Outsourcing Dialog opens in Top End

Outsourcing Dialog opens in Top End

Attracted by lucrative tenders offered by the Northern Territory Government, IT services company Dialog is opening a Darwin office as part of its rapid expansion plans, managing director Alan Key revealed last week.

Dialog's marketing director, Bob Tisdell, said there were numerous reasons why now is a good time to be investing in a presence in the Top End. As well as the Commonwealth Government moving its armed forces focus to the region, the Territory's Government is attempting to kick-start the local economy through IT while there is still significant mining activity in the area.

Additionally, Darwin still represents the best springboard for Australian companies that are looking at doing business in Asia. Tisdell said that opening an office up there `makes sense'.

Privately owned Dialog is touted by Tisdell to be Queensland's largest IT service provider, with 350 staff nationwide. It is joining other IT companies that are heading to the region in anticipation of being involved with five more upcoming contracts being offered by the NT Government.

Tisdell is positive about his company's chance in the tender race for several reasons. Not only is the company large and Australian-owned, but it also boasts significant core skills in Microsoft and Lotus Notes.

In May this year, the NT Government announced it was putting $500 million worth of IT business out to tender as leverage to both build the economy and increase the area's population.

Two outsourcing contracts have been awarded so far: a $7.8 million e-mail contract and a $10 million deal to manage the Government's LANs, WANs and communications.

Still up for grabs are a $20 million mainframe contract, a five-year, $120 million desktop rollout and a $10 million applications contract. These will be followed by a special projects and consulting contract and finally the setting up and managing of a help desk for it all.

Darwin-based reseller Computer Support and Maintenance (CSM) was given a significant boost by winning the $7.8 million e-mail tender in June this year and it is currently implementing its program using Lotus Notes.

CSM boss David Knowles said it won the tender on acquired skills with both Notes and enterprise e-mail solutions.

`We spent $350,000 putting our submission together and it took about nine months to produce. At times, it was as painful as giving birth,' Knowles joked.

The NT Government's tender process begins with releasing an indicative statement asking for submissions before a set deadline, he said. The $120 million desktop contract, for example, will be closed before Christmas.

Knowles confirmed that CSM is also after the desktop tender in competition with Dialog and multinationals such as IBM GSE, General Electric and Compaq.

The NT Government's Desktop Service Consultation Paper states it is looking for `either one tender for all services with a single prime contractor or tenders for clusters of agencies or geographic locations'.

Knowles said that as a result of the Government's efforts `Darwin is a hub for further IT activity' and it is now a `buzzing place'.

Maree Lowe, director of PC manufacturer and integrator ASI, agreed with Knowles' assessment, stating that `Darwin is extremely buoyant' at the moment. This is especially so with so many Australian and international armed forces in East Timor, she said.

`The United Nations has representatives from all over the world in Darwin at the moment,' Lowe said, adding that this is creating a great opportunity for future business in the region.

Meanwhile, as a further manifestation of its plans to expand out of Queensland, Dialog recently acquired Sydney-based ERP solutions reseller Intrinsic for an undisclosed sum. The buyout means Dialog has an instant Sydney presence with 35 staff, something Tisdell said was critical to reach a sustainable business level in the IT industry's heart.

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