Awards prove fillip for future

Another batch of finalists has been selected for honours in this year's Computerworld Excellence Awards. Darren Greenwood talked to a selection of last year's winners.

Another batch of finalists has been selected for honours in this year’s Computerworld Excellence Awards (see Excellence awards finalists named). The event is four years old this year and has highlighted the achievements of dozens of organisations and individuals in that time.

As Darren Greenwood reports, winning an award is a good formula for further success. He talked to a selection of last year’s winners, who say the recognition has helped boost their organisation’s credibility and encouraged further growth and success.

AXA NZ

Ross Hughson of Axa New Zealand was judged IS Manager of the Year for clearing up the disorder resulting from the takeover of the former National Mutual insurance company, which he says led his best IT staff to flee to Australia. He reorganised and cut management costs by a third in two years.

Hughson says he has since moved from being head of IT to take on a broader management role. He has developed a “management information dashboard” for the company which allows a cost allocation approach, sales reporting and reports on international business.

After spending six months in Australia with Axa, Hughson is back in New Zealand developing a distribution system, which still involves much IT. He is also involved in the planned launch of new internet-based financial services, set for this year.

Axa New Zealand also won the Best People Practice in IT award because of the way it handled staff following the takeover by the French insurance giant, with one-to-one interviews and the development of career plans. Hughson says this latter award was a great morale booster for staff and his award helps him feel he has achieved something.

EMA

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) has enjoyed a higher profile thanks to former Thames mayor Alasdair Thompson, winner of last year’s CEO IT Vision category.

Thompson looked at what was needed in terms of IT to bring the pro-business group into the 21st century, including a web presence, databases, a customer relationship management system and new phone technology.

The past year has been one of consolidation, he says, building up information systems and training users. A new time and billing module is being developed and much greater use is being made of email for communication with members. This includes what the EMA calls its “superior service strategy” — developing tailormade services for customers’ needs.

Thompson says the system’s implementation has prepared the groundwork for a big increase in sales of its products, and it will see an even higher profile for the EMA. New technology has enabled the lobby group to communicate more efficiently on matters like road congestion and transport issues. A customer “hub” on the EMA website also offers member-only services and e-commerce capability.

Thompson says last year’s award made him feel proud and was great recognition for the work that went into the IT vision for the EMA, but there is more to do in using IT to better inform its members and help them make better business decisions.

Infolink

Auckland-based Infolink won the Technology Innovator of the Year award for its Infoshare software programme, developed by Larry Hill, that manages workflow over the internet.

The system has been redeveloped and renamed viibe. Marketing manager Phill Dagger says the ASP-based service is enjoying success with large security alarm dealer Protector Security Group.

Dagger says Infolink has visited companies in the US and some have travelled here. “We’re confident of achieving some big breakthroughs in the not-too-distant future.”

Dagger says the award gave Infolink more credibility, adding to that gained from having NZ Post as an investor.

“We’ve also found that the Computerworld brand is well-recognised internationally and this helps a lot when you are sitting in an office of a potential partner in California explaining where ‘Noo Zeeeland’ is.”

M-Co

Wellington-based M-Co won the Excellence in Internet Commerce award for its Commodity Market Information Trading System (Comit), an electronic trading platform for the New Zealand electricity market that processes $1.2 billion of transactions a year.

External relations manager Ceridwyn Roberts says over the past year the system has been made more robust, with a new disaster recovery plan and a new database model implemented. A MyComit custom-isable page was developed to give users their own view of the market. Soon Comit says it will be able to send SMS pages to clients warning them of price thresholds they have set have been reached.

Since winning the award, Roberts says M-Co has increased in size and moved into Australia, providing a trading platform and market for “green” electricity rights. M-Co also runs a registry of environmentally-friendly electricity certificates for the Australian federal government and has opened an office in Sydney. In Europe, M-Co has developed and is housing a trading simulation for Renewable Energy Certificates in 16 countries. Further developments in Asia will be announced shortly, Roberts says.

Heurisko

Christchurch-based Heurisko won the Use of IT in Education category for its LearNZ 99 “virtual field trips” product. It uses “a remote voice” to bring the taste of the outdoors to the classroom, with taped bird calls and pictures for stage-managed studio conferences.

Director Peter Somerville says increasing numbers of schools here and overseas are using the system, which with other products has helped increase company staff numbers from four to seven.

Heurisko has also taken on the NZ dealership for TextHelp! Software — software intended for the tenth of the population that have learning disabilities. The business is also increasingly providing design and project management services and is consolidating its position in the educating sector providing internet software solutions for its varied agencies. Somerville says other projects are in the wings.

“Last year’s award was great for the company and I think it’s grown our stature and profile faster than we might otherwise have expected,” he says.

NZ Dairy Group

The New Zealand Dairy Group won the award for Excellence in the Use of IT for Project Apia. This involved integrating various IT processes and systems after the company grew 20% when it took over a rival.

Now, NZDG is involved in the mega-merger of the dairy industry towards GlobalCo. Apart from saying the system is complete and progressing well, IS manager Wayne O’Halloran says it would not be appropriate to comment further given the merger plans.

The other winners were:

  • Excellence in the Use of IT in Government — National Library of New Zealand for its Te Puna computer system.
  • Most Successful Project Implementation — Department of Conservation and Fujitsu New Zealand for Connect 2000.
  • Overall Excellence in the Use of IT — Courier Post.

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