Datacom has lifted the lid on its five-year journey into the local government software market, a journey that went from an acquisition to a completely new build.
Around fifty developers have been working on the project for the past four years after the company bought an existing product called Ozone.
The exact investment is confidential, but Mark Matijevic, director of Datacom's local government solutions, said it was "in eight digits".
Ozone was developed by Tauranga-based Origen in the 1990s and had fifteen local government ERP customers when Datacom inked a cheque for the company in 2014.
"Our view was to take that to the world," Matijevic said. "What we found was when we looked at the details, we couldn't cloudify it. We couldn't adjust it to suit new local government requirements."
While Ozone was as good as any other solution in the marketplace, Matijevic said, Datacom needed a solution that was going to last a significant amount of time, meet changing community expectations and ensure councils were sustainable.
"We realised it wasn't going to cut the mustard long term."
Datacom took the decision to build a new system from scratch because it wanted the software to be "completely cloud native with every component being cloud".
"We also saw that the development techniques we were using 20 years ago were from a different age," Matijevic said.
He also realised velocity would be greater that way like when you have a choice of renovating or building a house - renovating can take longer.
"It was a really conscious decision because we saw a huge gap in the market and we'd had so much feedback that councils weren't happy."
That new software, recently adopted by Porirua Council and called Datascape, puts New Zealand tech giant Datacom squarely in competition with Australia-based TechnologyOne, which has dominated the local government software market for over a decade.
And TechnologyOne has been on a cloud journey itself. So how does Datacom distinguish Datascape from its rival's offering?
Matijevich said TechnologyOne's software is "hybrid".
"What I'd differentiate is bandwidth," he said. "We can use as little as 20 megabits per second bandwidth. No one else can go close to us.
"If I looked at connection to the community, we certainly connect to the community. We have built with the whole rationale behind it, every single service that a council delivers, a customer can self-serve on."
Being cloud native means systems are fast, he said. Rating runs, for instance, can be done in minutes.
"That's just basically using the power of the cloud. We don't have to modify routines to make them suit the cloud."
Datascape uses Microsoft Azure, which also enables "edge computing". Azure Stack can be set up in any data centre in any regional area, giving redundancy in case of network failure, especially in remote areas.
Datascape has been tested on 2G wireless networks and can still operate.
"One of the key reasons Porirua is going through this process is to connect to the community much better than they were."
The software is also a "smart city" play.
"One of my whole dreams for this was to create an ecosystem for a smart city," Matijevic said.
"The key issue with most of the solutions in the market at the moment is they have no connectivity to IoT, sensors, social media, any of those nice things because they were built twenty years ago.
"With our solution it is built with that in mind."
Matijevic said Datascape has around 30,000 APIs (application programming interfaces) right now allowing it to integrate with all sorts of other systems and be the centre-piece of a smart city.
One council customer, for instance, is installing sensors on its bins so they can request to be emptied.
"Smart cites have been around for a while and there are lots of sensors out there, but none of them truly connect to the ERP, which is truly where everything is auditable, maintained and linked to all the other parts of the system."
Azure allows those connections to be made intuitively.
Datacom is not targeting TechnologyOne sites, Matijevic said, and is being conservative with its announcements because in its early stages it is being cautious about the projects it takes on.
In addition to the publicly announced Porirua and two others, however, Datascape is currently being implemented at three other other councils, he said.
The opportunity is large. Matijevic said there are around 615 councils in Australia and New Zealand and most are still using 30-year-old solutions, many without an upgrade for many years.