There are few boundaries Bill Gates's Microsoft empire has not conquered. It appears only natural that other companies with the dream of penetrating borders want to ride the wave with Microsoft.
In June, Scala, a software system for business management, obtained the right to plant Microsoft's BackOffice logo on its products. "It's only a logo," said Jim Gladstone, marketing manager for Scala in Bratislava. "But its name and reputation go a long way. For our purposes, it's nice packaging."
Founded in 1978 in Sweden, Scala itself has come a long way in finding new borders to crack. Since opening their Budapest regional center in 1991, the firm has steadily swept across the emerging markets of central and eastern Europe, with offices springing up as far away as Uzbekistan.
The Slovakia office started up in 1995, targeting multinational investors in the country. "The biggest selling point of our software is its flexibility," Gladstone said. "Our software takes into account all the Slovak accounting laws and regulations that can be read in either Slovak or English."
From the spread sheet, Gladstone continued, numbers can be transferred to western style accounting methods which are more useful. "Let's face it, Slovak accounting doesn't give a very usable picture of a company's financial standing," he said.
Because of a lack of foreign investment into Slovakia, Scala has had to refocus its marketing on domestic companies eager to do business abroad. Scala's adaptability to other countries' accounting laws and regulations built into the software is especially attractive for companies that want to do business in Ukraine, Russia or other former Soviet republics, because the software is flexible to the ever-changing laws and out of control inflation.
Companies can transfer data from different countries either by internet modem or by a simple disc transfer. Gladstone pointed out that one eastern Slovak chemical company working in the Ukraine uses the software to bring data back to their accounting methods and language.
The price of the software depends on the needs of the company - as each "module" is paid for separately - and the number of users that want to be logged on at one time. An average package consists of three financial modules - general ledger, sales ledger, and purchase ledger - and three logistical modules: sales order/invoicing, stock control and purchase control. This package costs around 25,000 Sk. Installation, which can take up to 40 days, is another 25,000.
Gladstone stressed the consultant role Scala plays when coming up with a system to fit a particular company's needs. "It takes time to figure out what [the client] needs [and] to train those who will use it," he said.
Scala also targets manufacturers such as pharmaceutical and telecom companies in Slovakia. A "Manufacturing, Planning, and Control (MPC)" module is going to be heavily marketed in the next few months. This module's abilities range from tracking capacity and operating requirements, purchasing of raw materials, and signalling for delivery of manufactured goods. A seminar at the Hotel Forum August 6-7 will showcase the MPC solution for business management.
A similar but more complex software offered by Sap is used by huge manufacturing plants. "There is room for both," said Patricia Peterson, Scala's director in Bratislava. "Scala has 70 percent of the functions at a much cheaper price."
The Scala business management software can work on DOS, Windows NT or Novel operating systems. But from Scala's experience, Microsoft's Windows NT is the place to be. "Some people like using the software on DOS because they can fly through screens, but Windows NT is really easier," Gladstone added.
Cooperating with Microsoft will ensure Scala is up to date and compatible with the latest and hottest operating systems. Plus they get Microsoft's seal of approval. You can almost see Bill Gates smiling.
17. Jul 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel J. Stoll