Royalty Program helps ISV increase customer satisfaction, speeds up deployment
“The ISV Royalty Licensing Program has helped us reduce the total cost of our solution and made it more affordable to our customers, which are mainly from the SME sector.”
Richard Tai, Business Development (Technical) Manager, Smart-Acc Solutions Sdn Bhd
Smart-Acc Solutions Sdn Bhd is one of Malaysia’s leading developers of point of sale (POS) software with 7,000 POS counters installed nationwide. One of its key challenges was to provide high-quality yet affordable POS software to its customers. Another was to simplify the process of deploying its software by offering unified solutions. Its desire to overcome these challenges got a timely boost from the Microsoft ISV Royalty Licensing Program, which allows Smart-Acc Solutions to integrate Microsoft products into their business solutions, and replicate and distribute unified solutions to their customers. This program enabled Smart-Acc Solutions to develop its Smart Touch & POS unified solution that benefits customers in terms of offering a quality POS application at an affordable price and simplifying the installation process while providing a new income stream for the company.
Smart-Acc Solutions Sdn Bhd is a Malaysia-based independent software developer involved in the development of retail inventory management software since its inception in 1997. Its Smart software series are designed to accommodate the whole spectrum of retailers, from large chains with multi-company, multi-department, and multi-register operations, to single stores working on single-user PCs.
Increasingly, Smart-Acc Solutions has forged a niche in Malaysia’s growing point of sale (POS) software market, and has installed about 7,000 POS counters nationwide. The company, which started off developing accounting inventory software, had shifted its focus to the POS segment with the launch of its first-generation Smart POS application in 2004. It has since developed an upgraded POS application named Smart Touch & POS which is suitable for any retail or food and beverage (F&B)-based business, and is designed in dual interface mode to enable touch screen, keyboard or scan inputs. Its flexibility, accuracy, fast order placement, precise customer lookup, and speed has made the system a popular choice, especially in the hospitality industry.
The company’s solutions, including its POS offerings, have been developed on the Microsoft platform since the early days of its growth. Smart-Acc Solutions eventually joined the Microsoft Partner Network and is now a Microsoft Silver ISV Competency partner.
Smart-Acc Solutions mainly serves the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector by providing information technology systems to help companies boost operation efficiency and revenue. The ISV was also aware that one of SMEs’ key concerns was keeping IT expenditure at a reasonable level, and software deployment and maintenance as simple as possible. “We realised it would benefit our customers if we could help them keep the cost of acquiring our POS solutions at an affordable level and to make it less complicated for our resellers to deploy the applications,” says Richard Tai, Smart-Acc Solutions’ Business Development (Technical) Manager.
From the development perspective, Smart-Acc Solutions was also looking at ways to enhance its development processes especially in terms of being able to offer fully integrated or unified solutions to its customers. “This would simplify the process of deploying our POS systems as our customers would not need to deal with multiple vendors, and the installation process would be less complicated for our distributors and resellers,” adds Tai.
For example, its POS solutions leveraged on the capabilities of Microsoft SQL Server as its database to deliver rich functionalities for customers. However, Smart-Acc Solutions’ customers would typically have to procure Microsoft SQL Server separately from a third party. This was often inconvenient for SME customers as they would have often have to deal with another IT vendor. In addition, sometimes the third parties responsible for installing Microsoft SQL Server were unable to configure the database to work optimally with the POS system. This, says Tai, would inevitably complicate and delay the deployment of the Smart POS system and prompted the company to seek a solution to overcome this problem.
Smart-Acc Solutions’ push towards developing unified solutions gathered impetus just as it was starting on the development of its Smart Touch & POS solution in 2008. Smart-Acc Solutions discovered that it could leverage on the Microsoft ISV Royalty Licensing Program to make its aim of offering unified solutions a reality. According to Tai, the ISV Royalty Licensing Program enables Smart-Acc Solutions to provide and be responsible for all components of the unified solution.
The ISV Royalty Licensing Program allows ISVs like Smart-Acc Solutions to integrate Microsoft products into their business solutions, and replicate and distribute the ‘Unified Solution’ to their customers. “This means we can include Microsoft SQL Server Runtime as part of our unified solution, and distribute this fully-licensed solution to our customers,” explains Tai, adding that this allows Smart-Acc Solutions to add a high-value proposition to its offering and improve customer satisfaction.
Smart-Acc Solutions developed the Smart Touch & POS solution within the space of several months in 2008 and soft launched it to the market the same year. VB.NET was used for the development of Smart Touch & POS, and the solution is used in conjunction with Microsoft Office and runs on various Windows operating systems including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft SQL Express is used for clients at every point of sale while Microsoft SQL Server 2008 runs at the backend.
Tai explains that Microsoft SQL Server installation files were embedded into the Smart Touch & POS installation CD. “By embedding Microsoft SQL Server into the unified solution, we have been able to ensure that it works perfectly with Smart Touch & POS. Previously, resellers’ staff had to be very IT savvy because they must have fairly good knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server to get it optimized for our Smart POS solution. Our development team has done the necessary testing and configuration so that the Microsoft SQL Server database works to the best possible performance with Smart Touch & POS.”
