MICROSCOPE: Coping with a changing climate

MICROSCOPE: Coping with a changing climate

There are IT companies out there exploiting their niche or specialisation to take advantage of a changing market. That's not to say that they're not having to work smarter and harder. These companies realise that. It's just that they also see very real opportunities out there, and they're not willing to let them get away.

According to analyst Gartner, the rewards for those that stand their ground throughout an economic downturn can be great. "Enterprises that focus on the higher margins sector of their markets, even if it means forsaking volume, come out of recessions stronger in every way," says Stuart Dredge, director of Gartner's Top Line Performance Strategies practice, which provides decision support to organisations seeking revenue and margin performance improvement.[dcg]3 ( five years ago by chief executive Ben Shapiro, [dcg]3 touts itself as a professional services company focusing on technology deliverables.

Growing to 25 staff, the company has expanded from its base in Brisbane to establish offices in Sydney and Melbourne. [dcg]3 takes a "holistic service approach", endeavouring to use different mediums to maximise process, branding and the impact of its client's message. This approach includes creative, e-business and interactive services. Shapiro says the organisation's original ideal of integration is now starting to come to the fore. "The market's certainly not going away," he says. "If anything, the market is still uneducated in Australia."

Shapiro says the company has never seen itself as fitting into the Web developer mould because it focuses on finding technology that can be used in the best way to move the customer's business forward. He identifies one of the company's differentiators from Web developers as being its ability to position itself as providing real business solutions for the corporate marketplace.

Strategy, according to Shapiro, is the key starting point, "to ensure that the use of technology is relevant in a business for both marketing, process improvement and branding. As technology is still an unknown quantity today, most people are focused on what technology itself does without planning how it affects operations."

Fastwire (

Providing professional services and systems integration to telcos and ISPs is what professional services company Fastwire is all about. The organisation focuses on providing network engineering solutions to service providers, telecommunications and large enterprise markets. As a network infrastructure consultancy, it emphasises operational support systems, network management systems and unified communications.

Fastwire has been operating for about three years, and focusing on telcos and ISPs for the last two years. Rod Fisher, a director at Fastwire, says the company moved into the space quite early on. "Being an early player in the market allowed us to see the ups and downs and provide some of the development experience [we had gained] from our enterprise customers," he says.

Now with 50 staff, Fisher says that due to recent changes in the economy and capital markets, the company has been changing the focus of its consultancy services to support its customers' ability to maximise revenue and reduce operational costs. "Fastwire has been addressing these needs by assisting customers to rapidly turn up new services over existing infrastructure, such as unified messaging and VoIP," he says. "Fastwire's OSS/NMS practice is helping service providers/telcos drive down the operating cost of networks through cost-effective deployment of pre-packaged solutions for fault management, service level management, service activation and IP billing and mediation."

In addition to existing offices in Sydney and Canberra, Fastwire has also recently expanded to Melbourne to support its interstate customers.

Uniqueworld (

Technology solutions provider Uniqueworld, a company based in the Web space, believes it is "bucking the dot-com trend". The company has recently opened a Melbourne office, and still sees plenty of potential in the marketplace.

Uniqueworld founder, Eddie Geller, believes the company's consistent growth is an indication of optimism in an otherwise flat market. "While a lot of IT-related companies are expressing difficulties at the moment, our experience continues to be one of rapid growth and expansion," he says. "I believe what we are experiencing now is a consolidation in the industry, and this consolidation is clearing the decks for companies that have what it takes to last the distance."

Originally the company focused on back-end development technology in 1999. "We started as an outsourced developer - we used to get a lot of outsourced back-end development work for the larger Web houses which didn't have the expertise internally, and we started out doing integration into all sorts of systems."

Now Uniqueworld focuses on providing a range of e-business services, such as strategic consulting and communications solutions, as well as full development and integration of technology solutions.

Geller says the company has also built partnerships with applications vendors, something which has become one of the company's differentiators. In addition, Uniqueworld has also been moving beyond the IT community to build relationships, carrying out marketing and workshopping with commercial partners. "A lot of other companies are trying to get into this space, but don't know how," Geller says. "So we're working with them to provide e-commerce and e-business solutions for their customers - so it's partnering with commercial companies, not just IT companies."

Realview Technologies ( imaging and document management developer Realview Technologies believes it can survive no matter what the economy throws at it. The key for this niche Australian developer? Play your hand in a couple of different markets.

Realview has two core products. The first is a mass-market suite of products pitched at Web developers, allowing customers to zoom in and out of an image on a Web site without losing resolution. The second is a corporate document management solution for blue-chip companies.

Derek Chan, chief technology officer for Realview, says the company differentiates itself by its time-to-market for customised solutions. "We're fairly innovative and can respond quickly to customer requests," he says. "When a customer puts in an order, we can develop a new product rapidly."

The company was started two years ago in Sydney by three directors who are all still actively working in the company, and now manning offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Galway, Ireland. Initially, the company's business model was centred on supplying technology for the display of aerial photography on Web sites, but over the past few years the start-up has learnt the value of diversification.

Chan says the company has found that revenue streams from customers building Web sites has dropped off significantly in recent months, but he expects the corporate products to keep the company growing through the economic downturn. "It's a shift of focus in what we're developing, and how much time we spend on certain markets," he says. "Even if the Internet stopped altogether, we would still be going as a business."Photograph: Ben Shapiro, chief executive []

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