The lure of eData

ARN: What products and services does eDataGroup offer?

Humphreys: eDataGroup is Australia's largest independent storage specialist, with a market penetration of more than 58 per cent of leading Australian corporations and government departments. eData provides solutions for data management, access, protection, storage and services. We call it the MAPS of data. eData has developed unique products in the areas of storage service provision, application service and outsourcing and electronic data vaulting.

What are eData's key business strengths?

We are very much a relationship company, we might have 60 or 70 people but it's really a family company. We have a lot of long-term employees, many of which have been with us longer than five years. To survive in this industry it takes knowledge and focus, but more than anything it takes a large team of very committed staff. In the IT industry, to have kept staff for seven or eight years is unheard of. We are very committed to our staff - we look after them. We have weekends where we take everyone away and not a birthday goes by where we don't have cake downstairs and the whole company gets together. You have to run a business by selecting the best people that can replace you tomorrow. You must be totally redundant at all times. You have to have that philosophy because if you only hire fools to replace you, you run a great circus.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

We only focus on data, and everything attached to that. We don't sell servers, we don't sell communication equipment, we don't sell add-on boards - we do what we do very well. We're the Porsche service agent of data and are a very focused company in that way.

Our overseas training budget, which is used to send our engineers into factories to be trained, is approaching half a million dollars this year alone. We've always prided our companies on offering service from factory-trained engineers resident in Australia. When people buy form us there is the security that we've been around a long time and we will be here tomorrow. We're backed by a billion-dollar corporation in Davnet, but above all our technical staff are trained in the factory where the technology was born.

We make it our business to secure the new technology. We are committed to our client base - all we have are strong clients. To engender that security in those clients we have show them they can depend on us to supply and maintain and to offer new products. It's no use buying a range of tape technology off us and then not being absolutely confident that you can get the next flow on version. We ensure that we have the exclusive or master rights to every new tape technology in the market. We take a multitude of overseas trips to ensure our relationships with our suppliers are strong and that we know what's coming down the road in three or six months time. A lot of non-disclosure agreements are signed so our clients can prepare their new budgets knowing where they're going.

Describe your client base

For the direct sales company, Dawn Technologies, our primary target is the top 500 corporations in Australia and SMEs. For the distribution companies, BlueStor and Digital Tape Solutions, our primary target is the reseller network that focuses on the higher client base - the ones who can install intelligent storage systems, large robotics storage and good raid systems, rather than the corner shop who will sell some PCs and some laptops. They also spend a lot of their time working with the big outsourcing companies like IBM GSA, EDS and CSC.

If you look at BlueStor, who distributes IBM storage products, those products can be purchased by tier-one and tier-two companies directly from IBM. But our take is to show them that what we're offering is leading-edge products plus other suppliers that will give enhancements to those products and fully maintained service on site by eData Services. Take the pain away, provide it at the same price and make it very easy, and in the end we'll have the one channel. We're not trying to tell them they can't go to IBM - what were doing is enabling IBM's product to be the leader. We dominated the market with Exabyte, we severely dominated the market with DLT, and we will dominate the market again with IBM.

What areas of technology are you keeping an eye on?

We are in the middle of developing a new product, eData care evault, which essentially lead to the whole eDataGroup being acquired by Davnet in April. Davnet saw the new technology and recognised its potential. The synergies between the two companies have opened up enormous growth opportunities. Davnet's business it to move information across big infrastructure backbones, whilst our job is to store information and manage it. When you put those together it means we can store Davnet's information locally, remotely manage it and give better access to it. evault will be launched in early September and it's a very big deal - this is unique, leading-edge technology.

What are your plans for the next couple of years?

Storage service and evaulting are the big futures for us. Davnet has invested a large amount of money and a large amount of resources to see that eData is the leading company in the management, access, protection and service of data. The storage industry is growing at better that 70 per cent per annum and the synergy between Davnet and eData makes so much sense we can't understand why it didn't already happen.

What do you see as the business issues facing eData?

Australian companies need to learn how to get over the founder's trap. The founder's trap is where the entrepreneur like me starts the business and never learns when to get out of the damn way. You have to learn that, as good old General Macarthur said many years ago, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." You have to start the business, put very strong general managers in place, then step aside.eData could have fallen into the founders trap eight years ago but I learnt a long time ago that if the founder stays too long he kills it because the company can't grow any further than the founder can take it.

PROFILE:

eDataGroup

Based: Sydney

Number of staff: 60 nationally. Will be over 100 by December 2000 Annual turnover: $37 million predicted for the next 12 months Current growth: Just under 50 per cent Services: Solutions for data management, access, protection, storage and services.www.e-datagroup.com/

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