ARN: Can you describe your business?
Tonkin: Our background is with IBM mainframe databases and we've expanded into developing applications. We now focus on data warehousing and data conversions. We still do a lot of database work with most of the telcos, three large banks and some retailers but are looking to the Internet revolution for growth opportunities. We write our own database software and, typ-ically, we migrate clients to an updated system such as AIS DBII platform. We also maintain large databases for some customers.
Does your business have a special area of focus?
Data warehousing, but we are moving towards an Internet focus. We understand large applications because of our database background and feel it would be a suitable extension of what we do. Most people in the Internet area are from a small platform environment and they don't understand large volumes of data.
Consequently they design solutions more suited to smaller organisations particularly from a security and scalability perspective. We can address that.
What type of customer do you cater to?
Mainly banks, Telcos and Insurance companies.
What differentiates your company from others in the same field?
Technical excellence. A lot of projects we receive are ones that have previously failed and which need a technical solution. We have excellent long-term relationships with our customers. We are respected for our expertise in a specific area.
Which vendors do you partner with?
We prefer not to partner with any particular vendors because we feel that would go against our wealth of independent experience. No product can be recommended in all circumstances and is usually only a small part of a solution, so we aren't a partner with any of them. The vendors we have most to do with however, are those at the top of the market - IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and Sybase.
What do you look for in a vendor partnership?
A stable and established relationship. Too many of the vendors seem to have a high staff turnover and we're constantly introducing ourselves to new people and having to explain what we do.
What new or emerging technologies offer your company the best opportunities in the future?
The Internet. The technologies underpinning it are difficult for customers to grasp. Because product churn is high, almost any product you recommend today is going to be fifth choice tomorrow. The technology is not the answer, the solution is, along with understanding where you plug the technology in and integrate it with existing systems.
Those are the things that matter to achieving a satisfactory project outcome.
What are the key buying motives among your customers?
Everyone is in cost reduction mode at the moment. Because of their Y2K investments, customers now understand their applications much better and are looking for cost savings and efficiencies. They want ways to make the applications more cost effective, easier to maintain and flexible to a rapidly changing environment. They look to companies like ours for a solution.
What are the major challenges facing your company?
The Federal Government appears to be interested in supporting big business exclusively. As a small business, it seems the only way we can grow is by merging with a foreign company. In order to compete with IBM GSA, EDS and others who, through their outsourcing agreements are our clients, we've got to grow. But in the current local economic environment there are too few mechanisms in place to encourage growth and too many inhibitors.
What is the major inhibitor to your business?
For growth, the inhibitors are the tax system, the ability for companies to merge, and the ability to get a piece of government business. Australian companies are forced into dealing with others overseas to do anything significant because support isn't there from government for the local industry.
What piece of advice would you offer to other integrators?
The best solution for your client is one that offers them a long-term strategy.profileADC ConsultingBased: North SydneyStarted: 1987Other offices: MelbourneStaff: 45Turnover: $7 millionGrowth: 18 per cent compounded