Trans-Tasman cousins play hard in software too

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This article appeared in the August, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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Trans-Tasman cousins play hard in software too

Is it only me or does everyone notice how the Kiwis seem to punch way above their weight when it comes to software development?

I have a number of clients in health and primary industries who rely on New Zealand software to run their businesses and most IT companies are very familiar with New Zealand's best known software export, GHOST.

I hate New Zealanders beating us at anything - so I decided to have a look at how NZ is beating Australian counterparts in software development. From the outside, I would have thought that the Kiwis were too busy tending to their sheep to have time to develop world-class software.

Most importantly, is there anything we can learn from their example and apply in our businesses to help us punch above our weight?

All my research pointed to one overarching reason for their success: focus. In the 1960s and 1970s the industry developed on the back of banking sector requirements but then diversified into a wide range of software types and the New Zealand government has helped in this progression with a stated - and supported - ICT government policy.

Further research shows that New Zealand is ranked by the World Bank as being the easiest country in which to do business.

Can we learn something from that? Do we make our businesses easier to deal with than the competition or do we put in rules and policies that lack common sense and then stick to them rigidly?

The New Zealand business environment was ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the most ethical in the world.

Imagine that. People want to do business in an ethical environment. I have sometimes seen businesses make unethical decisions for short-term gain - and I guarantee that the long-term detriments are much greater than the short-term benefits.

New Zealand also has a very active and progressive dedicated software group, The New Zealand Software Association.

This is a collaborative alliance that brings competitors to the same table to progress the industry overall.

This is often difficult to achieve as competitors don't like to talk to each other. But if competitors can realise that a bigger overall pie is better for everyone than all the competitors benefit.

Can you do the same in your marketplace? Can you form an alliance of competitors to do some collaborative advertising, for example?

Can you launch some joint marketing initiatives when Windows 7 is released - making education of the marketplace the priority rather than beating your competitors? If more sales overall are generated then logically you will increase your individual sales.

New Zealand also has a steady flow of talent coming through the country's tertiary institutions.

More than 14 percent of people over 15 are tertiary educated and the number of students graduating with technology-related qualifications more than doubled over the last six years.

New Zealanders are ranked highly for innovation as evidenced by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report. New Zealanders ranked as leaders in early start-up activity with 13.9 percent of the population counted as entrepreneurs and 18.6 percent of firms were defined as entrepreneurial - which is the highest amongst their category.

How do we apply these numbers to our businesses? He with the best employees wins. The best employees are often the best qualified so we can increase our focus on improving the qualifications of our staff and encouraging innovative and entrepreneurial ideas to come from all of our staff.

I don't want this to sound like an ad for the New Zealand software industry - on the contrary, as a true-blue Aussie I like to see us beat the Kiwis in everything we do. I believe there are some simple examples that we can apply in our businesses to help us punch above our weight in the same way as the Kiwis do in the software industry. I just need the ARU to work out how the Wallabies can start to at least punch somewhere near their weight.

Let me know about any other examples of strategies that help you punch above your weight at mathew.dickerson@smallbusinessrules.com

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