19/09/2006 - 22:00

The technology trap

19/09/2006 - 22:00

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This week’s cover story was a bit of a personal one for me.

The technology trap

This week’s cover story was a bit of a personal one for me.

Email is one of the greatest communication tools, but it can be quite overwhelming and disheartening to feel you never quite get on top of it.

I am sure many readers will agree.

A few years ago, we got Organised1st in to our office to help us all deal with our workloads, not just email –though it was largely led by that.

I’ve pottered along for quite sometime until someone at Empty Inbox called wanting to show off their new product.

While both processes use Microsoft Outlook as a key platform, they are markedly different in their approach. Organised 1st is more about using the existing framework, while Empty Inbox has come up with a software solution to help you reinforce organisational habits.

There are merits in both approaches, no doubt.

What really intrigued me was that these two companies were home-grown.

I’m sure if we looked around there’d be plenty of people doing training on some version of time management using Outlook, but I was surprised to find two Perth-based businesses that were not only focused on this field, but had built sophisticated products they believed to be scaleable.

Organised 1st has taken a two-step approach, offering a very personal version of its process in Western Australia with hands-on training and, with the aid of software written in India, produced a downloadable version, which has already generated a small global customer base for the business.

Empty Inbox is more software focused and is raising funds to roll-out its product, also written in India, beyond WA.

In the meantime, these two have a pretty large competitor in the form of Priority Management, an existing global player.

What strikes me about all these stories is that each of the processes and products they deliver has its roots in time-honoured organization theories that had been honed to perfection for use with manual systems.

The advent of the computer, and its productivity gains, has allowed a generation of workers to grow up without knowing many of these methods.

We’ve had all this information thrust upon us in the digital form but at the same time we’ve been overwhelmed with that data because we don’t know how to process it.

They say knowledge is power. But that knowledge is only any good to you if you can find it, absorb it and use it.

 

Trans-Tasman plays

I was interested to note financial adviser group Plan B stepping across the Tasman with some acquisitions.

While I am a huge fan of any company willing to look beyond Western Australia to grow their business, it is always with some reticence that I look at local companies leapfrogging the east coast to seek growth in New Zealand.

I am sure the market has many similarities, in terms of demographics, culture and laws, but it doesn’t diminish the distance.

It’s a long haul to the Land of the Long White Cloud, by anyone’s measure, even those of us who believe we are immune to distance.

Around 10 years ago, I was bemused to find a couple of very big WA companies that had made similar moves to Plan B’s.

The now-defunct Foodland Associated Ltd had bought up a number of retail operations, while Peters & Brownes Foods Ltd had bought New Zealand’s Tip Top ice-cream manufacturer.

Local independent fuel company Gull Petroleum also attacked the NZ market, plunging in 1998 to establish a chain of outlets, which now numbers around 30, as well as its own terminal.

All these stories have had different outcomes.

Foodland really struggled to make its NZ assets work. While its Action stores and WA franchisees fired, it was constantly fighting fires across the Tasman.

Peters & Brownes was, for awhile, the biggest ice-cream maker in the region.

 Eventually, though, its foothold in the global dairy strong-hold of NZ meant the tables turned. An Auckland-based group took it over.

Perhaps the track record that Plan B might want to emulate is Gull. It still operates successfully in NZ.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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