Posts Tagged ‘Information Technology’

Winning The Age/D&B Business Awards

December 1, 2009

On the 8 November 2009, QSR International was announced in The Age as the winner of The Age/D&B Business Award for Information Technology and Business Services.  The award recognizes excellence in business performance and financial management.  The award is unique in that it operates on an invitation only basis, with invitations based on the strength of the companies financial profile within the D&B database.

On the 27 November 2009, category winners (from Manufacturing, Country & Rural, Building & Allied Industries, Retail, IT & Business Services, Exporter & Wholesaler, New Company) of The Age/D&B Business Awards were recognized at a ceremony held at Champions within Federation Square.  The exciting news was QSR International was awarded The Age/D&B Victorian Business of the Year Award.  The following day the details were published in The Age.

Shown Left to Right: W. Fitzsimmons, S. Soubra, A. Long, J. Owen, D. Gage, J. Chang, M. Sketchley, H. Horak, K. Thomas, N. Choi

It is great to be recognized as an outstanding Information Technology business, and even more so as a standout business amongst diverse categories of businesses.  QSR International’s success can be attributed to its dedicated staff, business partners, resellers, and trainers who work diligently to better serve our customers.

To finish I quote Mario Andretti (1940-), American automobile racing driver  

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.

Innovative Use of Technology

September 22, 2009

Today, QSR International was announced the Australian winner of the 2009 Dell Small Business Excellence Award.  There were more than 150 entries for the award and 10 highly innovative finalists.  The award recognizes innovative use of information technology to better serve customers, improve the customer experience, better manage business operations, improve the success of the business, and create a competitive advantage.

Shown: D. Harrigan (Dell), A. Long (QSR International), J. Owen (QSR International), G. Newey (Excom)

Shown Left to Right: D. Harrigan (Dell), A. Long (QSR International), J. Owen (QSR International), G. Newey (EXCOM)

Finalists were invited to submit a 3 minute video for the judges, which can be viewed below.

QSR International develops the world’s leading qualitative data analysis software (NVivo) and uses the software to better understand our customers.  Using NVivo to analyze our customer needs has resulted in direct improvements to our software and how we interact with our customers.  NVivo enables analysis to be undertaken on a range of data types; including rich text, audio, video, and pictures.  This allowed for evidence to be collected, and decisions to be made based on qualitative data (such as interviews, focus groups, and open-ended surveys), rather than relying solely on more traditional quantitative data (such as multi-choice surveys) and personal bias.  I outline below some of the ways we use information technology to better serve our customers.

In 2007, we ran a beta test program for NVivo 8 involving beta testers located in 20 different countries.  The discussions were managed using online discussion forums and interactive webcasts, and the forum threads and digital recordings from the webcasts were analyzed using the beta version of NVivo 8, which provided an evidence based approach to understand and prioritize changes needed within the software prior to release, and ensured our customers were delighted with the final release.  For example, the granularity of audio or video that could be analyzed was reduced from one second to a tenth of a second to facilitate delineation of speech; the format of transcripts that could be imported was made to be more flexible to support other software; and the default view for photos was changed to match customer preference.

In 2008, we conducted an online survey with our existing and potential customers to better understand our market and their perceptions about NVivo 8.  Again, the survey results (predominately open-ended text responses) were analyzed using NVivo 8.  Analysis of the 2008 customer survey revealed that seven of our top 10 customer concerns were not about specific software features, but rather concerns such as increasing the availability of training, extending customer support hours, providing additional user resources, and localizing the software into new languages.  These findings identified business opportunities that were quickly implemented, and greatly assisted in prioritizing the scope for the next major software release.  The customer survey also revealed why our customers enjoy using NVivo; namely the ability to organize, query, and analyze their data; as well as the familiar user interface and flexibility of the software.

In addition, our online discussion forums facilitate regular dialogue between customers, and between us and our customers.  Sub-forums allow interactions amongst specialist groups such as authorized trainers of our software.  Interactive webcasts are also used to facilitate software demonstrations to potential customers across the globe, delivery of comprehensive online training, and personalized live technical support.

The benefit of having our own staff use our software to analyze customer feedback was that they were able to identify feature gaps and usability issues within the software because they were using it in a manner similar to our customers.  Our people were in the best position to ensure that feature gaps and usability issues were addressed by personally advocating their resolution.  For example, staff found transcription of audio or video within the software was frustrating because there was no automatic skip-back option when playing after pausing, or that the software’s auto-save feature would unintentionally disrupt the transcription process and result in the transcriber ‘losing their place’.  These issues were subsequently rectified as part of a service pack release.

