How we work with small business retailers to enhance our POS software

swspecPOS software company Tower Systems takes a professional and inclusive approach to developing key enhancements to its retail management software. This approach includes preparing written specifications for new functions and major enhancements to existing functions.

Written specifications are peer reviewed and user reviewed, to ensure that they are a comprehensive as necessary to provide the business case and the technical roadmap to creating the required new facilities and or enhancements.

The user review process can also include suppliers to retailers using the Tower software. This can be a drawn-out process given the number of people and businesses involved. the result is better software covering more facilities and delivering better outcomes for customers.

Software development is all about delivering access to facilities that are genuinely useful to our customers. The tighter the management of the development of our software the better the solution.

Too often, software companies in our small business channels develop software without a plan, without standards and without a vision that includes the vision of the end user. The tower Systems approach to structured software development is a key factor in our sales success and in customer retention success.

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Small retailer POS software users love transparency on software enhancement suggestions

software-ideasMany small business retailers using the POS software from Tower Systems actively engage in suggesting enhancements for the software and many of these suggestions make their way into the software.

Retailers regularly thank Tower for the opportunity to publicly make suggestions and for the transparency of voting by and feedback from others about the suggested enhancements. Indeed, the level of transparency Tower Systems has offered in this area for years now is rare. Some claim user engagement but it is hard to find another software company living the transparency claim like Tower.

The real test of the exclusive Software Ideas facility from tower Systems is the enhancements that make their way into the software. Hundreds of enhancements including new facilities, large and small, exist in the software today thanks to user engagement in making suggestions and voting on these suggestions. It is proving to be a valuable process for tower Systems and its retail business customers.

It is a measure of the company’s confidence that the facility is promoted on its website home page and that the list can be accessed by anyone including competitors.

Software Ideas is managed by a senior member of the software development management team within the company and the overall Tower leadership team makes final decisions about ideas it embraces. All ideas receive feedback from the company.

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New product launch for small retailers

Tower Systems is set to release a new product for small business retailers. In the final days of QA prior to launch, this new product is cloud based and will be of use to every retailer, offering facilities with which they can more valuably compete. We’re very excited and will share details here in a few days.

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Fifteen years on Friday breakfast tradition continues

Fifteen years after we started providing free breakfast on a Friday to our team members the tradition continues. The photo shows the selection available today – a mix of savory and sweet pastries fresh this morning from our local Brumbys small business bakery.

This Friday breakfast selection is in addition to an excellent range of biscuits available every day and five different blends from our commercial nespresso coffee machine. IT people need to fuel up, on a Friday especially.

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Video for POS software users discussing update enhancements

Point of Sale software company Tower Systems is taking a different approach to educating customers about the benefits delivered through its latest software update.

Retailers using the Tower POS software have access to a new video produced to specifically outline five highlights accessible through the latest update.

The video is accessible to all customers from the website. A link to the video has also been sent to all customers.

In producing the video, Tower is demonstrating its commitment to reaching customers through a variety of mediums and through these getting technnical information to them in a form that is understandable.

Produced in house, the video is brief yet valuable.

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The certainty of professional software development helps retailers

With well our software being used in well over 2,000 retail locations delivering genuinely useful and stable software updates is a key requirement for us. We have a structured process all software changes go through. nothing is done on-the-fly without thorough consideration.

New facilities for our Point of Sale software go through a multi-stage design process that takes into account data flow, user interface, functional requirements and code integration. This is always documented prior to a single line of programming code is written, into a professional specification. This specification is reviewed by four points in our business.

While this seems like considerable red-tape, the result is valuable enhancements that are useful, well integrated and functioning as intended.

Many years ago backyard operators would develop business software without professional specifications. Today, mission critical business software applications require professional design and development. This is what we invest in at Tower Systems. The result is one of the reasons for our growth.

A good way to compare software companies would be to compare their design specifications. Those who say they don’t need them ought to raise questions.

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Testing role helps deliver better quality software

A new full-time software testing role established in our development team has expanded to QA work we undertake on our Point of Sale software.

While we have always had a strong investment in software QA, this new role extends our investment and adds another layer of quality assurance focus to the software we deliver to our customers.

This role goes beyond whether new software works. It looks at its usefulness in the retail context. We are drawing on excellent retail skills for this role.

With thousands of retailers depending on the quality of our software, we understand the importance of delivering reliable and genuinely useful software.

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Staying true to our core Point of Sale software mission

We started in 1981 as a software company and remain focused today on being a software company.

Everything we do, all the services we offer, everything we sell all of our capital investment relates back to software development.

