10 APRIL 2002
David Lindsay speaks to Philip Toledo Ltds Senior Solutions Consultant Julian Sant Fournier about the companys leading software products, the direction of the company and that of the industry with a special focus on the Access Accounts business solution
It is a generally accepted fact that the days in which technology was merely a nice thing to have are well behind us. In fact, Julian Sant Fournier explains, these days technology is both crucial and essential in managing today's businesses, since the more information managers have at their disposal, the better their chances of taking the right decision are.
He elaborates, "The business drivers today are, improving efficiency and effectiveness, share of customer, market share and profitability both in the short and long term.
"Looking at the market situation, the customer is more demanding than ever before in their expectance of better quality products and higher levels of service. Time has become so precious these days and as such the time in which the customer expects a response to his request is so much shorter. The availability and timeliness of information is key in managing and running a successful business.
"The margins are becoming tighter and todays managers are always being asked to do more with less and to respond quickly to the dynamic business environment."
Philip Toledo Ltd has been in business now for over 40 years and is clearly here for the long term. The company employs a team of 60 people all with a firm belief in providing solutions to meet todays business needs, which inevitably vary from customer to customer.
As an organisation PTL recently confirmed its belief in quality by embarking on a quality programme through which it has been certified to ISO standards, which is also a key driver within the organisation in that business procedures and employees constantly adhere to the highest quality of service.
Mr Sant Fournier explains PTLs attention to its customer base, "Our primary focus is to ensure that we have a satisfied customer base by providing the right level of solutions and service for todays market. We find that a large percentage of our new accounts are derived from referrals, this is good and it is a long-term approach of conducting business. Of course we still market our products, but our main focus is in keeping our customer base happy. We try to build a partnership with our customers in providing solutions to their ever changing business needs.
"In fact, PTL is well known on the market for the level of support we provide. We have many large organisations that depend on us, such as banks and the government and a considerable spectrum of small and medium sized companies, through the reputation we have built over the years.
"As an organisation we try as often as possible to work in partnerships with other suppliers, in order to deliver the ideal solution to our customers. Suppliers coming together to provide a solution for a customer is a new development in the local industry - rather than competing against each other, we are working together."
PTL has a number of solutions available to meet customers requirements. One established solution for the retail trade providing point of sale and inventory management is Retail Pro, this is implemented in over fifty shops and is being used by a some of the largest department stores on the islands.
Additionally, PTL offers solutions for; guest billing and reservations - HOST, food and beverage - Food Track and knowledge and document management - PC DOCS. When it comes to integrated, financial, distribution and purchasing systems, PTLs Access Accounts system leads the market.
According to Mr Sant Fournier, "We believe, where possible, in first implementing the systems we offer in house, before actually marketing them. In fact, we actively use both PC DOCS and Access Accounts at PTL. This greatly assists our technical people in the sense that if we are first using the product in house, we would be the first to find any problems and our support team can accordingly carry out configurations and remedy any problems prior to going to customers."
Access is a fully fledged integrated solution developed by Access Accounts UK Ltd, who have been in the business for 11 years, meaning that there is a solid reputation behind it and the product is market-proven the 11,000 firms using the software world wide.
Access Accounts were, in fact, the first to acknowledge the practicality of using the productivity of Microsoft Windows with accounting packages for the business environment. As such, it is one of the first financial packages developed for Windows effectively blending the productivities of Windows and Access Accounting.
As Mr Sant Fournier explains, "PTL has been representing Access Accounts since 1996. Our approach was to start off with a small number of sites, establish a local presence, gain credibility in terms of acceptance and then market the product proactively. Today Access Accounts is an established solution on the local market, with over 300 companies now using the system. The sheer diversity of the firms making use of Access Accounts gives an idea of the flexibility of the product.
"We also have many accountancy firms providing implementation consultancy services to our client base and use the product in house.
However, despite the name of Access Accounting, Mr Sant Fournier is adamant that it is far more than an accounting system.
He explains, "Access goes into the operations of the company, helping managers to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their operations by providing management with the information they need, when they need it. It also goes towards enabling a paperless office by allowing many events such as authorisations and postings to be done automatically by the system.
"There are four levels of solutions from Access Accounts available to customers, depending on complexity of their needs and the volume of transactions dealt in. These range from single user solutions, to larger implementations running over a wide area network, with web-browser front ends. The client can start small and as his business expands, Access Accounts can scale to meet the more demanding requirements of the business.
We would recommend the solution best suited to meet the customers requirements. Our approach is to first visit the customer, understand his requirements and then recommend the best suited solution. It is important that the customer realises that he is buying a package but within the parameters of the package, there is a great deal of customisation that can be carried out without going into technical programming.
"The customer should be prepared to maximise on the potential of the package and on the options avaliable."
Such options present themselves, in the form of modules, of which the customer would purchase best suited to the business in question. However, the system is scalable and functionalities can be added on at later phase as the company expands.
