interviewBy Brett Chulu
Brett Chulu (BC), recently caught up with Meryl Malcomess (MM), marketing director of Syspro. Syspro is a Johannesburg-headquartered Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) developer and vendor with a strong global footprint. It boasts several blue chip clients in Zimbabwe, and will be launching a new product in which ERP will be accessed via a mobile phone.
They discussed the business of ERP, its contribution to the Zimbabwean business landscape, how Syspro is faring against big-name global ERP developers and its recent innovations in the SME, SMME and rural environments. Below are excerpts:
Meryl, you believe in simplicity. Could you please explain in simple terms what ERP is?
ERP is the magic tool that silently facilitates the business flow between functions in an organisation and manages connections to outside stakeholders. An even greater joy is the database which is the repository that becomes the storybook of your business.
You may want to give a practical example for our non-technical readers of how ERP works?
Examples of what an ERP system can do is: take customer orders, schedule operations and store inventory records and financial data. Commitments made by the business such as purchase orders or employee payroll are tracked, where status updates are provided to the particular department in the organisation who put the data into the system.
You boast blue chip clients in Zimbabwe. What is it that makes your solutions superior to other global ERP vendors?
Syspro is a truly African product. Our eco-system offers users of our product local support and a cultural fit. We are celebrating our 35th birthday this year and while Africa is our greatest passion, we are in more than 60 countries worldwide.
I understand that you are now integrating your ERP solutions with the mobile phone. How is this working?
We have created a Syspro App store (worldwide online shop), which makes adopting mobile very simple -- providing developers all over the world with the opportunity to add to our capability. All part of our motto: "Simplifying Your Success."
Do you mean that, for example, a CEO of a retail chain, thousands of kilometres away from the office, can use his/her mobile phone to get real-time updates on sales figures of a particular retail shop?
Precisely, operations and stock control can be managed and overseen by business owners who are not near their office, all through the app once it has been installed on their mobile phone.
We are an agro-based economy with very strong participation from rural folk. How will your mobile solutions help our rural folk?
Many of our customers in Africa contribute to the agri-economy and our mobile solution will be able to work through the simple supply chain (individual) into the complex supply chain (co-ops).
Take for instance a cup of milk; through the simple-into-the-complex supply chain can become a product sold in a convenience store. Our customer, Brookside Dairy, in Kenya is the perfect example of this, where they have increased their daily processing capacity 150-fold since we started working with them.
Your cup of milk example is very interesting. How does a farmer use his/her mobile phone to sell this cup of milk?
This is possible through mobile money, a quick and easy way for consumers to be able to make payments using their mobile phones. How does it work? The consumer sends a payment request via an SMS text message or a USSD to a short code and a premium charge is applied to their phone bill or their online wallet.
The merchant involved (or farmer in this case) is then informed once the payment has been made, and can then release the goods (milk).
Are there any practical examples in Africa where you have piloted or implemented these mobile phone-integrated solutions?
Syspro Espresso is Syspro's brand new mobile framework that will be launched with Syspro 7. Syspro Espresso has been hosted in the Syspro Cloud and is available on all mobile devices. Users will also be able to access Syspro Espresso from any desktop.
For ease of use Syspro Espresso can be accessed from any mobile device, all customers need to do is download the Syspro Espresso application from their respective device app store. We look forward to reporting on African customer success stories in this space.
You talk of right practice being more suitable to Africa as opposed to best practice. What do you mean?
I can't imagine why any ERP vendor should be arrogant enough to say they have best practice. In our fast-changing global economy what is yesterdays' best practice may have no value today. There are established common practices which are used around the world to run businesses. However, right practice lies in the secrets and capability of a particular company which is their competitive edge.
Are your business solutions in sync with the indigenisation thrust in Zimbabwe?
Syspro's success in Africa and commitment to right practice qualifies us to work in the empowering landscapes that we are witnessing in Africa. Experience has taught me that the only constant is change, and the possibilities and potential of our very flexible ERP product are endless. We have proven success in 14 verticals.
Tell us more about Syspro.
Syspro is a leading independent business software developer. We offer a solution-focused business application to mid-market manufacturers who need visibility and control over their business.
Our solutions and services harness the power of business-critical information, delivering competitive cutting edge ERP software and services that simplify the success of thousands of customers across the world.
As a woman business leader who sits on several boards, what tips can you give to our aspiring women business leaders in Zimbabwe.
Resilience is not a "nice-to-have" character trait; it's an essential tool in turning bad moments on their head and using them to our advantage. Value the relationship over the transaction.
Take the time to nurture relationships with colleagues, customers and partners -- this builds trust which forms the foundation on which to develop a symbiotic relationship -- and never underestimate the collective power.
Who is Meryl Malcomess?
I'm the same person, whether I am at home or work; however, there are several facets that make me who I am. The most important to me are (in no particular order!) being an African, a mother and a grandmother. The most joyous of things is to be a grandmother!
I have worked in the motor industry; have audited co-ops in the Free State (South Africa); traded internationally in agri products; worked in the advertising industry; and was the financial director of Control Data, which was at the time, one of the biggest IT companies in Africa.
My last 22 years have been with Syspro and I wake up every day with a passion to work and make a difference in my environment. Gender has never been an issue in the work-place, I believe we're all human beings and equally valuable in the working arena.
Chulu is a strategic HR consultant and business strategist pioneering innovative strategic HR practices in both listed and unlisted companies in Zimbabwe.