What is the best PMS to use in resort?

PMS or property management software goes by many names. There are many types of PMS related software often packaged as modules and sold with other bigger software packages such as inventory trackers & booking systems. A typical PMS setup would be to have a database of all assets, PMP (preventive maintenance program) routines, reporting levels, workorder processes which all tries to update key people on breakdowns, routine maintenance checks or guest complaints.

PMS Pricing is usually subscription based and can cost around the salary of 1 to 3 regular staff per month. Most high end resorts use some sort of PMS to manage the works. Smaller low budget resorts mostly do not use PMS and manages their work just fine, so what gives?

Why is PSM a neccesity and why does it cost arms & legs? Are there ways to achieve the benefit of using PMS without buying in to the bogus sales pitch thats also usually packaged with PSM package? The answer is yes PMS is an important part of any maintenance or engineering setup and its entirely possible to build a free PMS suited to any particular business. A powerful PMS can be stiched together using a combination of free online services to achieve the same result with zero budget.

A typical such system would include an online calendar such as google calendar (for scheduling tasks), Trello (good mobile support & kanban style cards), google sheets (for data analysis & collection), IFTT (for connecting the other services and google forms (for data collection and db). These are all free but extremely powerful and customizable tools ideally suitable for managing small to mid size businesses for use as PMS proper.

Innovation is not always investing in the next bloatware in the market but to make use of low cost, high tech services to advantage and improve on existing setup.

The fine-print of BlackBerry on Wataniyya

Blackberry storm
For those who loves lots of buttons on their phone, are reasonably paranoid about security, is a little bit obsessed with the latest the phone company provides, the latest Blackberry and Wataniyya join-up will be helpful. Wataniyya has infact sold out its stock of Blackberries and is awaiting a bigger shipment of phones very soon. The novelty is not in the phone but in the service. This time Dhiraagu has properly been beaten by Wataniyya on who gets there first with Blackberry. But lets read the fine-print. Important details are always dropped down to the bottom of the page in to the fine-print area hoping the majority of people would conveniently skip them over.

Wataniyya Blackberyy services elite elite plus
Monthly Fee Rf1,199 Rf1,499
Mobile Internet* UNLIMITED
BlackBerry® Messenger & E-Mail*
Social Networking*
FREE Numbers 2 3
FREE SMS 75 100
FREE Local Minutes 700 1000

So there it is! The UNLIMITED mobile internet, email and social networking that’s deal here. This UNLIMITED word infact means exactly the opposite! The package is limited to 1GB and 1.5GB of data which is survivable if you can go without enjoying any online videos. The other two parts Emails and Social networking are even not relevant because typical emails and facebook statuses does not go beyond even a kilobyte of data. The real fine-print Wataniyya is hoping we conveniently look-over is the 1 laari per kilobyte they will happily charge if a customer goes over the 1GB monthly allowance. At that rate, an access of even 1Mb will be 10Rf which is not generous even by Dhiraagu’s greedy standards!

The skilled 8.5k

Under the economics reform agenda, it was decided that 8500 people will be trained in various areas of study in work related fields to combat widespread unemployment among young people. According to the plan there will be 56 areas of study for study which will certify the participants in 1 to 6 month duration courses some of which will be accredited internationally.

According to latest statistics of HRM, there are 2000 vacancies in construction industry, >3000 vacancies in tourism industry, 700 vacancies in transport industry and 800 vacancies in fisheries industry.

Out of 205033 locals eligible for work, 38602 are out of work whilst another 73840 expatriates works in different sectors throughout the country.

In theory this is alright, jobs are there lying vacant unmatched to prospective job-seekers. Job seekers also would have to be helped to become skilled if they are not. But the real problem that 30% of people eligible to work who remain unemployed is because of unrealistically low wages. Consider the picture below.

The picture is a typical job ad by a top local business brand which clearly is seen offering an unreasonably low pay for a demanding job. As for skills required, fiber optic networking could not be attempted without skills. Yet a lousy 3k per month is offered for full time employment which actually means, the employer is not interested in hiring locals. A local simply cannot survive on that kind of pay in Male’ island if he does not live in a hole or a cave or needs to eat and drink water even if occasionally!
Job ads like these are clearly designed to exclude locals from work and is all the more reason why we shall have a basic minimum wage and other protective measures like work visa quotas. Ideally a country would be left better off not having to legislate on issues like this, but if employers do not take the social responsibility then they shall be prompted to. Its also worth noting that the worst offenders when it comes to dodging social responsibility are the local employers who still have pre-slave era beliefs about the worker class.

