Practical Programs, enormous gains

Practical Programs, enormous gains

You might not believe that all good things come in threes, but for South Australian innovator Scan Conversion Services, which saw three of its business initiatives come to fruition almost at the same time, the old adage must ring true.

The Adelaide-based company's software arm, Practical Programs, has inked a $US1 million distribution deal to launch its flagship document management and electronic records indexing programs on the North American market. Developed three years ago, DataViewer and DataCollection's international market assault will be managed by US imaging and printing solutions specialist Ahearn & Soper.

"It took three visits to the US and a lot of negotiating with people identified by AusTrade to get there. But after exhibiting at the Avant Imaging and Information Management (AIIM) show, a lot of American companies showed interest in our products, finally resulting in this deal," revealed Richard Bates, the company's managing director.

But with only five full-time employees and IT scanning services as its continuous source of revenue, Scan Conversion Services would not have been able to conduct a worldwide distributor search had it not been granted $170,000 by the government-sponsored IT&T growth initiative, Playford, to develop its distribution channels.

"Playford sponsors local information technology companies who want to get their products to international markets in exchange for 5 per cent of a company's profit on those sales," Bates explained.

Playford's decision to provide financial support for Scan Conversion was based on the "strong local mar- ket acceptance of DataViewer and DataCollection", as well as the com-pany's successful and quite unique business model for the provision of product-related scanning bureau services - by enlisting the help of Australia's so-called "forgotten workers".

The Adelaide developer employs 40 people with disabilities who provide data-entry and image validation services for the company's scanning bureau, working from home. All 40 are former trainees of OptCom Multi-MediaScan Conversion, a computer training specialist for the disabled that produces an extremely competent, but often overlooked skill pool.

"One of the critical things for every business is to have highly motivated people; the enthusiasm and quality of our OptCom Multi-Media-trained workers far outstrips that of any worker that we've employed previously," Bates commented.

"Many of them are home-bound and have a real challenge with dexterity. The great thing is that, through the Internet, we are able to provide work for people located anywhere, even regional areas such as Renmark and Mount Gambier," he said.

As the company's "most demanding users", Bates said the group has made an invaluable contribution to the software-development process forcing Scan Conversion to deliver " a superior product" in terms of its ease of use, directly contributing to the latest international market success.

But the strategy has also worked well for these disabled workers in the community.

"It's ironic that technology is often blamed for costing jobs, [because] this is an example of how technology has delivered jobs into the community that were not there before," Bates said.

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