SMEs deliver big results

Computerworld Excellence Awards 2005: Excellence in the Use of IT in a Small to Medium Enterprise

The vast majority of businesses in New Zealand are counted as SMEs, so recognition in the Excellence of the Use of IT in a Small to Medium Enterprise category of the 2005 Computerworld Excellence Awards marks success in a large and competitive market. The category is open to all organisations with a maximum of 25 employees. Finalists this year include two online stores and a computerised booking system.

Weddings can be famously expensive and complex process, so e-store The Perfect Gift has focused on one of taking the hard work out of one of the most difficult aspects of nuptials,: the wedding gifts.

Set up last year by IT newbies Nicole Viljoen and Claire Price, The Perfect Gift offers web-based wedding gift registries. This allows prospective brides and bridegrooms to easily select the gifts they wish to receive out of a list of products from a large selection of well-known brands. Despite their lack of IT experience, Viljoen and Price had a very clear idea of how they wanted The Perfect Gift to work, and briefed Napier developers Xplore.Net which built a site on an open source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) platform. Although turnover is moderate in the first year, the goal for Viljoen and Price is to become New Zealand's most trusted online store and the pair declare themselves satisfied with the return on investment in The Perfect Gift so far.

Working life can be tough, and helping people through it forms the basis of Employee Assistance Programme Services' business. EAP Services provides employees with psychological and related counselling, in conjunction with corporate and government human resource departments. The challenge for EAP Services was to come up with an computerised appointment booking system for its nationwide centres, to replace the existing, paper system which required much manual keying in when doing the accounts and didn't provide useful statistics very easily.

EAP Services turned to Microsoft partner Dyosoft in Auckland, which chose a system built on .Net technology. Dyosoft was able to start development work in January 2003, and the appointment booking module went live six months later, followed by the statistical system a month afterwards in July that year. At first, staff resisted the new system, but EAP Services ran the paper-based system in parallel with the new computerised system; after two weeks, staff had ditched the paper diaries in favour of using the IT solution, which allows EAP Services to extend its service hours at a minimal cost and to take appointment bookings late at night. The invoicing is now fully automated as well, thus saving EAP Services a considerable amount of time, effort and money. HR managers can now also access statistical reports over a web-based interface so to help plan for employee activities and quickly react to issues that pop up.

Virgina and Jeff Poole's The Fine Wine Delivery Company prides itself on having sold drink online since 1998, only a year after it started up. It is now New Zealand's largest independent single-store retailer, and already on its second website, which was launched in February 2003. The business vision for the Pooles was to establish an independent specialist wine retailer offering a sophisticated and customer-centric shopping experience. The experience is based on tasting and reviewing wines on behalf of customers, so as to ensure a high quality products are purchased by and delivered to customers.

To achieve the vision and experience, the Pooles turned to Straker Interactive's ShadoMX Content Management System. Apart from content and document management, ShadoMX provides a number of other services such as workflow, reporting and user authentication. The Pooles were limited in their IT knowledge and budget, but worked closely with Straker and now say the website is the driving force behind the business. Doubled online sales within twelve months of implementation as well as substantial efficiencies achieved are some of the successes that The Fine Wine Delivery Company has enjoyed through its IT project.

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