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Method, but no more madness

Method, but no more madness

RN: How did the original Method and Madness business come about?

Stephen Langsford, executive director of Method: My background was in funds management. I had a lot of dealings with [some prominent Web developers] at the time. They were cowboys and charlatans. Watching them gave me a sense that there was a better way of building this kind of business. So in January 1999 I launched a Web development business named Method and Madness in Perth, which was then acquired by Sausage in December 2000.

How has the group re-shaped its Web development business?

Essentially, what was called Method and Madness in Perth, Sausage Interactive in Sydney and Melbourne and a software development unit in Melbourne, will be rolled together and branded under the Method name.

We are now a developer and integrator of eBusiness solutions with about 200 staff. We basically serve two markets - quality corporates and innovative, well-funded start-ups. The new division already has several blue-chip clients like ING, BankWest, Sealcorp, ANZ and Chevron Australia.

Why did the Sausage Group decided to change its branding, and the branding of its Web development business?

As a company, we want to send clear signals to the marketplace. SMS Consulting is the powerhouse of the overall group. Its revenues are up around the $170 million mark, [accounting for] about 60 per cent of the group's revenue. It is crazy to mess with that brand and that reputation.

Method also has that quality reputation - we have accumulated over $10 million in revenue since our commencement, and have always been profitable. We contribute about 20 per cent of the group's revenue.

The Sausage brand on the other hand, has a heritage in e-commerce development products, so that will remain the brand name for those products.

When we started Method and Madness in 1999, we saw the emerging Internet as one part method, one part madness. The madness element was about the creative and innovative application of technology. But I think now eBusiness is accepted as a legitimate channel and the madness side of us is less relevant. It is no culture shock to re-brand as Method. We have always called ourselves Method - for example, it's our Web address (www.method.com.au) and e-mail address. We are first and foremost about methodology and delivery.

What vendor partners will Method add value to?

We work around J2EE (Java Enterprise Edition) object-orientated programming tools, working with vendors such as Interwoven, Vignette, Siebel, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. Being one of the largest developers and integrators in the country, we need to cover the spectrum of technology relevant to the market place.

Does the SMS Consulting group provide your business with many leads?

Absolutely. SMS has a great reputation, and has networks of contacts among the corporates in Australia, Singapore and the UK. There are many opportunities lent to us by SMS. In fact, there are very few jobs we do that do not involve SMS consultants at a project management level. SMS has fundamentally changed the life of our business.

Does the international success of SMS give you a foot in the door overseas?

Yes. We have already done some work in the UK and are currently assisting the Singapore office with a few more business opportunities. We also have some Australian divisions of very large international parents as our clients, and there is a good prospect that we can follow these clients up on a global level, exporting some Australian talent to the international market.

Considering the failure of many US-based Web integrators in Australia, how do you see the health of the market?

Frequently these companies were little more than franchise operations using people who didn't understand the market or the technology. So their failing didn't surprise me. You can't take a McDonald's approach to building technology, because when the wheels go wobbly in the US it's a recipe for disaster.

When we see competitors that are poorly managed and under-resourced going to the wall, we know we will only get stronger from that. It opens up opportunities for us. We've managed to pick up new business and new people from the various firms that have gone belly-up.

Is there a lot of pressure on you to make the integrated division a success?

I guess I am someone who is always champed-up for a challenge. I have a lot of experience as a business developer and a driver, and I want Method to be a regional force. There is a lot of pressure, but it's the pressure most business managers thrive on.

What is your vision for Method in the near future?

At Method, we have to refine our service offering, adopt a consistent methodology across the division and move developers around according to projects and opportunities. Essentially, we will work to develop the reputation of being the premiere developer and integrator in the market. That will happen as long as we keep delivering on projects.

In broader terms, for the overall [SMS] group, we have the potential to be a global technology provider of Australian origin.


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