When Maldives was offline!

The recent hack on Dhiraagu which happened on the busiest days of the year certainly delivered a message for the country. Tourists from all resorts in the country would have experienced this as they would have tried in vain to connect back to their families to say “happy new year” via social media, VoIP etc. and IT folks would generally be trying to convince the guests that a whole country’s internet could somehow be sabotaged by some unknown saboteurs! Those who did the DDOS on the network now seems to have been apprehended and their reason for engaging in this behaviour according to them seems to be to give Dhiraagu (the sole local isp) a new year message basically saying “ You are over priced”, and “You are too slow.. we need more speed!” These messages are basically truthful but the way in which the message was delivered was clearly not bright. A whole country (the economy involved) does not have to suffer just because one has a message to be delivered.

That Dhiraagu is big and bad is acknowledged. It has always been that way almost from the start. Dhiraagu became a big unfeeling ugly giant monopoly (too many adjectives tha ?) thanks to the former regime which wanted to favour the then long standing foreign minister who was chairman of the board of that company for as long as people can remember. The company grew and grew (like the giant turnip ..!) till Wataniyya inevitably appeared after much calls by the people and international bodies that the services Dhiraagu is providing as the sole monopoly are very high. Even then Wataniyya faced uphill battle as it is squeezed in from all sides by Dhiraagu (much like what Microsoft did to other smaller fish around it!) and today Dhiraagu is still the only real isp in the country. The other one called Focus does not have a wired network like Dhiraagu so they use the cable TV networks which is not the same thing. Dhiraagu is now the isp over wired the network as well as wireless network all over the country. Wataniyya is only authorized to give limited isp service on mobile internet but even with which it is doing a splendid job.

A government’s role in business would be to ensure fair-play in business. Restriction one sector or service to one company over the whole of a country would create a situation like what we have in the country now. Just like the trade ministry okay’s any new retail shop permit anywhere, so shall the Telecom ministry. It should be up to the entrepreneur to take risks on a business of his choice.

How to conserve energy..

Every resort seems to be just obsessed with cost cutting nowadays and its steadily getting worse by the day. Maybe it has something to do with the current government’s pledge to be ‘carbon-free’ or it might be because of the perceived immediate threat to the country by Global warming (which some believe is a hoax.) Anyways, the first usual answer to the question of how to save energy in a resort normally comes like, to change all the lights to energy saving bulbs, to change all normal air conditioners to Daikin VRV systems etc.. or something simplistically similar. However this can be very wrong. While energy saving bulbs are in fact more economical to use in the long term, the cost of one energy saver bulb is several times more than a normal bulb. So the costs pretty much even out over a long enough space of time. However the typical longer life span of an energy saver bulb means less inconvenience for the guest and less work for the work overloaded maintenance desk.

Much more energy could be saved in a typical guest room by taking care of the air-conditioner and water heater. If an air-conditioner is not serviced routinely, dust attaches to both the condenser and evaporator of the system which clogs and lowers the energy efficiency of the unit which will cost much more times the difference saved from bulbs being changed to energy saver type.

The water heater can also waste a lots of energy if its thermal cut-out temperature is higher than is necessary. Together with air-conditioner these two units are the most energy intensive units in a typical guest room.

C++, Java, Esperanto.. anyone?

The education ministry is in the process of revamping the national syllabus which is said to include interesting many changes to the national curriculum. One such interesting and controversial change the ministry is pondering is offering foreign languages to secondary students which are said to include Chinese, Japanese and French. Another change they want to usher in is making Islamic studies and Dhivehi language optional which is proving to be controversial as there is opposition from mainstream to such a drastic change without public consultation.

On the issue of new foreign languages, the religious party Adhaalathu pointed out a similar case of curriculum change in Turkey which modified their ultra secular stance to include Arabic as the country has many important cultural and economic ties with middle east. Retorting on the Chinese, Japanese and French languages as optional subjects to be offered to students in Maldives, the party mentions it would have been better to offer languages Sinhalese, Tamil and Bengali which are languages of our neighborhood countries which all aspects of our country’s commerce is tied to.