We have been asked to take on other products for retailers over the years and have rejected them as they stray too far from our core focus on being retail management software specialists.  While we connect our software to plenty of other products and services, we leave these to the experts in each field to sell and support.

Current and prospective customers can take comfort from our specialisation and our commitment to maintaining this, to enable us to deliver best of breed Point of Sale software … this is at the heart of what we do and a key reason for our market share.

 

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2012 is the year for POS software company consolidation

We have purchased three software businesses so far this year. With two we continue to support these software packages while with the third we have digested the technology for another project.

Over the last month owners of two more software companies looking to sell their respective businesses have approached us.

Like any business, scale is vital to the financial health of a software company.  To maintain and enhance software developed for a specific marketplace you need between 300 and 500 active customers.  The exact break even number depends on the investment to maintain relevant software.

The two most recent offers put our way are from businesses with user numbers below the benchmark. With significant changes ahead they can’t fund what would be necessary to be relevant.

While we respect that small business owners like to deal with small businesses, that is not practical when it comes to IT where significant investment in product development each year is vital.

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A typical Friday at our software company

Friday is an important day in the usual Tower Systems week as it’s the day we have more team members in the office. We catch up on the weeks numbers and activities, we plan for the next few weeks out, we discuss soft are enhancements in the context of the week’s events and we have a good breakfast put on by the company.

With so many of us on the road through the week installing systems, delivering training and selling, Fridays are ideal for bringing us all together. It’s a reason to like the day.

While we are a larger software company, with 2,500 customers, we are a small business at heart. Being in touch with each other is vitally important for that.

Our various meetings and rituals for a Friday are done without impacting customer service … responding to help desk calls remains the most important activity we perform.

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Point of Sale software update released

We released another software update last week delivering user requested enhancements to LayBys, invoice arrivals and barcode management (and more).

This latest update continues the trend we have established for 2012 of releasing regular updates to enhance the capabilities of our software and to extend the value our customers access from their relationship with us.

As with all of our software updates, this latest update has gone through a structures quality assurance process, passing a range of checks and tests to ensure that it meets benchmarks prior to commercial release.

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POS software enhancements driven by Jeff Jarvis inspired Software Ideas service

The Software Ideas service we launched in March 2009 inspired by the What Would Google Do? book by Jeff Jarvis continues to deliver benefits to our customers and to us.  This year alone, we have released a raft of software enhancements which have been put to us through Software Ideas. We have more in the pipeline too.

User submitted ideas plus those we create for ourselves as well as changes requested by supplier partners make up the broad and valuable mix of enhancements we deliver in our Point of Sale software in every update and every update makes our software more valuable.

Software Ideas remains unique in our marketplaces, a benchmark of leadership … if we do say so ourselves.

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Expanded Point of Sale software development team

We have been successful in hiring another programmer to join our in-house Point of Sale software development team.

This is a welcome expansion to our software development group which will result in a further expansion of an already robust software enhancement and extension process.

We are working on some very cool additional functionality for the software and being able to expand the team with the right skills has come at a good time for this work.

Software is our key asset and the value of the asset will grow with the growth of our development team.

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Helping university students with research papers

We have been helping several university students by participating in research they are undertaking into businesses like ours. Some assistance has involved face to face interviews while others involves online interviews. In each case we find that we get plenty out of the probing questions as we are challenged to look at what we do, how we do it and why.

The opportunity for reflection is providing us with perspective which we may have otherwise overlooked in a busy schedule. The interaction with the various university students is most welcome as it is delivering benefits to us – as well as to the students we hope.

Participating in interviews, discussions and in other ways with university students is providing us with a close new of some of the studies undertaken in universities in areas close to our field of endeavour. We like what we see. The students we have interacted with are smart and have asked some challenging questions.

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Point of Sale software update moves to beta release

The next update to our Point of Sale software has moved to beta release. Our pool of beta sites how have the software and will use this and provide feedback over at least the next week. This beta test process is vital to the process of bringing stable software updates to market.

The update delivers some nice enhancements, some of which came through our transparent Software Ideas process.

Having another significant update ready so soon is in part due to our expanded software development team.

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Expanded development team driving software enhancement program

The expansions we have made to our software development team this year are enabling us to deliver more Point of Sale software enhancements sooner. This is helping our broader user community as well as individual customers as we deliver some quite unique enhancements.

Serving a cross-section of retail marketplaces requires us to meet an often diverse yet beautifully intersected software mix of enhancements and the expanded team is key to our business plans and those of our customers.

As with any team expansion, we are appreciate a broadening of our horizons and the introduction of new experienced to our mix. Good software, after all, is a reflection on the experiences of those who develop it.

