Theme: Office Technology
Publication: Succeed Magazine, 2003
Title: Point of Sale – Changing with the Times
The Point of Sale (POS) market is experiencing rapid change, which creates
exciting opportunities in the SME environment amongst retailers, franchisers,
franchisees and merchants. What used to be a necessary expense is now promising
to be an income generator, and a medium for marketing activities.
Making money off your terminal
A number of trends are shaping the POS market. Large retailers with numerous
points of sale typically install terminals with little intelligence because it
is more cost effective to have the intelligence on a back office server which
needs to be configured, stored and maintained, than on every terminal. Smaller
establishments requiring far fewer terminals are increasingly seeing the value
of installing intelligent terminals that have the potential to be
multi-application devices. These are really the next generation of the terminal
currently used for bank card transactions. The merchant would traditionally
select a bank who would install an application on a terminal which the merchant
would then use to conduct transactions. The terminal, essentially a
communication device, would switch to the acquiring bank, but allow purchases to
be made on other banks’ cards too. This system incurs rental fees for the
equipment and transaction fees to be paid to the acquiring bank.
In the meantime, the banking industry has become a proponent for “smart card”
technology, seeking to effectively do away with magnetic strips in favour of a
device containing a micro-processor by 2005. Intelligent terminals can handle
the crossover, but they can handle a lot more too.
According to Dr Hanoch Neishlos, CEO of African Resonance Business Solutions,
“Intelligent terminals allow a co-existence between the banking industry and the
non-banking industry. They have the necessary applications to manage bank
transactions, as well as any other non-banking transaction, such as prepaid
products. This means that a merchant can install an intelligent terminal and
generate revenue - though still paying bank transaction fees - by being able to
sell cellular airtime, prepaid electricity and a host of other products. It
remains a secure environment, and the different applications or products have no
effect on each other.”
In future, merchants looking to invest in new terminals will make their
selection not on price and functionality alone, but also on the range of
products that are part and parcel of the device, and the ease with which further
applications can be added in the future.
Neishlos predicts that these terminals will eventually become consumer devices,
purchased in the same way you would a personal computer, enabling a range of
transactions to be performed at home. They are becoming increasingly affordable
and are being promoted as a “piece of real estate” rather than a cost.
“In the next five years, we will see a higher demand for these terminals,” adds
Neishlos. These terminals will need a route to market, so the deployment thereof
creates opportunities for franchisers and agents.
What makes him think the products will be in such high demand? “Already a very
high percentage of cellular spend is on prepaid airtime. The same principle will
apply to prepaid electricity, petrol etc – people like to budget. They want to
be in control of what they spend. If they are allowing their children to use the
prepaid service, they are assured that the money is being used as intended.” The
safety issue also emerges. People want an alternative to carrying cash.
Using POS to market
Amidst growing competition in the food market, another trend gaining momentum in
POS is the use of the terminal to market promotions, and up-sell products. POS
software can be configured to display coupons on till-slips at food outlets, for
example, ensuring that customers come back for more when they redeem their
vouchers – in essence a loyalty system. The coupons are bar-coded so all
information, such as validity and expiry date, is quickly obtained and fed into
the system. POS technology is also increasingly supporting meal combinations,
gradually gaining in popularity in South Africa, which encourage customers to
save money by buying combination meals whereas they are actually spending more
than they would have.
“By installing modularized software on the till, merchants can make a relevant
selection to be able to manage what they choose from the POS, catering to the
needs of a one-till outlet, up to a large restaurant with 200 waiters,” says
Carl Jones of PowerPos Systems. On small scale, this includes a back-end that
records customer information, allowing for personalization and analytics. For
example, when customer X phones in to order their favourite pizza, the system
tells the person taking the order what it is, where they live and any additional
notes. The system can also prompt suggestions for alternatives that are in line
with customer preferences, as determined by their buying patterns. On a large
scale, it enables a user-friendly interface to all the information required in a
restaurant, highlighting what is unavailable before orders are placed, recording
seating configurations and generally making the process of serving customers,
managing waitrons and stock a more streamlined one.