“The installing process has become very simple for our resellers as their representative just needs to run the installation CD which will automatically do a full installation as per our requirements. This takes the guesswork out for them. In fact, the reseller does not even need to send someone with technical knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server to do the installation,” states Tai.
Tai says the company’s development team was able to easily learn how to embed Microsoft SQL Server into the unified solution by accessing the resources available via the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). In addition, he says that Microsoft has provided Smart-Acc Solutions with strong support and assistance whenever the company faced issues in the development process. “The services and support provided by Microsoft in terms of technical matters have been invaluable. They have reacted very fast and helped us as an ISV,” he adds.
Tai also says that Smart-Acc Solutions also benefits from its partnership with Microsoft by leveraging on the latter’s industry-leading technologies. “By being part of the ISV Royalty Licensing Program and building our solutions on top of Microsoft technologies, Smart-Acc Solutions is able to avoid unnecessary development and project risks while benefiting from Microsoft’s continuous technology improvements.”
The ISV Royalty Licensing Program has enabled Smart-Acc Solutions to develop a unified solution that has major benefits for customers in terms of offering high-quality software at an affordable price and speeding up deployment of its POS system. Participating in the ISV Royalty Licensing Program has also given the company a new revenue stream, and growing group revenue as a result.
Unified solution boosts customer satisfaction
The ISV Royalty Licensing Program allows Smart-Acc Solutions’ to offer a unified solution that helps improve customer satisfaction and avoid deployment delays. “Customers no longer have to deal with another vendor to separately procure Microsoft SQL Server licenses and set up the databases at their business locations. As Microsoft SQL Server is now embedded in our unified solution, customers just have to liaise with a single source, that is, our distributors or resellers,” explains Tai.
“Previously, there was a need to check if the customers had Microsoft SQL Server, and if they already had it, the particulars of the licensing and version. Now under the ISV Royalty Licensing Program, we don’t have to worry about these issues as we are authorized to embed Microsoft products such as SQL Server into our unified solutions,” he adds.
Simplifies and speeds up deployment
The unified solution approach ensures that Microsoft SQL Server is tightly integrated with the Smart Touch & POS application – simplifying installation, eliminating delays in the implementation and reducing the need for customer support, says Tai.
Tai affirms that developing unified solutions makes a lot of sense for ISVs like Smart-Acc Solutions given that its distribution channel relies a lot on distributors and partners to go out to the market. “Since we don’t do the implementation themselves, there is advantage in embedding Microsoft SQL Server with our software as it reduces the complexity of deployment for customers. It makes it much easier for their resellers to implement the Smart Touch & POS system, prevents delays in implementation and reduces support costs.”
Lowers customers’ software cost
Customers opting for the Smart Touch & POS system are able to enjoy a significantly lower cost of acquiring Microsoft SQL Server licenses and future upgrades compared to separately acquiring the licenses through a third party. By embedding Microsoft SQL Server into the Smart Touch & POS solution, Tai says customers benefit from significant savings as the Microsoft SQL Server Runtime license comes with restricted use rights, meaning users are to use it only with the unified solution.
For Smart-Acc Solutions, which is targeting a bigger share of the price-sensitive SME market, this provides it with an extra edge as it seeks to attain its goal of being the No. 1 POS systems vendor in the country. “The ISV Royalty Licensing Program has helped us reduce the total cost of our solution and made it more affordable to our customers, which are mainly from the SME sector,” adds Tai.
Participating in the ISV Royalty Licensing Program has also given Smart-Acc Solutions’ revenue a boost. By offering cost savings to customers and a quick and problem-free implementation, Smart-Acc Solutions has seen its revenue rising steadily. “Embedding Microsoft SQL Server into our Smart Touch & POS unified solution makes the installation process relatively problem-free, and reduces our services and support costs,” explains Tai.
The ISV now also has an additional income stream from being able to redistribute licenses and Embedded Maintenance for Microsoft SQL Server via its the Smart Touch & POS solution. Tai says the company saw its 2010 revenue increase by 34 per cent year-on-year, and attributes part of it to the strong growth of the Smart Touch & POS solution.
As Smart-Acc Solutions seeks to consolidate its leadership position in the POS software sector in Malaysia, it is already planning to expand its operations to the Asean region. In this endeavour, the ISV is confident that its partnership with Microsoft, particularly through the ISV Royalty Licensing Program, will provide it with strategic advantages that will make its regional expansion a success.
“Being an ISV partner of Microsoft and building our solutions on leading-edge Microsoft technologies will definitely help us as we begin our regional push in the coming year,” says Tai. “We tell potential customers that though we may be relatively small but we have a giant – Microsoft – backing us, and so that doesn’t make us small anymore,” he adds.
Tai affirms that Smart-Acc Solutions’ participation in Microsoft’s ISV Royalty Licensing Program has been an unqualified success, both for the ISV as well as its distributors, resellers and, most importantly, its customers.
Microsoft ISV Royalty Licensing Program
The Microsoft ISV Royalty Licensing Program offers independent software vendors (ISVs) a convenient way to integrate Microsoft products into their software business applications, replicate their solutions, and distribute fully licensed solutions to their customers. This program is not a reseller program but one that grants the ISVs the right to license Microsoft products as part of their solutions.
For more information about the Microsoft ISV Royalty Licensing Program, go to:www.microsoft.com/isvroyalty