Friday, July 25, 2008
  Cutting Vodafone down to size
Published NZ Herald July 23, 2008

Got your new iPhone yet? Want one of those slim and shiny rectangles?

You can't have missed out on the marketing, and the marketing within the marketing.

What other cellphone has been launched with such hoopla? When did Nokia or Sony-Ericsson or Samsung or Motorola have people camping out on the winter streets - even if they were put up to it by people marketing other products or services?

It's not hurting the Apple brand and it's not hurting Vodafone New Zealand which has an exclusive on the 3G iPhone here and should win a sizeable chunk of Telecom customers, going on overseas precedents.

As the only GSM network here, Vodafone has a monopoly it can exploit to the full with such a shiny new toy.

Its monopolist behaviour was on full display with its plans.

The top end drew instant negative reaction, as people worked out the $250 a month for 1GB of data and 600 minutes of talk would turn a $199 investment in a subsidised handset into a $6000 drain on the budget over two years.

Existing Vodafone One Account customers who buy a full-price iPhone can get 1GB of data a month for $49.95. Compare that with the United States, where AT&T is charging US$30 ($39) a month for unlimited data or $45 on its business plans.

The argument being made by Vodafone reps at last week's launch was the rates could represent a 20 or 30 per cent saving for some existing power users.

But it's hardly disruptive pricing to go with disruptive technology.

Friday, July 04, 2008
  Unimarket networks buying effort
Published in New Zealand Herald, July 2, 2008

Spend management is one of those shiny ideas for which organisations are willing to spend more to spend less.
Electronic procurement systems can avoid unnecessary multiple purchases. Better prices can be negotiated from suppliers. Fraud and waste can be detected more quickly.
It’s not easy though. Procurement systems have to be integrated to back end financial and asset control systems. Cultural change may be needed so staff go along with the programme. Systems need to be simple to use, so staff don’t have to wade through multiple screens to buy another packet of pens, or wait for days to get a purchase order approved.
It’s an area a lot of software vendors have tried to capture. ERP systems modules, online portals and marketplaces, buying clubs, anything to save a dollar off a ream of paper.
The big name in the space is Ariba, which is used by 18 of the top 20 Fortune 500 companies.
But Ariba has always been a high priced option for the New Zealand market, where it is mainly installed at the local branches of multinationals.
“Ariba is the top of the market, but there is 80 percent of the market they can never get to,” says Scott Blackwood, who has built a syndicated network system which aims to capture a big chunk of that 80 percent.
The idea for Unimarket came to Blackwood during the eight years he worked as a consultant in the United States, helping large companies optimise their supply chains
Every project started with setting up a master register of customers and suppliers, and work out how to integrate as many as possible with whatever system was being implemented.
ERP or enterprise resource planning systems are great to run large organisations, but they often don’t communicate well with the outside world. Expensive gateways and data exchangers are needed to make sure messages don’t get scrambled.
Add to that the complexity of large organisations – the division of a large pharmaceutical company Blackwood spent time in had 30,000 customers and more than 2 million SKUs.
“It was impossible to keep customer systems up to date through EDI (electronic data interchange),” Blackwood says.
He came home in 2003 to make a better system.
His first recruit was a former classmate from Auckland University’s computer science department, Damien Hollis, who has also just returned home after developing the back end systems that power the travel site.
After a few years of working in the garage, the pair moved into the Icehouse incubator and started winning customers in tertiary education, local government and the corporate sector, as well as high powered support from the New Zealand IT community. Former gen-i chief executive Garth Biggs chairs the company.
Unimarket works on a software as a service model. That means it’s an Internet application living on Unimarket’s servers, rather than being installed at each customer site.
For buyers, costs are reduced by consolidating suppliers in one place, creating a uniform buying process, and ensuring any requisitions are made and recorded in the buyer’s own systems.
Because of the way Unimarket manages both buyer and supplier information, supplier information is always up to date, so people aren’t buying off out of date catalogues or price lists.
For suppliers like Office Express and House of Travel which have made their own investments into e-commerce, Unimarket presents a window into those systems.
Other suppliers can upload catalogues through a simple interface.
There is no duplication of information in different systems, and invoices always match purchase orders, cutting out the huge number of manual checks and corrections which impose hidden costs on procure to pay systems.
Buyers can team up internally or externally to get volume discounts, and supplier costs are reduced through scale and better business processes.
Blackwood says Unimarket is aimed at organisations that spend over $10 million across 50 or more suppliers, and at companies looking to sell into that market.
It’s also for companies which are trying to move their business more towards e-commerce, networking and collaboration.
Unimarket collects a monthly fee from customers who buy through its electronic procurement and invoicing modules, and if takes a small clip of the ticker from sellers.
He says Unimarket isn’t asking people to throw out their existing investments. They can use the whole system, or just the parts of it which complement what they have.
“If they use ERP solutions, we integrate. If they use spreadsheets and email, we can accommodate,” Blackwood says.
Because it doesn’t demand suppliers use EDI, it can carry a long tail, from the high volume vendors of office supplies to specialist outlets that may occasionally sell a few items to a university laboratory.
And because Unimarket is a syndicated network of suppliers, new customers can take advantage of integration which has already been done.
That means when Victoria University went live, it was able to immediately connect with all the existing suppliers it shared with Waikato University, which was already connected.
Unimarket is now out on the incubator, and has raised extra capital from investors to set up offices in Australia and the United States.
Blackwood says there’s no time to lose, as other firms try to solve the electronic procurement problems of the millions of firms around the world who don’t have the resources to implement Ariba-size solutions.
“There’s a land grab going on,” he says.

©Adam Gifford 2008
An online possie for Adam Gifford, a New Zealand journalist specialising in information technology, Maori news and the arts.

My Photo
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
October 2005 / February 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / February 2008 / April 2008 / July 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / August 2009 / October 2009 / June 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / December 2010 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / July 2011 / September 2011 / November 2011 / January 2012 / May 2012 / July 2012 / September 2012 / August 2014 /

Powered by Blogger