Although not much commented about, this draws an important point about the choice of subjects and disciplines the ministry is considering to offer to students which clearly needs better direction. If we take a look at each language and our relation to that language in particular, we see these languages falling in the category of art and such cultural aspects of education which bigger and more advanced nations can dwell upon because of their wealth and affluence. Developing nations needs talents more in the line of crafts, and sciences which will build and the strengthen the country, after which the bourgeois can come in and setup shop. So instead of offering Chinese and Japanese language to students, the education ministry could offer them computer based languages like c++ or java or something in the line of AI (artificial intelligence). Instead of French as a subject, which was the bourgeois language of the past taken over by English, a substitute can be offered in Esperanto which is an artificial language nobody really talks. That is if the ministry is adamant that it has to be a language.

Copy right laws in Maldives.. Who needs it?

The list of the biggest problems we face in the country are many but they certainly do not include an issue about copyright laws. Nevertheless our parliament ie The Majlis is busy debating this very issue. A fair question might be, why? Why indeed are they debating this issue which is an issue with the advanced countries of the world who are inundated with intellect and intellectual property? Compared to them who are we and what do we produce of intellectual value? Zilch is the answer!

The bill was said to have been tabled by the ruling MDP which might be a political necessity for securing better foreign relations with donor countries but the implications of the bill will certainly hurt the country as a whole. The bill will ultimately govern all aspects of modern living from music, films to softwares etc which is all but too expensive for the 99% of the population of this country to buy at original copy right sanctioned prices. The proponents of the bill are saying this bill will encourage productivity but that is far from reality considering the current situation of the country. For example once this bill comes in to law, its very probable that small to medium business owners will turn to local software ‘engineers’ to write for them some sort of POS application for their shop which will will be happily sold by the few crappy software engineers we have for highly bloated prices which will land the business owner in circle one. Basically the bill will give an unfair advantage to the few local software makers at the expense of the public who are used to pirated copies of the best softwares of the world for a very fair price!

There are no opponents to the bill in DRP, which normally opposes MDP in almost everything but this time around they had only to say this. “That some businessmen are getting richer by selling these fake products and pirated software and films and this shall be stopped.” However they also failed to acknowledge the immense benefit the public receives from such commerce.

As for the songs and movies, this sector is so small as to be completely insignificant compared to the demand of the viewers. Most of our countrymen (and women of course!) are polyglots by nature as they learn English in school and Hindi at home while speaking various dialects of local language in everyday life. So the lacking of Dhivehi films and songs is complemented by the abundance of such materials from Bollywood and Hollywood which needless to say are prevalently pirated copies of originals. Once this door is slapped by the copyright regime, the mother or father of necessity shall in theory be called upon to fill the gap which it simply can never do. Literature and arts and culture take time to develop and cannot be forced in by legislating them in.

Every country in the world except perhaps ours, puts the best interest of their countrymen above that of others. Now our national interest certainly lies in not opening this Pandora’s box of intellectual property rights but dealing with real world issues that are more pressing and important such as tackling our high unemployment rates and the ongoing tax works.

What’s next to go out from your laptop?

It must be the CD-ROM. Already there are many laptops without the CD-ROM which are much cheaper  and the numbers are growing of their sales. Having a CD-ROM in laptop is becoming what it was  like to have a floppy drive in the laptop about 5 years ago. Its simply becoming irrelevant. This is a growing trend in places where internet speeds are faster as people can store vast amounts of data in their own private web-clouds. Maybe the only reason why CD-ROM is still “in” most laptops is because of Microsoft which likes to sell their Windows software CD packaged in a big box because of the ridiculously high price. Since the majority of humanity still uses Microsoft’s Windows to run their computers, Microsoft certainly has a say in the evolution of computers. However with the globe becoming ever more wired with data rates growing faster, the days of installing, booting or running computer from CD-ROM is getting closer to end. The other major factor keeping the CD-ROM still alive is the film industry which is also now moving to on-line, on-demand streaming type of media which will ease the dependence on requirement for CD-ROM. Practically speaking, a computer  be it a table-top, laptop, or a desktop is better off without a CD-ROM as it consists of moving parts which are prone to mechanical wear and tear which is one reason of the growing popularity solid-state devices. Also what a CD-ROM is capable of storing on CD is diminishing compared to what solid state memory devices can with cheaper price tags. Just as the record industry (voice) migrated to mp3 format from cassettes, so are the days of movies on cds numbered.