Back to the fast food environment, screens displaying text and visuals can be
used to market specials at the till, and printouts or till slips can also
include mini adverts to other products and services linked to the establishment
either by proximity or target audience.
Although the solutions are available here, handheld devices in restaurants are
not taking off in South Africa. First of all, these devices are not yet hardy
enough to withstand being dropped, and our labour is really inexpensive, so
restaurants etc. aren’t compelled to use technology to save on labour costs –
for example reducing waitron staff from ten to two who use a handheld device -
because the device cost isn’t justified.
Should it take off though, decision-makers would be spoilt for choice because
this technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated. At the latest CeBIT (the
annual international ICT tradeshow) a vendor demonstrated a clip-off computer
screen that can be removed and carried to the table to take an order and clipped
back to integrate with the system.
Selecting the solution
Through technological advances in POS, smaller businesses have a far wider range
of options than ever before. Unit costs are coming down so comprehensive
solutions are far more accessible. With all this choice, decision-makers should
become even more discerning about how they select their POS solution, keeping
total cost of ownership, functionality and longevity of the system in mind.
“In selecting the software solution,” says Hendrick Steyn, MD of IQ Retail,
“smaller enterprises can often benefit from an off the shelf package, but should
look out for sufficient security parameters, flexibility, a proven track record
and a progressive growth path. These packages should have data accuracy, speed,
ease of operation and adequate reporting (both current and historic) as major
“There must be a sufficient upgrade path possibility when outgrowing one
system,” continues Steyn. “Service and maintenance is not a given, however, and
the cost of these items must be specified at the time of purchase. No false
expectancy must be raised by the seller of the product.” ENDS
Theme: Iocore PR, 2003
Company: Coolcumba Communications
Title: IOCORE’s Virtual Collaboration tools get companies communicating
Economic factors are causing companies to re-assess the way they do business.
For years, technology-based solutions have been sought to improve business
processes, enhance dealings and relationships with customers and suppliers, and
manage information. Since the advent of email and tele-conferencing
functionality, companies have realised that technology also addresses what was
once a ‘soft’ issue - communication. Now they’re looking at the next step,
bringing together voice and data communication in real-time, through virtual
Says Debbie Jordan, General Manager - IOCORE e-Learning: “Virtual collaboration
doesn’t only change the way companies communicate…it changes the way they work.
Travel limitations or costs, geographically dispersed teams and the trend
towards working remotely are some of the factors highlighting the need for
effective collaboration across locations and enterprises. As a result, companies
need new tools to make virtual interaction seamless and as effective, if not
more so, than one-on-one contact.”
Three years ago, IOCORE began a partnership with collaboration software
provider, Centra, and the Virtual Classroom tool has become part of IOCORE’s
e-Learning solution. “The e-Learning environment is just one example of
collaboration, and IOCORE now includes Centra’s other web-based virtual
collaboration tools in its range of offerings,” says Jordan.
Through a web interface, virtual collaboration tools enable individuals to
communicate in real-time wherever they are in the world. Voice and video help to
retain the “personal” component of communication. Once inside a virtual meeting
room, participants can talk to each other, call up data such as files, and work
on them collectively. Sessions are recorded so there is no need for note taking.
“This approach has obvious benefits for most business functions.” says Jordan.
“Virtual collaboration can be used by brokers, sales-people and practitioners to
consult with a remote subject expert who, in turn, can access existing
information to help impart knowledge. Participants can then immediately go out
and apply what they have learned. Human resources and training departments use
the tool to accelerate knowledge transfer by making information available when
and how employees need it.” The same principles apply to marketing and corporate
communication functions, customer interactions and management meetings amongst
dispersed branches – in fact any business situation that involves communication.
The key business benefits of deploying Virtual Collaboration include
streamlining an organisation’s operations, information sharing, cost reductions
(travel and other traditional forms of communication), empowering individuals
through information, and enabling the new economy trend of working from home,
which has its own cost-saving and productivity benefits.
“Virtual collaboration is in its infancy in South Africa,” comments Jordan.
