Building an information society

Building an information society

Over the last two years, the growth of independent software vendor Information Builders has largely been driven by the enterprise reporting and analysis system called WebFocus. Riding on the back of it, the $US307 million-a-year company recorded its largest growth figures ever - 300 per cent in the first and 400 per cent in the second year. But, while the numbers of Info Builders users are exploding around the globe, Australia has been relatively slow in the adoption of the US company's technology. Tamara Plakalo recently spoke to Info Builders' director of Sales, International Division, Dennis McLaughlin, to discuss the reasons behind the lagARN: With the Australian business populace, e-commerce seems to still be a bit of a no-go zone. Do you see this as the main reason why Australia is not among your top customers?

McLaughlin: E-commerce reluctance is something that exists all around the world, even in the US. People talk e-commerce and then yell out, but the reality is we don't really feel we need to be in that particular myth. Now, we do support IBM's program on e-business. We believe that business-to-business is a viable, solid and saleable entity that goes beyond just a few shopping baskets and credit card clearance warehouses. The point is that, if you want to do e-commerce, you need to interact with your customer, because you ought to know the business that you do with them. That's the type of thing that we can provide at the back end. So, we're not all that concerned about that flashy idea of e-commerce. We're much closer to the idea of enterprise information portal, which is where we really need to be - be able to provide information in a language that people want and getting there through a mouse click.

How does your reseller channel fit into this bigger picture?

Last time we were here, we had around 60 contractors in Australia. Most of them are small consulting operations that we were actively looking to sign up under the umbrella of the program called InfoEllite and provide them with the tools at no costs, for organisations to be able to build them into their products and solutions. Our enterprise system is too big for the reseller world, but it works when we partner with a provider. WebFOCUS, on the other hand, works really well as part of the packaged-in-the-box reseller or channel-partner solution. It does not require some of the baggage that our enterprise systems might pull with it.

I suspect a lot of resellers would disagree with you. There are a lot of people who have spent years specialising in enterprise solutions who would consider themselves capable of dealing with your enterprise systems. Is this an issue of trust, then?

I actually have to agree with the concept. The enterprise is so esoteric and it tends to be very complex that it's very hard for resellers to keep themselves sufficiently trained to have all the skills needed for a project. Typically, you would have one reseller with the expertise in networks, another has Unix experience, and so on. It is also hard for us as a software company to mass-market to them and mass-train them at that. WebFOCUS is much easier for them to internalise and to include in a solution. WebFOCUS will provide them with the opportunity to differentiate themselves - the reseller gets applause for something that is seen.

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