Magazine

It’s a Destination, Not a Journey

By Thomas Wunk

I read somewhere that “Life is a journey to be enjoyed and cherished, not a destination to be sought.” Sounds kind of Zen-like, and it’s certainly not applicable if you are considering implementing a revenue control system.
If purchasing a new revenue control system is your journey, the destination is all important. All intermediate steps should have this single underlying theme. The following reflects a basic linear methodology that may assist in providing focus for your organization.
a. Create your team.
You’ve decided to consider implementing a new revenue control system. The first step is to examine your organization and select key individuals who will be affected by any decision relating to system implementation.
b. Start with a clean slate.
This is an important yet difficult process component, especially if you are replacing an existing system. You and your team must cleanse your minds as to all legacy processes, practices and policies developed as a result of existing conditions and equipment.
c. List known and anticipated operational needs.
Identify all the potential parking situations and conditions you need to address. A sample list may look like the following:

Contract Patrons (card-holders)
Hotel Guests
Pay-on-Foot Machines
Web Status Posting
New External Signage
New Building Network

Transient Patrons
Valet
(no lane cashiering)
Credit Card Processing
VIP Card Program
Intercom Distribution

Special Events
Validations
New Lane Design
In-House Staffing
Demographic Tracking
CCTV to Security

d. Create a list of performance goals.
Using the list created in step c., note specifics associated with each known and anticipated operational need. For example:
Contract Patrons:
• Access to all lanes.
• Credential – proximity cards, shared with building security.
• Automated billing process with automated shut-off.
• Multiple access levels.
• Online enrollment.
• Credit card payment.
• Carpool capable.
• Exception transactions.
• Transient Patrons:
• Access to all lanes except lower-level employee lane.
• Ticket type – mag-stripe.
• Signage.
• Rate structures.
• Payment process.
• Payment locations.
• Exception transactions.
e. Determine the operational capabilities of your staff.
This can be a challenging step. You have created a list of operational goals based on your known and anticipated business needs. You have created, based on those needs, performance criteria. You now need to objectively determine if your staff is capable of administering a system in a satisfactory manner to acquire the level of performance sought.
f. Determine your operation’s technical capabilities.
The following are but a few “technical” situations that have to be addressed in the administration and servicing of a parking and revenue control system.

Ticket jams
Tier 1 diagnostics
CPU level resets
Software patching
PM processes

Gate arm replacement
Print head replacement
Firmware installation
Software updates
Loop detector resets

Circuit board replacement
Board level resets
Hardware replacement
Network resets
Transaction review

Exception transaction review
In your objective staff analysis, you need to determine if your staff is sufficient in number and skill set to address the technical issues that will come up.
g. Visit similar business-model sites.
Take the time to reach out to your industry peers and “interview” those who have an operation that closely matches the intentions you have outlined in step c. This process can yield important and salient results.
1. You can access empirical information regarding the effectiveness of processes and procedures used by others to address the business model you are intending.
2. You can review the staffing level and staffing skill sets required to administer those business practices.
3. You can extract “lessons learned” information from your industry peers.
4. You can observe the business practices from the perspective of the parking patrons.
5. You can examine the technical solution imparted to each client.
h. Perform a Request for Information (RFI) / Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
At this point in the process, you have assembled enough performance information to create an outline that you can distribute to potential system vendors / suppliers. The responses from them should include performance descriptions of the modules described in the RFI / RFQ and associated budget pricing. The goal in this process is to determine which vendors can address the performance requirements you have identified and to determine a project cost profile.
i. Perform a cost-benefit analysis.
This step forces you to examine the overall financial impact of implementing a new system. This analysis must include the following:
Direct costs such as equipment, installation and associated civil work and network requirements.
Indirect costs such as staff training / replacement and outsourcing (if needed), and revised audit / administrative practices, revised operational / maintenance practices and adjustments to costs of consumables. (The last three could result in cost savings.)
Anticipated revenue improvements such as decreased “shrinkage,” potential reduction in labor, increase in facility usage due to amenity programs, reduction in cost of ownership and flexibility to address future business practices.
The result of this analysis will determine financial feasibility. This may be the only decision threshold to be met. However, project influences other than financial considerations may provide prevailing decisive components. This is the Go/No-Go step.
j. Determine the proper procurement process for your organization.
You have now developed a list of performance criteria, determined budget parameters, and moved past the Go / No-Go threshold. Now you will enter into a formalized procurement process. Depending on the procurement guidelines within your organization, you will convey to potential bidders the technical and performance requirements you seek. You also must include any contractual requirements of your organization, any MBE-WBE-DBE requirements, and your intended award criteria to be used in the RFP response analysis. (Note: The more clarity and detail provided in your issued RFP document, the more focused, concise response you will receive.)
k. Issue the procurement documents to potential respondents.
During your analysis associated with step g. and step h., you will come to realize which potential respondents are interested in your project; can meet most or all your intended performance goals; and are technically capable of implementing the system in a satisfactory manner.
l. Before receipt of proposals, determine a clear and objective response evaluation process.
You need to determine the evaluation team that will review the RFP responses. This team comprises members initially convened in step a. of this process. In this manner, the evaluation takes place with full knowledge of the underlying goals and intentions of the anticipated implementation.
m. Review responses and schedule a “Final Response” interview.
Sometimes known as a “Best and Final Offer,” engage those firms that have best responded to your RFP process. In this manner, you can clarify any component of the submitted bids and allow the vendors an opportunity to describe their intended solutions.
n. Award based on your team’s conviction.
If you have received one or more responses that meet your performance goals, have met with the responding vendors in Final Response interviews, and reached consensus as to the team’s choice, move forward with the award in a fully committed manner. This will foster a partnership environment crucial to the overall project success. However, if you have not received one or more responses that meet your goals or your Final Response interviews were not satisfactory, or you do not have a consensus from your team, do not award. If the fit is not there, do not force it.
It’s not unusual to engage a consulting firm in a parking and revenue control system procurement endeavor. They can add value and experience to the process. However, as the project “owner” and ultimate primary system constituent, do not abrogate your role in this process. You need to invest the time and effort if you hope to achieve the ultimate results you seek. It is an investment well spent.
Thomas Wunk, CAPP, Vice President of Operations for Scheidt & Bachmann USA, can be reached at Twunk@msn.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2012




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