The growth of remote services is paying off for New Zealand Computing Services (NZCS) in Wanganui.
In fact, remote access management has become the firm’s specialty and accounts for about 40 percent of its revenues. However, the other 60 percent is still generated from a successful software division.
Founding partner and director Greg Nixon began NZCS in 1998, having worked for Infinity Business Systems, now Fujitsu.
Nixon was a technical manager at Infinity, working in software at its Palmerston North office.
However, born and bred in Wanganui, he wanted to return to his home town. He had run his own plant nursery there in the early 1990s.
“I have always been an entrepreneur. I needed accounting software and decided to develop my own. I decided it was nicer to do software than go out in the cold [at the nursery],” he says.
That was in the days before the internet, when people dialled in and used bulletin boards to buy plants, Greg explains.
Thus, he went to Infinity for a few years and gained his Microsoft certification, as well as management training.
Having built up his skill base and experience, he started NZCS as a ‘backyard’ business, doing software development and looking after the IT needs of small businesses.
Although it started as a solo operation, NZCS grew to become a services company as well, managing networks and outsourced software.
The company’s managed-network customers tend to be based around Wanganui, but the software side of the business serves customers all over New Zealand with some in Australia. Typically, such customers are firms with between five and 50 users.
“Our furthest customer is in Queensland. We manage their servers and do that remotely from here,” Nixon says.
A large part of the business is in ASP .Net development. Other languages it uses in programming work include C-sharp and Delphi. The business is a Microsoft-certified partner.
A wide range of customised software is developed for businesses, including CRM (customer relationship management), food manufacturing, aircraft maintenance and the security industry.
Serving law firms a is particular strength and NZCS is currently working on software for a legal conference.
“We specialise in understanding the legal firms and helping them with their technology. We do a lot of work in the security industry, helping them run their businesses and monitoring alarms all over New Zealand,” Nixon says. “We have software that integrates with their line of business application to help them provide key performance indicators to their clients.”
Remote management has grown out of market demand.
“We didn’t like the break/fix model. We found there was a need to ensure we had recurring income and that our services were pro-active, rather than reactive. We found that it’s a model that just works. The client can see the value. Rather than call us when things are broken, they can see that things aren’t breaking,” he says.
However, customers still like staff to visit their site, too.
“You make regular trips, you have to go round and talk to them and see how their business is going. Often that will generate more work. We look at their business and see how we can help it perform better. The more successful their business, the more successful we are,” he says.
NZCS says it has little competition locally in software, and rivals on the IT services side tend to be operate according to the break/fix model, rather than managed services.
“We try and bring the experience from working in a corporate to a small business customer. We try and develop solutions that work in a larger business and try and bring them to the SME client level and de-clutter the technology,” Greg explains.
“[Customers] don’t always understand what to buy. They don’t understand licensing. We try and explain to them how Microsoft licensing actually works. Other people will sell them a box solution rather than tailor it to a particular client,” he claims.
At present business is “up and down”, with a slow start to the year before picking up, says Nixon. Software development is growing but hardware sales are down, he says.
HP servers from Ingram Micro are a popular seller. NZCS also uses distributor Express Data and Nixon also partners with Soft Solutions.
“Managed services is still slow in New Zealand because people still believe they can do it themselves. But they are coming round, particularly when they have tried it. They won’t go back to a break/fix model,” he says.