“Many companies are implementing it as part of e-Learning, but have not taken it
to the next level.” An Iocore client in the financial sector, however, began
with e-Learning and now uses the tool successfully to communicate with its
broker network. Globally, more and more companies are seeing the advantage of an
investment in virtual collaboration. Evidence of this is the medical fraternity.
Doctors based in rural areas of Africa “collaborate” with medical institutions
in the States and elsewhere to consult on cases and learn new techniques.
Consulting firms and financial services companies have introduced collaboration
in all business-related interactions – resulting in faster proposal generation
and more opportunities to win business.
Deployment of virtual collaboration tools does not require a complex technology
infrastructure. According to Wayne Strydom, Consultant - IOCORE e-Learning, the
minimum requirements for up to 75 users, include a dedicated application server,
i.e. Windows 2000 or 2003 Server, a static IP address and one of the following
web servers: Microsoft HS 5.0 6.0, Apache 2.0.44 on Solaris 5.8, or a Sun One
Web Server 6.0 on Solaris 5.8. Clients can run Windows 98, 2000 or XP and a
recent version of Windows Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Clients simply click
on the URL and download the tool to their computers. A soundcard and headset are
The transition to working in a virtual environment will involve some challenges.
“Solution providers will need to be sensitive to the inevitable change process
and have a strategy in place to address adoption,” says Jordan. “Fortunately,
through our various e-Learning deployments, IOCORE has developed a successful
approach to matching deliverables to business objectives, and managing end-user
adoption, so extending the collaborative environment past e-Learning will be a
natural progression.” ENDS
Theme: Iocore PR, 2003
Company: Coolcumba Communications
Title: IOCORE’s Architecture and Blueprint Service Offers Executives a Bird’s
IOCORE’s ERP team has introduced a planning method that complements their ERP
competencies and solutions by bridging the gap frequently found between the
business and IT needs that drive the requirement for a solution.
“In our extensive work with clients on ERP implementations, we have found that
there is still a divide between IT systems and business objectives,” says IOCORE
ERP Manager, Daniel Robus.
“To overcome this divide, our offerings now incorporate a product independent
‘Architecture & Blueprint’ service, a strategic planning approach that
identifies and documents business objectives and initiatives and maps them to IT
based architectural components to make up a solution blueprint,” explains Robus.
This blueprint is then mapped to products and finally to an implementation
roadmap showing how short implementation phases can accrue business benefit as
the envisioned architecture is developed.
“Once a company has identified the need for an ERP system and brought us on
board, we introduce a series of focussed workshops with the business users to
identify key business objectives for the next 18 to 24 months (the lifetime you
can reasonable plan for in a rapidly changing environment). The workshops, as
well as one-on-one sessions with executives, yield the objectives and serve as
the basis for identifying appropriate activities and initiatives. The objectives
are then grouped, scrutinized by key business people, and then distilled into a
list of ten or less. These are reflected in business terms, rather than
technical terms, and are an indication of where the business is going.”
Specific actions or projects are then identified according to Business
Objectives and Business Initiatives (BOBI), and systems proposed to address the
stated requirements. A MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have and Won’t
have) requirements list is also created and provides a cross-reference between
the business initiatives, their high level requirements and the solution
The resulting solution blueprint is written in business-speak and provides
executives with a holistic view of the planned processes, and serves as a basis
from which to determine priorities and manage IT spend.
“This approach is a distinct change from the standard practices of identifying a
need for a system in isolation of other IT initiatives and very rarely are
aligned to the business objectives,” reiterates Robus. “It is a simple, easy to
understand process that allows executives to vocalise their business objectives
and ensure that the underpinning IT infrastructure is exactly what is required
to attain their goals.”
Although still a new service, the A&B method has been applied successfully with
several clients, who are finding this added intervention beneficial.
According to Karen Strydom, Senior Business Analyst at Wesbank, where IOCORE
implemented an accounts payable system and introduced the A&B in the early
stages, “Most of our information is not documented and exists in our heads. It
was good to have such comprehensive documentation available to aid
decision-making. We were also able to use it to motivate for what we requested
in terms of the project.”