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Smart Software manages from afar

GLOBAL software business Smartsoftware has taken on the challenge of operating from the world’s most isolated capital city and developed a unique business model for its other offices worldwide. Founded in Perth by Mark Hansen and Andrew Jones in 1996, Smartsoftware provides operational software solutions to small and medium enterprises and government agencies, with a focus providing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for professional services firms. Acting as a software reseller to a number of territories around the world including New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and the UK, Smartsoftware’s flagship product is the Deltek Vision suite, which is targeted at project-based or professional services organisations in the engineering, construction and architectural sectors. Recently, Smartsoftware has partnered with US software company, Newforma, to distribute its project information management systems throughout Australia. Initially only looking to target the Western Australian market, general manager Mark Hansen said the company broadened its sights after seeing strong demand from the US via international trade shows and conferences. “It wasn’t our ambition [to sell in the US], but by talking to people we found the demand was there; we knew it was something we could do and we were competitively priced,” he told WA Business News. “The US and Australian dollar exchange rate at that time it was very much in our favour to export our labour.” Taking an opportunistic approach to its expansion, the company started doing project work in the US in 1998, and a year later formed a joint venture with US software company, Smart Solutions International. With Smart Solutions already in the marketplace, Smartsoftware was able to expedite its entry into the US market using its joint venture partner’s networks in the region. “They had the marketplace, we had the product,” Mr Hansen said. Smartsoftware’s expansion into the US market then served as a blueprint for the roll-out of its offices across Australia and the rest of the world. Mr Hansen believes the foundation of Smartsoftware’s global success is through development of a business model that transcends state and national borders, allowing the company to deliver equal value to a client, regardless of location.   With the nature of the industry allowing the company to manage projects remotely from Perth, the business model revolves around starting with project work in a new region, following up with a permanent local presence if the demand and work volumes make an office financially viable. Mr Hansen said this method of expansion minimised the risk to the company, and also allowed the product to reach the market a lot quicker. The company now has offices in Fort Lauderdale, London, Ireland, Melbourne and Sydney, with a total staff of about 22 worldwide. It also recently opened an office in Johannesburg after forming a joint venture with South African software firm, PSA Solutions last year. And while the notion of foreign companies remotely managing software systems has become widely accepted in other parts of the world, Mr Hansen said the locally focused Australian market was gradually getting used to the idea. “The US had such a large domestic market…but people just want the right resources for the job, no matter where it comes from,” he said.

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