The modules address the finance, distribution, purchasing, and project costing operations of any organisation. The Nominal Ledger is the nucleus of the accounting system. With Access, the nominal ledger is automatically updated, in real-time, by every other ledger - ensuring that up to the minute management information is instantly available. Two years of accounts can be opened at any one time, without losing any of the traditional controls of a period based system.
Controlling cash flow is essential for a healthy business and the Cash Book module provides instant access to bank balances and makes reconciliation fast and easy. An unlimited number of accounts for foreign currency, credit cards and petty cash are available through the module.
With tight project control is the key to maintaining profitability, the Access Costing module can be updated automatically from all the other modules, presenting concise and comprehensive project information in addition to conventional profit & loss reporting.
A major priority for all companies is the successful generation and administration of sales leads and promotions and Access Prospect Manager enables the streamlining of these activities by providing a single, detailed database covering both customers and prospects.
Efficient processing and management of orders is vital to customer relations and business growth. As such, Access Sales Order module offers a single, fast and accurate system covering every aspect of the ordering process.
A firms customer base is one of the most valuable assets of any company. The Access Sales Ledger helps companies profit from past experience by providing detailed information on customers individual requirements, which enables customers to build stronger relationships while maintaining tight credit control.
The only thing more important than winning orders is getting paid once the goods and services have been delivered. This potentially time-consuming task is greatly simplified with the Access Credit Control module.
Holding too much stock could lose a firm money, but holding too little would lose the firm customers. The Access Stock Control module helps to optimise stock levels while enhancing efficiency and profitability.
Establishing a clear commitment with suppliers and monitoring their performance enables a firm to build a strong and flexible supply chain. The Access Purchase Orders module provides a structured system for all procurement needs. It regulates and simplifies internal procedures and enables managers to closely monitor expenditure.
Without proper supplier information, purchasing decisions can be something of a gamble. The Access Purchase Ledger stores a large volume of detailed supplier information, allowing for the careful monitoring of performance and negotiating the best possible prices and payment terms.
Additionally, every six months Access releases an update which the customers are entitled to have and which keep the customers up to date with the latest technologies.
Mr Sant Fournier explains why Access is constantly on top of new developments in the industry, "The relationship between Access Accounts and Microsoft is very strong, in terms of sharing technical information, which ensures that Access is one of the first in the market when it comes to Microsofts latest releases. Access Accounts was one of the first solutions certified for Windows 2000 and now for Windows XP. In fact, Access Accounts UK is a Gold Partner of Microsoft and we as Philip Toledo are Microsoft Solutions Providers.
"To give you an idea of the parameterisation and customisation of the system, Access Accounts itself has hundreds of reports available to the system. For example, if a customer wants to produce a set of management accounts in Excel, a template can be built up in Excel and can extract data form the financial solution into the work sheet template.
Financial statements can also be e-mailed to a firms clients, which effectively improve the cash flow of the firm by two or three days credit by reducing the cycle.
"Certain clients require a suit of systems to meet their business needs. For example an organisation operating in the travel industry will require a specialised travel system together with a strong financial application. Today we can configure a solution consisting of two systems travel and finance. What we have managed to do here is show how we can produce a fully customised solution by using Accesss strongest feature that of integration with third party solutions. So if a customer comes up with a request, that solution can be purchased or developed and integrated with the Access solution."
"There is a wealth of experience and solutions that we can provide our present and future client base as a result of the market acceptance of Access Accounts and due to its wide and varied customer base.
"Another area we are addressing is the constant need for information for management. We have reversed the traditional approach of reactive management where by one continually asks for reports, to a proactive management style. With this scenario Access Accounts can be practically be taught to inform management when a customer has exceeded his credit limit or when stock has fallen below a certain level. Access can electronically inform management when a particular event takes place.
"We have also cut down substantially on the re-keying of information, which is particularly ripe in a sales cycle, by keeping the entire process within the system from the moment an order is made to the final invoice.
"These are examples of our proactive approach, which demonstrate how we are using technology to address management issues.
"This is possible because we have a solid foundation and one in which we are continuously investing to maturing the customers end solution."
Over the past two years there has been a lot of talk about e-commerce and Access Accounts is looking at e-commerce in terms of providing solutions, with the objective servicing trends on the local market. Organisations should be looking at e-commerce as an additional channel and not as something that would replace traditional revenue channels."
Within this sphere, Access has a solution running on a web browser interface, which, providing the correct security set up is in place, allows managers to view data from anywhere, at anytime. Mr Sant Fournier adds, "This type of functionality is normally found in the higher level packages intended for the very large organisations. But reacting to what we are seeing more of today, in terms of the competitiveness of the market, Access has also managed to release these types of facilities onto the small and medium market, which is a real breakthrough.
"Even in this area or e-commerce we are building partnerships with people who are experts in this field in Malta and with the flexibility and integration properties of Access Accounts to provide a complete solution for our customers."
"It is quite clear that the competitive nature of today's market place needs innovative approaches to address the demanding needs of organisations. Access Accounts solutions together with the customer focused attitude of Philip Toledo Ltd. have an impressive portfolio of solutions to offer to the market."