An Interview with Armagh Planetarium

Who Are The Armagh Planetarium?

Armagh Observatory & Planetarium is Ireland’s leading centre for astronomical research and education. All of this research and science doesn’t happen behind closed doors. Open to the public and the host of many school visits and corporate events, the Planetarium welcomes 55,000 visitors each year.

We caught up with Leonard Knox, Head of Finance and Income Generation at Armagh, to find out more about the attraction and how VisiSoft has played a role in its success.

planetarium epos

Can you tell us more about the organisation and the site itself here in Armagh?

The Armagh Observatory was founded in 1890 and has always been involved in astronomy. Today we employ astrophysicists and PhD astronomy students who are actively working on international research projects into space and astronomy.

In the 1960’s we wanted to extend our reach beyond research and started the public outreach and education programme, to teach others about the work we do. That’s why we built the Planetarium, which is definitely the highlight of our centre for the 55,000 visitors we see each year.

So what can people see or do when they visit?

Well the Planetarium dome is definitely the highlight of any visit, our theatre show offers a digital journey into space. Our visitors also get to walk around our site and exhibition rooms, understanding the history of astronomy and the Observatory itself. We also have a gift shop and café on site for people to visit as part of their day.

planetarium epos system

You’ve been working with VisiSoft for a number of years, what were your priorities when choosing a new EPOS system?

There were three key priorities for us when it came to EPOS:

  • It had to be reliable and stable. Our visitor numbers are seasonal and we peak in the summer holidays. We have to have total confidence that our system is not going to let us down. It would damage our customer service and also mean we’d inevitably lose out on important revenue.
  • Integration with our Sage 200 finance system was a must. There are some many benefits to my team of having a strong and reliable integration between finance and EPOS. We didn’t want valuable team members tied up in manual data entry and we need financial reporting in a single system that we can trust.
  • The system needed to work across our two primary outlets at the Planetarium, that’s our café and our gift shop. They obviously sell different products and have different needs, the last thing we wanted was to manage two separate systems to do this.

And how has VisiSoft performed against those priorities?

Great. Whether I speak to finance, IT, retail or catering; they all find it very reliable and it manages to meet the different needs of all of these departments. VisiSoft just works. Data integrity and reporting is obviously a big part of my role, and the integration with Sage 200 is great. Even if the network goes down, we always know the data will be safe.

I can get all of my financial reporting out of Sage 200 rather than having to jump between two systems, that saves me time and definitely improves the quality of the reporting we can provide to the organisation.

When it comes to working with the VisiSoft team, you’ve had on-site installation and training recently as well as the continued support of the VisiSoft help desk. How do you find working with them?

I must say, all of the advice we receive is excellent. Support calls are handled very quickly with minimum fuss. I never find myself having to chase support for a progress update. When it comes to EPOS, every call is a priority as it’s at the front line of our revenue generation. Thankfully, I know the support team will have it in hand and it will be fixed as soon as possible.

We are in the middle of a major refurbishment that has included a till refresh and additional tills in the café. The VisiSoft consultant that visited was brilliant. What I really liked is that he involved our IT and Finance teams in the process and taught them loads about the system. This has made us more independent and allowed us to get more out of the system. It certainly wasn’t a case of plugging in the new tills and leaving.

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