Security, compliance and artificial intelligence are key focus areas, says the Aussie company’s MD.
Melbourne-based Pronto Software is an Australian success story in the highly competitive ERP (enterprise resource planning) market. Business IT spoke to managing director Chad Gates about software company's plans for the coming year and ERP software in general.
A major focus area is security and compliance, Gates said. Laws concerning the mandatory reporting of data breaches in Australia came into force earlier this year, the EU General Data Protection Regulation starts being enforced on 25 May, and the Single Touch Payroll requirements will come into effect on 1 July.
“GDPR has everybody spooked,” Gates told Business IT, and is among the reasons why around 94 percent of Pronto 's new and upgrade business is now for cloud rather than on-premises.
The reasons why some organisations are staying with on-premises deployments include the need to optimise the return on previous infrastructure investments, regulatory issues (some public sector organisations have a restricted choice of data centres), and simply that IT departments want to keep control over their environments.
“People are wondering which cloud to trust,” because an opaque chain of providers can be involved. But Pronto owns its own cloud, he emphasised.
STP is “a big one,” he said. “We're pretty much ready,” although testing and verification are still underway because STP has been “a bit of a moving target.” Thanks to a big effort by Pronto staff, Gates is confident that almost all customers will be able to go live with STP on 1 July.
Mobile app development has been accelerated, including the creation of a native iPad POS app for retailers that is being piloted with selected customers and will be made generally available later this year. Unlike most POS apps, it accommodates complex pricing algorithms and other features, he said, and is designed to handle high-volume situations such as pop-up stores.
Other features include full integration with Pronto Xi while still being able to operate offline, the option of using the iPad's camera or a Bluetooth device for scanning barcodes, integration with payment terminals, stock availability at nearby stores, and daily reporting.
More generally, Pronto has done “a lot of work under the covers” to improve its products.
Examples include the way the suite now makes greater use of mapping where appropriate, and Pronto's use of Zerto's disaster recovery technology to spin up new instances of the software (cloud or on-premises) and taking only a few minutes to recover to a point just a few seconds before the problem occurred. Pronto also uses this technology to smooth the process of migrating customers from on-premises to cloud.
Future developments include supporting standard business processes with artificial intelligence. One example is in predictive maintenance – “a big trend in the mining space” – and another is in the management of sales processes. “It's early days for a lot of this technology,” conceded Gates. “You really need good data to drive AI properly.”
There are also plans to use AI to help detect fraud (by spotting unusual patterns of transactions, for example) to automatically match complex invoices with the right orders and other transactions, and to power an assistant that can help users by recommending particular actions.
Pronto's $1.3 million investment in and partnership with digital identity technology company Forticode is expected to start paying off in October as part of the next major release of Pronto Xi.
Forticode's Cipherise solves the authentication problem, Gates said. It provides ‘sovereign identity’ in that credentials remain in the hands of the user, and makes authentication as simple as holding a smartphone up to a screen to log in.
If the phone is lost, “it can be instantly be removed from the loop,” and in any case users are immediately notified if someone else attempts to be authenticated as them.
“It's a game-changing technology” and Pronto Xi will be the first ERP system in the world to use it.
Also coming in October are a reworked web interface (with changes focussing on compliance, speed, security and usability), and enhanced analytics (such as support for real-time streaming from the database).
"[Pronto is] experimenting with a whole lot of new technologies," said Gates.