The ability to collaborate with customers is paramount to ensure we explore innovative possibilities that result in outstanding software and services.  We’ve accomplished this by interacting with our global customer base through online technologies (forums and webcasts) and using our own software to analyze customer feedback.  This has enabled us to prioritize future software development to address customer desires and expectations.  It does not end here, but rather begins here.

To finish, I quote Michael Dell, Dell Chairman and CEO

Almost 25 years ago, as a small business, we introduced the direct model with a singular focus on listening to customers and working hard to get them exactly what they need. Listening and delivering on behalf of customers has been instrumental in our growth. Our partnerships give us an opportunity to highlight the successes of today’s small businesses around the world.

Next-Gen ICT Professionals in Australia

May 14, 2009

Last month I attended the ICT: Making the Connection Summit 2009 which discussed issues currently facing the ICT industry and the providers of ICT higher education.

Students enrolling in IT undergraduate courses within Australia have fallen constantly every year since 2001, from 10,560 enrollments (in 2001) to 5,059 enrollments (in 2007), representing a decline of 52% over 6 years.  Worse still, is the number of applicants into these degree places have fallen from 15,130 applicants (in 2001) to 5,146 applicants (in 2007), representing a decline of 66% over 6 years.  Compounding this is that half of these enrolments are from international students.  In general, this equates to both lower quantity and quality of IT graduates entering the workforce each year in Australia.

The employment of ICT professionals has increased from 190,200 (in 2001) to 224,000 (in 2007), representing an increase of 18% over 6 years whilst incorporating the dot com bubble burst period.  Therefore we have growing demand and shrinking supply.  Currently this imbalance is being met through migrant ICT skilled workers, and capping demand through outsourcing ICT overseas. 

Here are my thoughts on why students have lost interest in ICT as a career option:

1. Perception and Image

ICT is still incorrectly considered to be for geeks working in a basement – check out this stereotypical, but great sitcom called The IT Crowd.

2. Outsourcing and Importance

Australian organizations have been aggressively outsourcing aspects of their ICT overseas.  News of this outsourcing is published in the daily papers and incorrectly reinforces the perspective to the Australian community that ICT is unimportant.

3. R&D and Innovation

Australian organizations are great adopters of technology, but are not great inventors of technology.  This is where the most exciting news occurs within ICT and the wider community, and the source of this news is predominately coming from overseas based organizations.

4. Hype cycles

The dot com bubble burst and many ICT professionals were hurt both financially and emotionally.  Many of these ex-ICT professionals share their unfortunate experiences and indirectly influence future students to avoid the ICT industry.

4. Fragmented ICT associations

Australia has numerous and diverse ICT associations which is fantastic.  Unfortunately, it has the side effect of diluting the voice of the ICT community, which is necessary to influence both government policy and community perceptions.

5. High-profile ICT failures

Australia has experienced high-profile ICT failures within both government and industry, though I anticipate that industry conceals these more.  These failures, which are an indictment to ICT, do reduce the appeal of ICT.  People in general want to be associated with success, and the risk adverse culture within Australia does not tolerate failure.

6. Glass-ceiling

The top positions (CEO, Chairman, etc.) of organizations are dominated by those with a business or law degrees.  Too few ICT degree holders ascend to these positions and therefore the influence of ICT is diminished.  ICT should play a more strategic role in business which requires ICT expertise at the top positions.  This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as it is sometimes difficult to get momentum where like-minded appoint like-minded.

7. K12 curriculum

This is probably the biggest issue.  Computers are now ubiquitous in their usage and 70% of students with high IT ability believe they learn more at home than at school.  For instance, some students are taught Microsoft Excel for two years as part of their computing curriculum – to me, this is like learning how to use a calculator for Maths, or a dictionary for English.  There is confusion by educators between using tools and applying knowledge.  The subject of computing should be removed at the K12 levels and taught as part of other subjects.  For example, students can learn how to develop algorithms in Maths, how to design user interfaces in Art, or learn about the transformational impact of computers within society in History.  The application of computing in other subjects would allow students to appreciate the relevance and practicality of computing.  However, if K12 curriculum must include a computing subject then teach something that can both stimulate and excite students, like Lego Mindstorms or Microsoft Kodu.

There was recently a relevant article in CIO on How to attract Next-Gen IT Workers.  The article advices to use partnerships with schools to attract and shape youth for careers in ICT.  In a similar aspect, QSR International has just started partnering with the Monash University Faculty of IT with its Industry-Based Learning program to help develop the future generation of ICT professionals.