We anticipate sharing news on our software next update in the next week.

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Pride in the POS software update service

The CDs containing our latest POS software update which we have had manufactured to ship to our customers carry a professional label. We go to the extra trouble of professional packaging and shipping the CDs to provide our customers with then ultimate backup. They can get up and running in the event of a disaster without the need to have internet access. Given some recent outages in Australia this is useful. The professional packaging reinforces the professionalism of our company and its commitment to quality software and service.

We think it is important to show that our professionalism reaches beyond our soft are and our customer service. A professional package enshrining our core product presents a good message. It also makes the valuable software CD easier to find and identify.

Retailers using our Point of Sale software can download the update without needing to wait for the CD.

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Expanding our core Point of Sale software development team

We have been fortunate in hiring a software developer to fill a new role we have created in our Delphi development team.  Joining us from a senior software development role elsewhere, our newest recruit will be on board in a few weeks.

It has taken us a while to find a candidate of the experience and calibre to expand our team and are pleased to have been successful. We have held out for a candidate with the skill set which best suits our needs and through these the needs of our customers.

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Software beta program proves valuable

We are most appreciative of the feedback we are receiving from our beta release customers. They are playing with the latest release of our Point of Sale software and sharing with us their experiences and feedback. Given the scope of changes in the update and the value of the changes feedback at this stage is vital to ensuring that we get it right prior to commercial release.

With such a good track record for software stability, getting it right, through a robust beta program, is critical to our continued success.

So, to our beta program members ... THANK YOU!

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Software update beta program expands

Following success with the next release of our Point of Sale software, we have expanded the beta release program to include more businesses.  This takes a step closer to wider commercial release of this significant software update.

Our structured software development and beta release program respects the importance of our software in the businesses in which it serves.  By taking updates through properly managed and peer reviewed processes we release more valuable software.  The beta process enables us to tweak updates and ensure that they deliver what we promise.

By grouping software enhancements into more sizeable updates we make it easier for our customers to digest changes. Our experience showed that tiny update, with just one or two changes, went unnoticed and even ignored. It was the larger updates which were more embraced and used, hence our approach to bundling more frailties into later updates.

Software companies which do not take their software through a structured beta release program will often find that they deliver sub-standard software to their customers. We have certainly been able to sell against this in the past where users of other software have complained to us about poor quality software updates.

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Software enhancements to help book retailers

With more book retailers joining our Point of Sale software user community we have a bigger pool of suggestions and ideas for software enhancements,.  We are embracing these opportunities and developing some sweet changes to our software for book retailers.

What is interesting about the book retail enhancements is that they will also assist in a couple of other retail channels in which we serve.  We like this.

The detail of the book related enhancements will be announced to our customers in advance of us publishing more details here.  We do this to retain the advantage of delivering some enhancements which offer us a leadership opportunity.

We have been thrilled with the quality of feedback from our book retailer customers and the suggestions they have made.  Being businesses under challenge from online retailers and mobile technology, they need to innovate to drive relevance and performance.  We are glad to be on then journey with them.

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Challenging Ourselves to Continually Improve

For years now leaders within Tower Systems have kept abreast of software development, business management and retail trends by reading books, attending conferences and sharing insights.

We are taking this learning to a more structured place with the introduction of a reading and discussion group within the business.  Participants all read the same book and discuss insights in the context of what we do and the retail marketplaces in which we serve.  We choose books from respected professionals on topics which challenge conventional thinking.

Pursuing knowledge and external opinions and insights in this way takes us beyond what we know.  It provides us with a broader view.  This helps with our planning and the overall business discussion.

While we started the discussion group based around our leadership team, participation is open to anyone in the business.

We are our own biggest competitors.  By challenging our ideas and our perspective of the world by reading insights from respected authors we challenge ourselves to continually improve.

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POS Software Update Slated for June 2011

Development is well advanced for the next release of our Point of Sale software.  Commercial release is slated for mid June 2011. This update will deliver access to a suite of enhancements including user suggestions posted and voted on through our exclusive Software Ideas facility.

The update also includes a very exciting innovation which we are sure that our retailers will appreciate and embrace.

The actual release date of the software update will be determined once the update has passed through our Quality Assurance processes,  and has reached the quality level required for commercial use.  We prefer this structure approach with checks and balances as it delivers more stable software.

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New Web Developer

We are thrilled to have finalised the appointment of a new Web Developer to join our software development team.  Enhancing our skill set and setting us up for developments in our web presence, this role is important to our business plans for 2011/12.

One area of particular value from this roll will be the expanding connection between our Point of Sale software and e-commerce solutions used by retailers to run their online stores.

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