SAS IT has provided significant services to some of New Zealand’s larger organisations. Focusing on the delivery of complex back-end systems, the company may not be as visible to end users as to the senior executives and IT staff who rely on the outcomes it delivers. CEO Phil Martin cast the spotlight on his company.
How did it all begin?In 1974 Doug Brooker left IBM to set up his own business. The company grew to about 40 people during the ’90s before restructuring and reducing that to about 25 in early 2000. Now we’re back up to around 45 full-time staff, taking a conservative approach to services growth.What changes has the business undergone?Many! In the platform space we’ve gone from the mainframe and System 34/36, to the AS400, System i, and Power Systems, SUN UNIX, Linux, HP. In the Intel space we’ve lived through all of the changes that have happened over time. The business has expanded capability to cover the expanded range of systems we support.The changes in development technologies have probably had a greater impact moving from RPG to Synon to Java and .Net. The ability to input, store, manage and manipulate data and then present the output hasn’t fundamentally changed a great deal. The sheer amount of data has, however, and the impact of the internet as a delivery mechanism for that data has dramatically changed the way in which it is done.What is your core business?Developing, integrating, managing and maintaining mission-critical systems. Our focus is on making the hard stuff invisible to the users of the systems we manage. We operate our own data centre, which houses a mix of customer and the company-owned systems that we’re responsible for (and I’m pleased to say it ran like a dream during the power outage that occurred on 3 February).Who are your clients and what business challenges do they face?We have quite a diverse client list. Our focus is on doing a lot for a few – and the customers we have are heavily reliant on their IT systems. For example, we provide infrastructure, data centre housing, management and maintenance services 24/7 for Veda Advantage as well as development capability for its New Zealand bureau; we also developed the AA membership and rewards systems, and host and manage the entire application for the AA. For the Insurance Council, we developed the Insurance Council Register and hold insurance claim information for the member insurance companies in New Zealand. We provide patient costing systems to Queensland Health and South Auckland Health and provide the infrastructure and management for the InterCity Group’s reservation systems and all its other internal systems; plus many other, mostly large companies.Is your physical location a challenge to doing business?So far it’s been an advantage. The Greenlane area has grown dramatically in recent years, and we’re only a few minutes’ drive from downtown Auckland. We support systems all over New Zealand and also in Australia, so where we are located is less relevant these days.What technology is hot right now?From a business perspective Business Intelligence is still pretty hot, along with mobile integration of applications. We’re doing more .Net-based developments as well. People are also focused on cost savings right now (given the economic outlook) – and this is an area where we can really make a difference.What’s not?Speeds and feeds. ‘Faster, bigger, better’ is all very well but it’s what you do with it that really counts!Without giving away valuable IP – what do you think is the secret to your success?We are outcome-focused, and we’re in it for the long haul. Because we are primarily a services-based company we focus on the delivery of the longer-term goals of organisations, not just a quick product sale.