Callista cracks open education vertical

Callista cracks open education vertical

Student administration system developer Callista Software Services has won tenders to implement its systems at Melbourne's La Trobe University and the Northern Territory University.

An elated Jon Marmonski, marketing director for Callista Software Services told ARN the tender for La Trobe University was one of the toughest pitches for business he has ever made. The tender was narrowed down to three players: Peoplesoft, ASX-listed Technology One and Callista Software Services. "We all got put through the griller for over four months," he said.

Callista Software Services was formed after the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee decided several years ago that the student administration systems being used in Australian universities needed to be updated. The committee created a specification for a new system and put it up for worldwide tender. But no suitable software developer was found - the specifications were considered too complex for most companies, with international vendors considering the Australian education sector too small a niche for such a demanding task.

In the mid 1990s, a development team at Deakin University decided to have a crack at building the system. The result was a system so sophisticated (with over two million lines of code), that database vendor Oracle purchased the rest-of-the-world rights to the system for an amount in the tens of millions of dollars and re-branded it ‘Oracle Student System'.

In 1998, Deakin University created a company (Callista) to commercialise the product for other universities. The system was deployed at Deakin, before Callista began rolling it out to Queensland University of Technology, Murdoch University and Monash University in 2000, the University of Western Sydney this year and now La Trobe University and Northern Territory University.

Now that Callista is taking the lion's share of the Australian University market, Mamonski said the company will hire an additional 30 developers on top of its existing 90 and spend $4.5 million on developing a TAFE module as well as an integrated module for universities that also offer TAFE courses.

This development effort came about after NTU asked for a product to suit both university and TAFE students, while Victoria University and Swinbourne University also cater for both types of students.

Once Callista has made its impression on the TAFE market, Mamonski said the next step for the developer will be to increase the professional services revenue it already gains by helping implement Oracle's systems to International educational institutions. Currently Oracle has penetrated the US and UK markets, but will soon move the software into South Africa and Europe. Mamonski expects 50 per cent of Callista's revenues to be gained offshore within three years.

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