It’s one of New Zealand’s best kept tech secrets – a rapidly growing business that is transforming companies on both sides of the Tasman.
And it performs a very special function: it transforms the huge paper trail that it normally takes to run your business and performs it quickly, seamlessly and electronically.
Jim Stevens, general manager sales of Flow Software describes the method as “the glue that holds business together”.
“We extract, translate and load data between applications,” he explains.
To understand what that means in real life terms picture this. You’re a retailer (like a Bunning’s or Foodstuffs) and need to deal with thousands of different suppliers, each with a myriad of different product information, invoicing and accounting systems every day.
Trying to deal with the mountain of paperwork that would normally entail just isn’t feasible, so what is needed is `electronic data interchange’ or EDI.
This is where Flow Software arrives on the scene. In short it gets all parts of a supplier’s ordering, product information, invoicing, accounting into one simple language that can talk electronically with your trading partners.
“So rather than orders coming in by fax or phone or email, then printing out an order form that you then walk down to the warehouse where it is packaged and dispatched … and later sending out an invoice – we can do all that electronically,” says Mr Stevens.
“We can even print out the labels for the product being dispatched.”
Humming away quietly, unseen in the background are sales being made, orders coming in, goods being processed, dispatched and invoiced for … and all without worrying you. Sound good?
The effect on business is “transformational” says Mr Stevens, allowing vastly greater efficiencies, effectiveness, speed and profit. And all that adds up to growth without additional cost.
“Normally if you double the size of your business, you also need to double the size of your staff which doesn’t increase profit,” he says.
Flow gives automation to allow exponential expansion.
And because it is a configurable system, it can be tailored for the size of your business. Small, medium or large, Flow provides the fit.
And how about this? Flow is a home-grown tech success story. It was developed in a Takapuna garage by Cameron Hart around seven years ago and has subsequently grown at a phenomenal rate. It now has over 500 customers, has moved to larger premises three times in the last few years to accommodate growth and has had an office in Sydney for the last few years.
No matter what kind of accounting system you are currently using – MYOB, Xero, Quick Books through to Oracle, JDE, People Soft or SAP, Flow can integrate to your system.
And you can say goodbye to double entering data or keying errors…it’s kind of like you’ve got a whole new super-efficient, super quick, 100 percent accurate employee who works away silently and seamlessly 24/7 in the background streamlining and enhancing your business.
Flow meets with each new client to scope out exactly what size of system they need. Licenses sell from around $1600 for an annual license fee, plus configuration costs – with that comes maintenance and system support.
“Often when I first meet with a company I ask them what their work flow looks like,” says Mr Stevens, “and they look back at me blankly. But when I ask what their paper trail looks like and how many staff handles each invoice they soon become excited when we explain we can automate it.”
Flow will assess your business needs, create an `end-to-end’ solution, integrate it, test it and then provide any on-going support you may need.
Another offering is their B2B e-commerce and EDI’ platform for electronic trading with your customers and suppliers (this integrates Flow’s advanced EDI platform with a feature rich e-commerce website for B2B). Unlike a B2C website, their B2B e-commerce platform provides account management and transaction processing features not typically needed for B2C interaction.