FOCUS on IT services & Software: What's your IT Strategy?

Software for merchants, distributors and wholesalers has developed and been refined in the last few years to provide ever more useful tools for sales teams, purchasers, bosses and more. Torque collates opinions and case studies to keep you abreast of the latest evolution of IT services, ERP and e-business…


The Spruce Computer Systems division of ECi Software solutions continues to make in-roads in the fixings and fasteners dealers and distribution industry. From the ECi solutions centre in Lincoln, Spruce offers its Spruce-Ware.NET software powered by Microsoft Windows. This cloud-based product is running merchant operations from four to five-hundred users in both single and multibranch companies.

A major attraction to many customers is the Spruce Inventory and Pricing Module which allows a product to be purchased, stocked and sold in up to five different units, for instance the same item can be sold and priced as per each, per box, per pallet or per hundred at pro-rata or varying prices. The Spruce system knows the relationship between the various units and maintains the stock levels in the base unit.

The most sophisticated customer and quantity pricing allows the stockist to wheel and deal whilst maintaining continuity and consistency. The sales screens display standard line pricing, individual customer and quantity terms and – importantly – the customer’s purchase pricing history per line item with the ability to instantly call to the screen the individual invoices that make up that history.

Spruce’s Import Wizard allows manufacturer price updates to be imported, sorted as to relevant or not, and all prices changed in seconds. The Import Wizard is also used to create new stock items or change existing products by exporting batches to Excel, manipulating and re-importing.

Inventory/Pricing is just one of the full suite of modules that make up the Eci Spruce.NET system. Unusually for this industry, all the modules are included in every sale giving Spruce customers the ability to switch on or off those that are not required at that time. The advantage to Spruce is that all customers have the same system whether they are in London, Edinburgh, New York or Ottawa, making enhancements and support far simpler.


Tony Pey, Head of Product Marketing, Kerridge Commercial Systems, writes...

You process sales transactions on your ERP system. You have a website. You market your business via social media. Does this mean you have ‘digitally transformed’ your business? Unfortunately not. ‘Digital transformation’ is all about implementing technology to change the culture and behaviours within a business  – rather than just using it to streamline existing processes. It’s also about the ability to meet the levels of today’s customer expectation – and the instant gratification we all expect from being constantly connected through apps and mobile devices.

There are two approaches to defining your IT strategy. The first is simply to extend the digital reach within your existing business model. Maybe you began with automated accounting and ERP and are now digitising further areas of the business such as payroll.

The second approach involves using IT to transform the business model itself to substantially improve efficiencies – and customer service. Software providers are developing apps for use on iOS and Android devices to help facilitate the transformation, and to enable operatives to undertake tasks in a showroom or warehouse that were previously done behind a desk or counter. For example, our ePOD solution delivers a new autonomy to drivers by enabling them to access and manage a branch generated electronic manifest with signature capture. Deliveries or other issues are automatically confirmed in the core system to create a workflow at the branch, and PODs are instantly visible in the core system or on the web for customers.

Counter staff and customers planning purchases are now using shopping apps with rich visual content. The staff can approach customers and use the app to discuss and build an order that is fed back to the core system. These apps will also provide the customer with information drawn from the core system such as delivery times and, for the distributor, pricing and account status.

Adopting a digital strategy means driving new behaviour among your teams and empowering them to work in ways that will enhance customer service as well as driving efficiencies throughout your business – and we’re committed to helping you.