Keep your eyes open, try different things and do the research. This in a nutshell is the innovation ethos that has kept software company Accsys on top of its game for 40 years.
That’s no mean feat considering how many companies birthed in a pre-digital era have quietly faded away as their products or services become obsolete. Think overhead projectors, video cassettes, compact disks, phone books and fax machines – all products that were standard business issue not that long ago.
Accsys has been a leader in payroll and people management software for so long because it knows very well that having a market edge today does not guarantee you’ll still have one tomorrow.
“You need to be looking all the time at what you can do differently to keep current. That means being open to new ideas and keeping your eyes open for ways either to serve a need or create a need people didn’t even know they had,” says Teryl Schroenn, director at Accsys.
Many urban drivers, for example, consider parking ticket machines at office blocks and shopping malls to be a necessary evil. Teryl used to be one of them until a few years ago, when she noticed a sign up for Admyt, a pay-to-park app that gets rid of parking tickets. “Never having to worry about losing a ticket is a key part of my happiness,” she says, adding that there are countless inconvenient aspects of modern life and business just waiting to be transformed in this way.
Something that Accsys is seriously looking into in the access control part of its business, for instance, is padlocks that can be software-controlled so that companies no longer need to have keys for them. Teryl read about this concept somewhere in her ceaseless quest for new ideas and then alerted the organisation to start working on it.
But being constantly on the lookout for new ideas is not just the task of people at the top. “In smaller companies especially, everybody needs to think about what we can do to add to a solution or make it more stable, or to get systems talking to each other better.”
While innovation is often perceived as developing something completely from scratch, the ability to tweak and tailor something that already exists is a key element of being innovative, says Teryl.
A good example was how Accsys and one of its partners, ZKTeco, transformed their usual biometric readers into state-of-the-art thermal detector readers to assist clients in safely managing access to their premises when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
Whether an innovation is brand new or an adaptation, it has to be backed by proper research, lots of conversations with clients, and a good, solid business case. “There has to be innovation with stability,” says Teryl. “If you are running a payroll and you can’t trust the results, all the innovation in the world won’t help you.”
Finally, a company must be willing to invest in innovation, she says. “Good ideas take money to create.”