ARN: How would you describe your business?
Atkins: Prior to 1995 we supplied specialist database tools. We now have our own database technology called CL4 and have been selling it into a niche market. We have invested heavily in a Web farm at North Ryde and now deliver our databases over the Internet. We have a small ISP presence for our business customers and run a 24 x 7 hosting operation. Our CL4 technology underpins some of Australia's most successful Internet sites including travel.com.au, isport and a joint venture we engaged in with (legal firm) Legalco has been built on it.
Does your company have a special area of focus?
Internet applications. We have just licensed our database technology for that but lately we've become venture technologists. We build and run complete systems, often at our own expense, in exchange for a share of the revenue. We take all the technical risk and our customers take all the business risk. Together the business with Legalco has grown 100 per cent over the last 12 months.
We have turned the outsourcing part of the project into a professional service which allows the business to concentrate on its core competency. We deliver the entire Internet commerce solution and they pay us a licence fee based on the transaction value.
What type of customers do you cater to?
We have three types of customers based on three different technologies. We have a product called Net Broker, which appeals to government agencies with information for sale. For example, we completed an integration and implementation for the Department of Mineral Resources so they could deliver mining reports.
We also sell to large organisations looking for a flexible Internet catalogue solution and out of that solution we developed a trading hub which appeals to smaller organisations looking to participate in vertical markets.
Which vendors do you partner with and what do you look for in a vendor relationship?
Product reliability. We partner with Unix, Sun, Dell and Microsoft.
What new or emerging technologies offer the best opportunities to your company?
XML creates enormous business opportunities. As we've gone from one Internet application generation to another what's become apparent is that we have to integrate new technologies with legacy applications at the back end while we have to cope with frequent changes at the graphical front-end. XML is the glue holding it all together.
Where does your company excel in its business methodologies?
Thinking outside the square. We have left the comfort zone of clients paying up front for our services. We are now prepared to enter the risky business of putting our money where our mouth is, ie taking the technical risk and standing by our ability to deliver. So far it is proving extremely successful.
What are the key buying motives among your customers?
Our ability to deliver on promises. The fact we can demonstrate working examples of what we do is an important buying motive for customers.
What are the major challenges
currently facing your business?
The major challenge for us is that our business is growing too rapidly. We are facing more opportunities than we can handle so the challenge is choosing the right opportunities and handling the growth. Meanwhile, we are still currently in fragile times in relation to the GST. There are still companies waiting to see what pans out.
What is the major inhibitor to your business?
The Australian fringe mentality. We are focused on the domestic marketplace but as we are engaged in Internet activities we should be moving our thinking offshore. The inhibitor is our lack of confidence in competing globally.
What piece of advice would you offer to other integrators?
You need to gain experience. Sometimes you will get your fingers burnt but that's part of the learning experience. Between 1995 and 1996 we had a couple of significant failures but we learned from them.
After that experience we knuckled down and marched back into the fray. We gained good technology and have since embraced a different business model which promises an interesting future for our business partners, our customers and us.