years' experience successfully owning and letting properties, they work hard to secure year-round bookings and by making it easy and more rewarding for owners to let their cottages with them.

Challenge

Sykes had an extensive bespoke system built in-house for handing their website and on-line bookings which in turn integrates their internal client bookings and management system using traditional PHP and MySQL technologies. Their owner management system was a legacy FileMaker v6 database integrated with the online booking system. Sykes had concerns on scalability and performance due to greater demands being place on these critical business systems from the growth of their letting business and due to the age of the FileMaker V6 and FX.php technologies.

Solution

DataTherapy was selected so that improvements could be delivered quickly alongside their internal resources. A two pronged approach was taken to realise immediate and longer term benefits for the client booking system:

  • As a short-term fix, a caching and load balancing solution was implemented to reduce the performance impact of having to use FileMaker v6 for the owner management system.
  • In parallel, a new system, called TOMS ‘The Owner Management System’, was written in collaboration with Sykes' in-house development team using a combination of modern FileMaker technology linked to a MySQL database back-end (using FileMaker External SQL Support - ESS). This hybrid approach retained the flexibility and ease of use of FileMaker for the team's day to day owner management operations, balanced with the desire for the IT department to be able to use standard and scalable SQL tools for web integration and reporting.

'DataTherapy provided us with invaluable and pragmatic advice as we managed a period of transition for our in house IT team.  We were quickly up and running with a new system supporting rapid growth'.  

Miles Hill, Managing Director - Sykes Cottages

Benefits

A flexible 'tasking engine' provides a workflow for Sykes’ Regional Managers to follow when recruiting new owners. The vetting and information gathering that takes place before a property is accepted and made available on the website is central to maintaining Sykes' high standards.

  • Regional Managers’ workflow is formalised within the IT so everyone follows clear steps and all the important criteria that affect the level of an owner’s rental income are checked and recorded. Resource planning is more effective with the help of Personal and Team Task Lists.
  • A key benefit is that the tasking engine supports the flexibility for alternative tasks according to a series of decision trees, as not all properties will follow the same process.
  • Sykes can quickly adapt or add to TOMS through simple configuration changes without requiring additional development or programming.
  • TOMS is not a ‘set up an owner and forget about it’ system. Checks and changes can easily be made by the owner and Sykes. Owners for example typically benefit from being able to add a facility from a future date or withdraw it temporarily for maintenance.
  • Sykes leveraged their existing skills and investment of the MySQL based systems thanks to ESS and DataTherapy’s integration expertise.