Blick centralises business management with Sage solution
A multi-million rand project is underway at communications, security, time and attendance solution provider, Blick SA, which promises to reduce costs, streamline financial management and offer more efficient and accurate reporting. The initiative - currently entering the testing phase ahead of the scheduled 1 June 'go live' date - revolves around the deployment of Line 500, the integrated business management solution (BMS) from Sage.
BMSs generally take data from a company's financial, manufacturing, distribution and service operations and integrate it into a single system. The flow of data, its accuracy and the ability to take snapshot views of any facet of the business are just some of the benefits delivered by these solutions.
"In the past our time, our attendance and communications business operated on an AS/400-based in-house developed system and the manufacturing side on another system. While this worked, it was becoming difficult to extract salient information or generate reports across all business units and product lines," explains David King, the CFO at Blick SA and the manager of the Sage project.
To add to the challenge, Blick has offices across South Africa that report into the Johannesburg head office; it manufactures, markets, sells and supports technically-complex solutions across South Africa and southern, East and West Africa both directly and through a network of partners; and it has a host of contract customers - those that rent solutions on a monthly or annual basis. "We also centralise our help desk to handle queries on all our products, our back office administration functions for the different business units and our management of the customer sales and support teams," adds King.
To integrate and manage all these functions and data sets, Blick selected the Sage Line 500 solution - primarily due to its functionality, as well as the synergies between Sage and Blick on a corporate level. Both companies are headquartered in the UK, both have similar business models in South Africa and both are active in the rest of Africa.
The deployment - handled by AST Sage Solutions, an authorised Sage business partner and part of the greater JSE-listed AST Group - sees Line 500 running on Windows NT and sourcing from data stored in a Microsoft SQL database.
"Blick offers solutions either as outright sales or on a rental contract basis. Both require different invoicing mechanisms and the Sage system provides the flexibility to handle different scenarios," explains Ashley Ellington, the divisional director for Africa at Sage.
"For example, products needing repair which are not under warranty require an invoice to be raised. Customised solutions designed for customers are also billable. The Line 500 solution manages all these processes."
In addition to accurate and flexible invoicing, the Line 500 solution will also make it far easier to generate customised reports. This will enable better management decision making given the accuracy and variety of data that's available.
Processes are streamlined, allowing Blick to focus on R&D and customer service. Blick's in-house skills are also being used as part of the project, ensuring maximum functionality from the system.
"Once the system is live, we'll be able to eliminate many of the laborious manual processes that were previously used. It will also mean that more stringent checks, balances and controls will be in place, allowing us to service our customers more efficiently and effectively," adds King.
While no plans have been finalised King suggests there is the possibility of the Sage system being extended to include other Blick offices in the European markets in which it operates - based, of course, on the success of this project.
"Given the synergies between us and Sage - and the benefits that this new system promises - it would make business sense to explore a group-wide deployment," he says. "We are, however, focusing at present on working with Sage and AST to ensure that our African operations are as streamlined as possible."