Often it is the channel that wins business for a vendor, but the relationship can also work the other way. In the case of one Australian software development house, a referral from QAD helped to kick-start its thrust into the corporate market. Naomi Jackson investigatesAs a small company, cracking the first big customer site that gets your business moving is sometimes more a case of who you know, rather than what you can offer. Sydney-based software development house TCG Information Systems (TCG IS), is proof of that.
The company produces FormTrap, a software program that takes the information output of existing applications and improves its presentation on-the-fly prior to documents being printed. It may not be a mission-critical application, but thanks to a little help from one of its friends, TCG IS landed its first major corporate deal in mid-1997 when kitchen and bathroom products manufacturer Cussons bought FormTrap. QAD, a Sydney-based ERP organisation, sent Cussons in TCG's direction.
"We were, and still are, being recommended to clients by QAD where they run into presentation issues in their sales or implementation cycle, and Cussons was of that sort," Paul Green, TCG IS's managing director, told ARN. "It provided us with a named account that most people in Australia recognise and that provided a level of credibility and a good reference point for the growth of our business."
The FormTrap implementation was part of a wider IT project at Cussons which also involved the adoption of a Sun Solaris-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution called MFG/Pro.
FormTrap's ability to integrate with that solution set it apart from the other printing solutions recommended by QAD, who installed MFG/Pro, according to Peter de Fontenay, Cussons' business service manager.
"When TCG IS demonstrated how FormTrap could generate invoices, statements, sales orders for our warehouse and suppliers' schedules, we were very impressed," de Fontenay said. "All our forms are now nicely set out and clearly understood, which makes our whole operation run much more smoothly."
Indeed, Cussons plans to use FormTrap to incorporate bar coding on its warehouse sales orders, dispatch notes and supply schedules to further streamline its delivery process.
Just over 12 months after it was first implemented, de Fontenay is still a fan of FormTrap.
"We rarely have a problem with the solution, but what we still appreciate most about it is that we no longer have to carry supplies of pre-printed stationery," he said. "FormTrap supports and enhances our image because everything that is dispatched from the company is well-presented."
Following the Cussons win, TCG IS has flourished.
The company now has revenues of more than $2 million annually and a client list that boasts Nestl, Lever Rexona, Green's Foods, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Bank and the City of Sydney.
But that success has not been enough to get QAD to formalise ties with TCG IS.
"The situation with QAD is an unusual one," Green said. "Despite many attempts to get them to take FormTrap on directly, they won't. But we still get a substantial number of referrals from them."
So TCG IS has taken matters into its own hands to further build its customer base, according to Green. "We're starting to set up our own implementation network of people to work with our clients," he said. "So typically we'll be finding a systems integrator or value-added reseller (VAR) in a particular locality and passing all our business their way." Green claims TCG IS already has five partners performing in that capacity.
The company's other tactic for growing its business is to have other software developers adopt FormTrap as the presentation engine in their applications.
"A good example of that is Star Systems in Brisbane," Green claims. "They write systems in Progress language for most of the large stockbrockers in Australia and use FormTrap as a presentation engine contained within their own product."
TCG IS is a Progress Software business partner and plans to leverage the vendor's worldwide channel initiative to continue its growth locally and internationally.
The company is particularly keen to break into the North American market, following the signing of a distribution deal earlier this year with US-based Scantron, who manufacture optical mark scanning equipment.
TCG IS is also distributed in Singapore, New Zealand and France.
So what is Green's main aspiration for the company he originally established with partner Peter Fritz 20 years ago to sell bar code equipment and develop bar code print programs?
"Our aspirations are to build FormTrap into a complete document management system which will mean adding alternate delivery channels such as Internet and fax as well as automated document archiving functionality," Green said. The first of a range of add-on modules incorporating the added features will be available by the end of this year, with further products scheduled during 1999.