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Businesses should take a holistic attitude

By Greg Adams

From his background in the exacting world of accountancy, through his fatherly dedication to honing the performance of his son's racing cart, to running the country's largest information and communications technology (ICT) services company, Chris Quin seems to be a stickler in his search for efficiency.

Sadly, the same can't be said for many Kiwi businesses. The general manager of Gen-i - a subsidiary of Telecom - sees too many measuring the value of technology by its cost rather than its impact.

"New Zealand organisations have so much more they could be offering clients and partners through new technologies, particularly the convergence of voice, data and IT services," he says.

"It's about businesses recognising that what they need from technology are the outcomes."

After 14 years with Telecom - in a variety of financial, marketing and management roles - Quin doesn't see a problem with New Zealand businesses adopting technology.

"I believe we're as innovative as most. Our companies are curious, interested and know that technology must play a part - we're not Luddites. Online use is as good as in many places in the world - I don't think we lack in terms of thinking about IT," he says.

But where businesses are found wanting is in creating value and trust in their thought processes. Quin sees a major stumbling block in the request for proposals (RFP) process, which is where a business asks the technology provider to detail its solution to what the company has in mind.

"Companies only ever get answers to the questions that are asked," he says. The vendor and customer often find themselves on opposite sides of the fence, and the process becomes combative instead of collaborative.

"It's important that both client and service provider work together on business problems in a way that creates solutions that can only come from joint innovation," he says.

Another hurdle, he says, is good ol' Kiwi ingenuity.

"About 70 per cent of New Zealand's IT market is still done in-house - do-it-yourself - and for some, it can hold them back."

Some businesses were reluctant to outsource, but that was changing.

"It used to be a case of outsourcing all or nothing," he says. "A mix can be more pragmatic."

Other businesses are investing too little and are left wondering why their technology isn't delivering the results.

"There are a number of projects that didn't work for the classic reasons - they weren't defined properly, not run well, and a relationship between what's wanted and what's done wasn't established."

For Quin, becoming Gen-i's general manager was the biggest opportunity of his career.

He is responsible for the continued meshing of three entities - Gen-i, Computerland and Telecom Advanced Solutions - into one and at the same time must maximise productivity.

Quin maintains that ICT is fundamental to improving productivity - but only if done properly.

"Things like broadband and applications won't do it on their own.

"It's the 'whole' that makes it valuable, not just attacking bits. It's about complete business procedures and making them more productive and more efficient."

Chris Quin

Who: General manager, Gen-i.

Favourite gadget: "Professionally, my Harrier [PDA] - I use it all the time. Personally, the Alfano data logger on the dashboard of my son's racing cart, which we use to capture and analyse his performance."

Next big thing: Wi-fi voice in campus environments.

Alternative career: Running a professional motor racing team.

Spare time: "I enjoy participating in motor sports with my kids - I used to race speedway and classic cars - and I like mountain biking."

Favourite sci-fi movie: Blade Runner or Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

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