The full package

Integrating solutions and customising them to meet a client’s needs are a key part of AccTech’s business model, but it is critical that the client’s requirements are established upfront.

brainstorm The full packageBy Adrian Hinchcliffe – Copyright Brainstorm & AccTech Systems.
Photo credit: Suzanne Gell, Mariette Landman

So, the e-mail arrives, you’ve got to go on a two week sales trip around Europe. And you need to visit London, Rome, Paris and Frankfurt. Of course, with the advent of e-commerce you can make all of the arrangements yourself. You can go and find flights, find hotels and organise transfers. You can book all of these individually, but with a few journeys and different destinations in one trip it is challenging.

The alternative is to hand over the complex process to a corporate travel management company. Using a corporate travel management company’s expertise and time to put together your entire itinerary will always be the easiest option.

When Connex Travel decided that it wanted to improve its customer service, it had to go through a similar decision making process. The company was looking to enhance service to its clients by improving its reporting capabilities and the customer knowledge it held. With a number of sales branches based in major South African centres, Connex’ head office needed to improve the details it held of individual bookings, rather than simply knowing the value of the transaction.

The importance of data

Stephan van Staden, CFO, Connex, explains that accuracy had always been an issue for the company as the data generated by the travel consultants had to be re-captured by its debtor and creditor clerks. “We wanted to ensure the accuracy of our data, but also improve the productivity and efficiency of our clerks and eliminate the need to re-capture all this information,” van Staden notes.

When Connex was seeking out a technology company to assist it, AccTech was keen to get involved. Its ability to provide a holistic service offering from scoping through to implementation was in AccTech’s favour.

Says Jannie van Aswegen, director technology processing and delivery, AccTech: “We are not purely focussed on business analysis, we focus on the solution life cycle. That is one of our competitive advantages. Some companies only produce a client’s requirements document, and let them piece the solution together themselves. We offer the whole process from requirements identification through to implementation, whether that requires customisation of existing solutions or producing specific software to meet the client’s need.”

Right from the start

Planning and scoping out all eventualities from the outset, and then generating a full requirements document are integral to the success of any project. Elize Prinsloo, director technology operations, states: “In the early stages, we identify the risks involved and communicate those so that the client is aware of them. We spend a good deal of time capturing the requirements and translating these into a technical brief. It is important to minimise the grey areas and uncertainty. Keeping clients informed and ongoing expectation management are very important to our business model.”

With the Connex project there were a diverse set of requirements from operations, finance and management that had to be kept in mind at all times. These needs were catered for by implementing a range of software products that were seamlessly integrated. For efficient operation, it was also critical to ensure that replication of data from Galileo, a global distribution system, onto its financial system did not require intensive processing power.

Based on Connex’ requirements, AccTech selected Sage ERP Accpac as the financial software to support the customised AccTrav development. AccTrav was customised using a Microsoft .Net framework and development was based on SOA principles. With scalability and re-usability of software code built in, maintenance and future development costs are minimised. The integration of Sage ERP Accpac and AccTrav allows data to be polled from the AccTrav database and posts the accounting entries into the ERP application automatically.

Two-way communication

To enable messaging communication between the various branches and head office, AccTech used Microsoft Message Queue. Users at head office are now able to access and view any branch’s operational and transactional information shortly after a booking is finalised in Galileo. The system is distributed so if there is communication or network failure between a branch and head office, the branch is capable of processing transactions independently. Once the systems re-establish communication all branch data is synchronised automatically.

In addition to increasing transactional reporting and accountability, the system also helps to evaluate the productivity and performance of Connex employees. The system tracks and reports on the number of transactions processed and invoiced at any time per user. “This has allowed us to report on productivity, and work with our employees to create KPIs that are visible and therefore realistic and measurable,” says van Staden.

Since the first phase of the project kicked off in November 2005, things have progressed successfully. “Productivity as a whole has increased and, since the system’s implementation, monthly revenues have risen to record levels. Additionally, the system also reports on transactions that have not yet been invoiced,” states van Staden.Whilst Connex is satisfied with the solution, time stands still for no company. Van Aswegen says that after a competitive tender process, AccTech is now working on the second phase of development. “We ensured that the first phase of the solution was capable of being expanded to meet the client’s needs in the future. We are now providing an integration to a document scanning and archiving solution, which we will in the future roll out onto Sharepoint for a full document management solution. The second phase of Connex’s solution development will also use some of the latest tried and tested Microsoft development tools and technologies.” he says.

So, like any multi-staged journey, piecing the various components together and working out the details of a foreign landscape when you arrive can be challenging. The most comfortable way to travel, however, is by getting an expert to plan your roadmap and give you the guidance and support you need to make it there easily and safely.