If you’re a photographer who lives in Western Australia, you have more than likely heard of Team Digital. The Perth- based supplier offers a range of products and services aimed at the professional and photographic enthusiast, from cameras and studio lighting to graphics monitors, design tablets and large format printing solutions. The company supports its product offerings with technical support, in-house training programs and a comprehensive equipment hire service.
Over the past 36 years, Don Nicholls has been steering Team Digital, as the photography industry morphed from film to digital. The imaging landscape today is completely different, and management practices and information systems have had to accommodate these changes.
Fundamental to Team Digital’s success is management’s ability to understand what’s happening on a daily basis – and much of that understanding comes from SapphireOne.
Explained Don, “We initially had a software package that was developed locally and in the early days it met our needs. It wasn’t an integrated system. It just handled sales and inventory, so we needed separate packages to run creditors, debtors and the general ledger. I guess you could describe it as piecemeal and it required lots of journals in order to prepare a meaningful set of accounts.”
It also meant there was a time delay which could impact important business decisions and then, if a decision were made to move into a new area, the individual components weren’t particularly accommodating.
“Apart from being manual and limited, the systems we had were not adaptable. If we had a new activity, we couldn’t integrate it easily – in short the software we had ceased to meet our needs.”
Around 2009, Team Digital knew it needed to change and started looking around for solutions. We purchased Sapphire, a single-user version of SapphireOne, but didn’t really look at it for a few months as business was busy.
“We knew we needed an integrated System that would take on board all of our different activities and give us better control over our inventory and client base. It also had to be a lot quicker in providing us with a meaningful set of accounts that we could rely on.”
However, Team Digital had a small advantage, it had recently taken over another business with expertise in IT, providing training and technical support. That expertise was now applied to the process of choosing the right business enterprise and financial accounting software.
The choice was Sapphire. Then in 2010 we started using the SapphireOne Server.
“Today, SapphireOne manages our inventory, clients and vendors. It’s a really well integrated ERP Accounting System that covers sales, purchasing, GL, payroll, super and a number of other tasks.
“There are also a lot of extra features in SapphireOne that we could use, but don’t. It’s just that being a small business and getting on with the daily chores, there’s only so much time available. I know we really should put aside a couple of days and go through all of SapphireOne’s sub-menus from top to bottom, but then again, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!”
What sold the Sapphire Single User to Don and Team Digital was SapphireOne’s flexibility. “I really like the separate stages you can create from accepting a client order to completing the sale.
The whole process remains fluid and open and we can use each of those stages to keep track of a transaction as it marches through the system – from receiving the order to actually supplying the product and posting it to the customer’s account.
“In a broad sense, the software is extremely capable, although we are yet to fully tap it’s potential. However, we have quite a diverse inventory with over 18,000 items, so coding products, finding them and interrogating stock levels and pricing is really important. It’s easy enough to locate items that one sells regularly, but in addition to these there are thousands of accessories and parts that we might not keep permanently in stock. When we receive a request for a relatively obscure item, we need to be able to access and order it quickly.
“The coding system for inventory in SapphireOne is great. For a long time we wanted to line up our product codes with the codes of our different suppliers so that orders could just flow from our system to theirs. Prior to Sapphire we used our own coding system, which of course meant nothing to our suppliers. This often led to a delays in shipping and not infrequently, supply of the wrong product. Now with Sapphire the process is seamless and the suppliers can quickly and accurately identify our needs. Our turnaround time is quicker and the error rate negligible.
“With the old system, it was a nightmare downloading every vendor’s price list and transferring items across, but in SapphireOne, it’s so straightforward. This is where SapphireOne shines, being able to interrogate the inventory system quickly and effectively. Even better, you can interrogate the system from a range of different screens and points. Once you know the SapphireOne ERP Accounting System, it’s extremely efficient in so many ways.
“Another feature we really like is SapphireOne’s filing system. Every document associated with a transaction, from a purchase order to a remittance advice, can be appended to the transaction within SapphireOne, so if you need to find the original, it is just there! I’d like to say we are generating less paper as a result of the IT revolution, but I’m not sure that is quite true. However, in terms of managing it, SapphireOne copes very well.”
“Sapphire seem to be constantly developing and fine tuning their software. For instance, a few years back when we brought up a sales transaction, we’d have to exit out of that screen before we could view the customer’s record. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could jump straight to the client’s record from here – and of course, now we can. As a mature and evolving package, you’d expect SapphireOne to work pretty well straight out of the box – and it does, but it’s nice to know that the development is ongoing.
“Another aspect of SapphireOne that we really like is that it is so robust. If you have a power outage or hit the wrong key, SapphireOne doesn’t just dump everything. It seems to be very reliable and forgiving. As a result, our support needs have been pretty minimal. However, our experience with John and the SapphireOne team is that if there’s a problem, they jump onto it. The responsiveness of SapphireOne is first class.
“But even better, we don’t have a lot of problems!
“I have an accountancy background, so I’ve always thought of SapphireOne as a tool that supports our business. It is a very capable and comprehensive ERP Accounting System. In the future, I’m keen to see how we can further integrate SapphireOne with our website. We already have a pretty good
website, but I think we could save a lot of time and energy if we let SapphireOne take on an even bigger role in our business.”