Project Description


Automatic machines for the management and payment of university services

There are plenty of attractive, robust and technically advanced products around. But there are very few companies able to respond to the needs of customers promptly and professionally. An exceptional testimonial to this effect comes from Massimo Fortini, Director of the E.R.S.U. (the regional organisation for university study) of Urbino, who found in DATA4 a truly all-round partner.

Massimo Fortini is the Director of Urbino’s E.R.S.U. (regional organisation for university study) and an attentive observer of the many problems associated with organisations as complex as the university system. We asked him to explain the strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons of the latest management technology, with specific reference to machines for automatic service payments.

Mr. Fortini, we know that the E.R.S.U. of Urbino has chosen a high-tech way of simplifying the payment process for a number of services. When did you first begin to move in this direction?
We began a project in collaboration with a bank some ten years ago. This involved the supply of payment machines and software, and overall system management.

How did that project go?
Not very well! A whole series of technical and bureaucratic problems initially prevented the system from becoming operational.

So what happened next?
We eventually overcame the technical and bureaucratic hurdles and the machines were installed, but we soon found out that they did not work very well. They were subject to continuous breakdowns. The technical assistance was inefficient. The software was inadequate. Before long, we suspended the whole project.

But this bad experience did not deter you from trying again, did it?
No. We remained convinced of the need to streamline our procedures using the solutions offered by modern technology. We therefore decided to persevere and autonomously announced a tender which all Italian automatic payment systems were free to enter.

Did this attract a large number of bids?
No. In fact only two companies satisfied the necessary requirements. One of these was the company that supplied the first machines. The other was DATA4.

So which bid won?
The DATA4 bid, thanks to a product that exactly matched our needs.

Can you explain why?
Willingly. DATA4 showed a great deal of interest right from the beginning. They helped us with a customised analysis of our management software for a start. But that’s not all. DATA4’s machines are extremely efficient and give us very few problems indeed. And if anything does go wrong, their technical assistance is effective and extremely fast.

So can you say that your perseverance has been worthwhile?
Yes indeed. DATA4’s automatic payment machines have simplified a whole series of services, improved our efficiency, and significantly reduced our people’s workload.

What exactly do you use the machines for?
When we began working with DATA4, we only had two machines and both were dedicated to collecting payments for canteen services. Today we are operating five machines and using them to pay for canteen, transport, housing, video hire and library services.

So how exactly does your system work?
We use our machines to manage payment accounts rather than to take direct payments. Students collect a personal magnetic card from our offices. They then go to an automatic payment machine and insert banknotes to charge their account. They can use their card to pay for the services we provide (canteen, library, etc.) until the money in their account runs out.

What sort of feedback can you offer on the service so far?
All the automatic payment machines are connected to our central server. Every amount paid in and every payment made is individually recorded in our database. We therefore have complete and constant control over the machines and the services we provide. Our software gives us the accounting and statistical data we need automatically and in real time. This means we always know exactly where we stand, with the very minimum of effort.

What recommendation would you offer to colleagues who have not yet adopted an automatic service payment system?
I believe that for any highly computerised organisation, these machines represent an excellent opportunity to improve efficiency from all points of view. On the other hand I would emphasise the need to be very careful in selecting a supplier, bearing in mind that pre-sales and after-sales service is just as important as product quality.

To conclude, did the installation of these machines involve a major investment?
The investment involved is not a small one, but it is amortised very quickly. A couple of years is plenty from the management point of view, or four to five years from a purely accounting standpoint.