Still crazy after all these years

May 09, 2008

Does computer programming keep you young? It seems to have worked that way for Tish Brindle and Paul Heinz, general manager and director of Accredo Business Software. Accredo has been going a long time, and both have been with the company for years - but you'd swear they were fresh out of masters courses, bubbling with downright youthful enthusiasm for what is actually a rather old product.

Well, not so much old as highly refined. "It was started by Adrian Abraham back in pre-PC days," says Paul Heinz, who joined the company in the 1980s. "He was working for a computer store in Christchurch; his father-in-law needed a stock control system, so Adrian wrote him one to run on an early Commodore computer. They decided to offer the program to the public. That sold quite well, and then the PC came out and he decided to port the program over. It was called Profax - short for professional accounting systems.

"The arrival of GST gave small computers a huge boost. There were problems in the early years, though; the businesses that bought Profax generally grew, to a point where there was great demand for a multi-user network version. So a bunch of IT graduates from Auckland University were hired to build one, called Prophet.

"Ultimately Profax turned out to be more successful than Prophet, which was eventually bought out by an Australian company."

Eventually Profax came to acquire the features that Prophet struggled to incorporate -modularisation, multi-user capability, Y2K compliance and eventually, a Windows version, with sales blipping at each milestone.

Ms Brindle joined the company as receptionist in 1991, and found she had an affinity for software, despite having a degree in botany. She's now the primary product architect for Accredo.

"Eventually we weren't able to take Profax any further, and there were things we wanted to do like open period accounting that it couldn't handle. That pushed us in 2001 to make Accredo - a complete re-write, built with an eye to what Profax did and how it worked. Preserving the data structures was easy, it was the usability that was hard," Ms Brindle said.

"About three years ago we changed the name of the company to match the product. Such a long history and, thanks to our high staff retention, the intimate familiarity of just about everyone in the company with the product, means that we give our dealers and customers a very high level of support.

"Usually people coming to Accredo now are coming from something else," Ms Brindle said.

"They're moving because what they've got isn't meeting a need they've got - for timely information, stock handling, getting financial accounts out quickly."

With about 3000 customers and 15 employees Accredo is reasonably happy with its slice of the local market. "We do have a smattering of Australian users. Later this year we'll be adding some functions that will make us more attractive to international business - particularly foreign currency. Until that's bedded in we don't want to push outwards too much."


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