Continuous improvement gives Data#3 the competitive edge
Data#3 in its original guise was established in 1977 when Powell, Clark and Associates (PCA), a prominent IBM support organisation was established to offer professional consulting, application development and data processing services to companies.
PCA developed to become a leading IT software consultancy specialising in developing and implementing software applications for small to medium sized organisations across a range of industries. In particular it established an excellent reputation as the largest supplier of IBM-based software for private hospitals in Australia.
In 1984, Data#3 was born. PCA joined forces with Albrand Typewriters & Office Machines Pty Ltd., an IBM typewriter dealer with an excellent reputation and a wealth of experience in the field of office equipment and supplies.
The strongly solutions-oriented approach adopted by PCA was carried through as a guiding principle for Data#3 – as was a clear understanding that maximising return from investment in Information Technology for its customers needed to be central to everything it did.
Data#3 moved ahead to become one of Queensland’s first personal computer dealerships and the first reseller of IBM’s “mid-range” multi user computing systems.
Today the company has evolved from a Queensland-oriented office equipment and PC reseller into one of Australia’s leading Business Technology Solutions companies with over 900 people operating from twelve locations across the country.
Continuous Improvement & Agility
In the fast moving technology industry, continuous improvement isn’t an option, but a necessity and Data#3 as an organisation is acutely aware of this. As Managing Director, John Grant explains, “We are focused on growth; however we are mindful that as we grow, agility has to remain one of our core attributes. We have built a culture responsive to technological change – one that encourages entrepreneurialism within the business and that gives our employees the scope to think and act on the job.”
Data#3’s continuous improvement strategy focuses predominantly on people and processes – the management and the development of individual skills, organisational excellence and technological advancement.
“At Data#3, organisational excellence isn’t just a buzzword. Together with developing the best people in the industry and solutions that stand out from our competitors, organisational excellence is central to our strategy to deliver success to our customers. It’s something that we put into practice and strive for every day,” says Grant. “We work very closely with our customers, monitoring trends and expectations, so that we deliver what they need, when they need it. We have also taken a very purposeful stance on efficiency, implementing many of our business processes in electronic workflow systems – one of the first to do so in Australia.”
Operational Excellence & Automation
When it comes to organisational agility and improvement, Data#3 recognised that automation would help improve its processes. Today the business has fully automated many of its internal processes across sales, marketing, HR and finance. Similarly, many of its external facing processes including interactions with customers and supply chain are also completely automated. “Implementing an integrated approach to the business we do with our customers and partners has been central to our continuous improvement efforts,” says Grant.
But, knowing the impact its people can have, Data#3 didn’t just stop at process automation. In 2013 the company also instigated a program called “3 Million Minutes of Productivity” the aim of which was to chase a dollar per minute to benefit the bottom line of the business. “It was a companywide effort and in total we generated more than 3.3 million minutes of productivity. Continuous improvement is and always been at the top of our corporate agenda,” says Grant.
People Management & Training
When it comes to building a culture that has customers at its core, equipping its people with the required skills and capability is critical for success and Data#3 has been at the forefront of this for some time. Over 10 years ago, the company introduced an online system for professional and personal development. Implementing Skillsoft (an elearning solution that includes digitised books, videos, simulations, a learning management system, and content development tools as the foundation for the program), Data#3’s people and contractors have access to education course content, information about their job role, reference libraries, health and safety material and much more online. Together with its performance management and career development systems, it provides each individual with a bespoke education path that guides them through their own development plan. The online system is accompanied by regular face-to-face workshops and specialised external training where appropriate. For Data#3’s people, continual improvement and development is an ongoing process. “We want our people to be the best they can be and believe it’s our responsibility to provide them with access to the tools and feedback they need,” says Grant.
Supply Chain Management
Data#3 is one of Australia’s largest resellers of software and hardware and as such is required to handle large volume of physical and virtual goods. With this in mind, growth has brought with it logistical stumbling blocks. “With volumes increasing, we eventually got to the stage where we had squeezed all of our resources,” says Grant. “What’s more, technology provision was becoming very competitive and very margin sensitive and consequently demanded lower cost structures. We came to the conclusion that the only way to do this was to automate.”
The supply chain automation project was tackled in two parts – firstly from the supplier end with automation of product and pricing information, electronic purchase orders and electronic customer invoicing, and secondly from the customer end for quotation, requisitioning and ordering. In its final stage of implementation, Data#3’s supply chain offering is fully integrated from customer quotation, requisition and order placement and tracking through to purchasing and invoicing. Using a quotation, configuration and ordering system, Data#3’s implementation is very sophisticated and has set it head and shoulders above the competition.
“We believe we’re the only IT reseller in Australia to implement a fully automated supply chain,” says Grant. “Our intention was always to ensure our customers had certainty and visibility in their order processing, and integration that gave them the best products at consistently low prices within a quality experience. From our point of view it drives down cost, which ultimately filters down to customers in the prices they pay.”
Looking to the Future
Data#3 is pioneering in its approach, and its longevity in a fast-paced industry is testament to that. The company takes pride in being one step ahead of the game when it comes to understanding and then reacting to industry trends. Proof of this comes in the company’s delivery of its solutions across a multi-dimensional consumption model it calls Hybrid IT – an integrated combination of on-premise, outsourced and cloud delivered software and infrastructure. In addition to its traditional operations including reselling its partners’ cloud services, it has invested in its own Data#3 cloud and has had some early and significant acceptance by customers.
“We are helping our customers transition their IT environment to a Hybrid IT service model by providing both the guidance and the ability to do so. As such they are able to gain the commercial benefits of doing so at least risk, a formula we’re proud to be able to offer,” concludes Grant.