QUED One Of The First To Look At Bright Future
The knowledge economy has become a major election campaign issue for New Zealand this year.
The premise on which a knowledge economy exists, as defined by chief executive of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, Dr James Bulwada, is "one propelled by the ability to create, strengthen and apply knowledge to wealth creation".
The term itself has become a catchcry in the early changes of a major cultural shift for New Zealand from exporting dead animals and dead trees to the creation of export revenue through knowledge-based industries
Rapidly growing New Zealand based export software development company QED is already streaking ahead on the knowledge economy path and looking at a very bright future.
The company currently has 48 staff in Auckland and 16 in Bangalor, India. Rapid business growth means the company is looking to expand up to 100 people in the next six months alone. The five- year plan of the company involves sales in excess of $50 million per annum and a public float. The official 1997 estimate of New Zealand's software export earnings is $132 million.
QED's Managing Director, Michael Hartley says, " Using a combination of web technology and industry strength solutions, QED is in the market as an e-commerce business partner".
"The company's applications have been carefully selected with a focus on specific vertical markets. These include: freight and logistics management (Hercules) primary sales order processing and logistics (Prime), tourism/travel ticketing and reservations (RES.net) on-line supply and procurement integration (DBC-Connectus) and education and curriculum management (EdgeNet)".
Recent successes for QED include V-Line in the ticketing and reservations market. An innovative `RES.net' web based ticketing and reservation system for Australasia's largest train company based in the state of Victoria. In the primary produce market, the development and installation of `Foodtrader', a sales, planning and logistics system for Australasia's largest meat processing plant, Australian Meat Holdings (AMH). In the logistics, freight and transportation sector, Nova, QED's first USA Hercules sale.
Hartley says " There are plenty more, `almost there's' to come".
The company, he says has its strategic focus firmly on the USA and UK markets.
So, what makes QED so successful and such an example on the road towards a knowledge economy?
Hartley says," Historically, the software development industry has tended to focus most strongly on innovation. At QED we meld commercial acumen with technological innovation".
"In New Zealand a huge 49% of Information Technology projects fail. This is something we are strongly conscious of in New Zealand at the moment. Only 13% of projects are developed on time and on budget. QED focuses strongly on delivery on time and on budget".
Hartley's background as Information Systems Manager for Lion Nathan (following a Masters degree in economic geography) gave him good grounding in learning how to apply information systems to business development.
Hartley is also a Microsoft fan. "Microsoft has a repeatable, successful formula. QED has taken that success on board in terms of a platform of innovation, repeatable, successful and deliverable product".
In terms of a working environment, can he see moving QED's head office offshore to supposedly more lucrative environments?
"Why would I? In terms of attracting and keeping staff, New Zealand most definitely has the lifestyle advantage over other countries. We are also great innovators. Our low level of inertia is also a huge competitive advantage as far as developing software for export goes. We can run and subsequently test a big system in New Zealand which has a hundred users. In England they're faced, in a similar situation, with a thousand users. As a result we can be highly responsive and get product to market very rapidly".
Hartley says in terms of staffing the IT industry effectively, we need a much more focused relationship between educational institutes and the IT industry.
"If the IT industry in New Zealand is to reach its potential we need access to highly trained people coming out of polytechs and universities. We need a high content of IT education throughout our schooling system. Technology should be taught at all levels in sright graduates".
Hartley's own approach to staffing QED is innovative in comparison to others in his field. In an industry where attention to marketing is more often than not rare, Hartley employs a Marketing Manager. " You might have the most fabulous product in the world but what use is it if you don't go out and market it"?
QED is also one of the few software development companies in New Zealand to employ a fulltime Human Resources manager. The normal staff ratio for a New Zealand company to employ a full time Human Resources manager is 200 staff. QED currently has 66 staff.
He is also a fan of generous staff options schemes as a strong enabler of loyalty and commitment. Hartley also has no desire to scoff most of the cake for himself. He knows his biggest competitive advantage is his staff and he knows how he wants to incent them.
In an industry which is heavily populated by the `Y' chromosome, QED also has a reasonably strong 1:4 ratio of female software developers.
Although Hartley is a young whizz kid he tends to favour hiring older people with " heavy cv's and heaps of experience in the industry". Once again, he's bucking a trend towards favouring hiring younger people. For Hartley `the knowledge economy demands experience".
For the customer, QED focuses on achieving a return on investment. Hartley says, "At QED we focus on technology for business advantage not technology for technology advantage".