Security and the development of 3D applications are the key IT growth areas of the new millennium. That's the word from the CEO of Nasdaq-listed Platinum Technology Inc., Andrew "Flip" Filipowski, who addressed journalists in Johannesburg last week.
"At Platinum, we operate on an 18-month strategy of forecasting and identifying the markets most likely to show growth, and with year 2000 concerns a thing of the past, 3D and security will come to the fore," he said.
Filipowski believes that 3D applications will have particular importance in the management and presentation of data as companies strive to bring order and functionality to their information.
"It must also be remembered that many of the new users will be drawn from the Nintendo generation and will expect 3D as a matter of course," Filipowski said. "The highest earning IT professionals of the future will therefore be people who can offer a unique spread of intellect, Java programming, 3D skills and business acumen."
He confirms, however that the IT labour skills shortage continues to plague companies worldwide.
"At Platinum we are woefully short of consultants, employing around half the number we need to continue to grow this side of our business," he said.
A further area of growth will be the continued development of artificial intelligence (AI) or business rules, Filipowski noted. "AI has arrived and the challenge facing us is the conversion of business rules and components for new applications," he said.
Turning to Platinum's performance, Filipowski confirms the vendor currently enjoys the status of being the seventh largest software company in the world, realising a turnover of $US739 million in 1997.
"This may change as a result of acquisitions and mergers by ourselves and the other major players in the market. However, our goal is to be established in the top five before the year 2000," he said. "To do this, we will have to quintuple revenue over the next 18 months, which is hard, but we are looking to do it."
Platinum's financial performance over recent months suggests that this boast might not be idle chatter.
In the second quarter of this year ended June 30 1998, the company posted satisfying results with revenues increasing 32 per cent to $US217.4 million up from $US164.2 million for the same period last year. Excluding mergers and acquired in-process technology charges, income from continuing operations in this quarter grew 105 per cent to $US12.4 million, or 14 cents per share, compared to $US6.1 million, or 8 cents per share.
"In particular, we saw strong growth in systems management, database management, applications management, year 2000 and consulting services," Filipowski said. He adds that while Platinum's data warehouse unit was affected by many customers getting their organizations in order before year 2000, he did not expect this trend to continue.
"We feel this trend will reverse within the next three quarters as more advanced customers move investments back into initiatives which leverage data to drive competitive advantage," Filipowski said.
Acquisitions and strategic partnerships will continue to form a strong part of Platinum's future strategy and will, to a large extent, dictate its growth in the near future, he said.
Filipowski confirms that he believes the software market will consolidate eventually into around five or six major players, with Platinum being one of them.
He does not, however, rule out the possibility of the company being bought out by one of the other players, if the offer is right.
With regards to Platinum's South African operation, Filipowski professes satisfaction with its progress. The subsidiary currently projects a turnover around the 30 million rand mark for the year and is actively exploring possibilities in the rest of Africa. It is established in Namibia and Zimbabwe and will shortly open an office in Botswana.
While the company is in the process of implementing a five-year affirmative action strategy with a focus on training, Filipowski discounts the possibility of a black empowerment grouping being allowed to take a stake in the operation.