Dart Marina Hotel switches from Sage to Aqilla to improve efficiency and reduce costs

Dart Marina Hotel switches from Sage to Aqilla to improve efficiency and reduce costs

Dart Marina Hotel sought to improve accounting efficiency and productivity. By transitioning to a cloud-based solution offered by Aqilla, the results offered a modern and streamlined process.


Dart Marina Hotel comprises three business entities: a 49-bedroom hotel with apartments, a marina and a ferry. Until 2021, a previous accounting system was in place. However, it had become costly to maintain and didn’t offer the flexibility the accounting team needed to improve business processes.  

To address these issues, Lynda Redman, Financial Director, Dart Marina Hotel, wanted to move from software that relied on on-site servers to a more modern, flexible and scalable cloud-based solution. 

Having reviewed several entry-level systems, she chose Aqilla integrated with the Sharperlight reporting tool. Since making the switch, Redman has swapped expensive maintenance costs for a simple, manageable monthly subscription while greatly improving her department’s productivity.

The challenge 

Month-end reporting the previous software was time-consuming work; the lack of reporting capabilities meant it took seven to eight days to complete. Year-end reporting required extensive manual data manipulation outside of the system, in a process that spanned an arduous two weeks. Two further factors accelerated the need to urgently replace the previous software; the pandemic required remote workers to be able to process electronic invoices – a capability that came at an extra expense with the previous software. In addition, the Making Tax Digital (MTD) deadline was looming. 

Redman said: “To be truly compliant with MTD, we needed to completely review our systems and processes.”

Aqilla was one of the first mid-market cloud-based accounting solutions to offer MTD compatibility. This made it an even stronger contender to replace the previous software which, Redman recalls at that time, did not offer similar functionality.

Another requirement of the new system was the capability to handle both cost centres and departments. While the ferry and marina businesses simply have departments, the hotel accounting requirements are more complex. 

“We have a number of cost centres — the hotel, the apartments and staff housing — as well as 12 departments,” said Redman. “We need to take analysis codes and apply them to both cost centres and departments. Our new accounting system needed to be able to handle this kind of multidimensional analysis.”

The solution

Aside from the time saved at month and year-end, Redman and her team now enjoy more simplified and automated processes on a day-to-day basis. 

Redman describes how the team’s daily routines have changed: “With Aqilla, we’ve got all our invoices stored with every entry and we are able to access it instantly. We’ve also got Making Tax Digital reporting and because it is cloud-based, we can access the system from anywhere. 

“Furthermore, our processes became far more intuitive and, with its own built-in tools, the solution replaces complex manual work with simple automated processes, for example, there are templates in the system which mean we can upload whole spreadsheets of data in an easy-to-follow format.”

Using Aqilla’s Excel add-in allows the team to upload information into the system, saving considerable time. 

“Because the upload is a repetitive process, we are able to create templates and automate it,” Redman added. “Since adopting Aqilla, the time spent on month-end has been reduced by three days. For year-end, it’s down from two weeks — and there’s plenty of scope for more streamlining.”

Specifically referring to the ferry business, Redman said: “The ferry’s bespoke ticketing system is linked to Aqilla via API, so we just need to check the sales to receipts and allocate the cash. It saves so much time.”

Sharperlight is Dart Marina’s reporting tool of choice and it is fully integrated with Aqilla. The Sharperlight business intelligence tool allows Redman to interrogate live data, find answers to questions and gain insights in real-time. It also allows her to look at this year’s accounts instead of waiting for the previous year’s to be closed — a process which previously could take up to nine months, depending on how quickly the accounts were audited. 

“The Sharperlight side of things gives us the advantage of live reporting and it allows us to mimic how our previous management reports looked, for consistency,” she added. “The reporting via Sharperlight is live and up to date, allowing me to query the data whenever I need to. I don’t have to wait for one process to complete before I get the information, I need from Aqilla.”

In conclusion, Redman reported a significant improvement in how the team operates: “It was proving too expensive for our previous software fit for operations. Having replaced it with Aqilla, we now have modern, compliant and streamlined processes.”


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