Cutting-edge IT delivers the goods

20 Nov 2008 View Comments
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Jay Bregman
Using technology to stay ahead of the field

Courier company eCourier has grown at a breakneck pace in recent years, fuelled by the application of cutting-edge technology to improve efficiencies and quality of service. It has doubled in size every year since inception.

We founded the company because of the frustrations we felt as users of traditional courier services. There was an opportunity to use technology to revolutionise the courier market and to create the ultimate same-day courier services.

Further reading

We are a real-time internet service business ­ a 24 hour a day, high-volume, highly automated operation. We work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment and our business has to respond quickly to a range of requirements. Constant innovation through technology is the only way to achieve success in this market.

Courier companies have operated in the same way for the past 20 years, with the only differentiator being price. My co-founder Tom Allason and I felt that the industry could be improved by taking advantage of new technologies. It is now my responsibility to keep the business forging ahead.

However, our reliance on technology creates its own pressures: we constantly have one eye on emerging technologies to stay one step ahead of the competition. One way we do this is through our venture capital backers, Logispring. For example, they invest in a company called SeeWhy Software. The software now forms a vital part of our customer analysis, allowing us to monitor buying patterns and build behavioural profiles of our clients.

Keeping up with technology trends doesn’t have to be exhausting, but it does require discipline. I set aside time each week for reading, talking to people and attending events. There is a lot of knowledge sharing among entrepreneurs and senior IT people. It is essential to keep a good, solid network.

Talking to the right people

One must-attend event for me is Minibar, a monthly gathering of technology entrepreneurs where startups present new ideas and the like-minded attendees discuss their successes and failures.

Generally, no matter what you are doing or who you are talking to, make sure that you train yourself to pick up on the little gems of information that relate to systems people have put in place; to problems they’ve had that they’ve solved via technological implementations; and then think about how that particular technology can be modified to solve your own problems.

This is all very well, but the technology industry is constantly innovating, so how do you set about evaluating new technology? My advice is to always talk to other people who have used it ­ people who have implemented it and are getting business value out of it.

I have a number of questions that I always put to users when I am researching a new technology. These include: How easy is it use? What is the company like to deal with? What is the experience and expertise of the staff like? How quickly was the system developed? How soon was business value derived? How has your relationship evolved? Once you are satisfied with the answers, carve off a piece of your business problem and implement a solution.

Of course there will be some solutions that don’t make the mark. The risk in selecting new technology is that the product is sometimes not well developed. This can be great, as you can influence the development, but it can also be a bad thing as the product may not be ready for prime time. You then run the risk of the product costing more than expected due to further development.

My final piece of advice is to follow your instincts rather than vendor literature. If you believe a product can be a solution to a particular business problem ­ even though it’s not being promoted as such ­ take a closer look.

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