"We’re constantly looking to grow our business. The technology that’s out there underpins that growth. Without that technology I don’t see how we could continue to grow the business."Glenn Skerman
Small business stories
My name's Glenn Skerman and our business is AGDATA Australia. AGDATA started in 1984. It was actually started by my father who was a farmer in Central Queensland. And he'd seen a few things about these new-fangled computers and got sick of doing things on the old ledger books. So he contracted a guy straight out of university to write a computer program for him to help manage his finances a bit better. And originally it started with just him. Meant to be a tool for just him.
Neighbours started hearing about it and that's where it all started from. And from there it's grown into a company now with approximately 10,000 companies around Australia and all being serviced out of this office in Toowoomba. We develop software for farmers, whether that be locally-installed software that they run on their own computers, or they're accessing through the cloud services that we offer.
Challenges? There's many that I can speak to. Probably the biggest one is just how we look after our customers when they're so geographically diverse. In the past we've spent a lot of time going out, meeting our customers, training our customers and so on. Now with the likes of NBN, it's making it easier for us to service our customers and to provide better services, create better relationships with our customers. They get a better experience using our software.
Some of the obstacles we've had to overcome has meant a lot of training. Whether that be for internal for staff, whether that be for our customers and getting used to the idea of using some of this technology. So whether that's actual functionality within the tool that we're using, or just the user acceptance of the technology.
The thing about the technologies that we use internally as well as customer facing, there's probably two underlying reasons for the choices we've made. One is improving customer experience, whether that be through tech support, training, or use of the software. And the other aspect is the efficiency and productivity gains to be had within the business. Thinking about how we implemented these systems and the decisions behind them, we're constantly looking for ways that we can improve what we're doing. So, there's everyone in the office can come up with the idea of, Hang on, have we tried this? What if we try that?" And we have tried things and walked away from them cause they haven't fit our business very well. But then other elements have just been a perfect fit and it's just a roll-on.
The benefits we've seen from some of these newer technologies we've implemented comes from our customers, for example, where, as a basic example, using the TeamViewer tool to support our customers, it takes a lot of stress out of the situation in some cases. So, if you've got a client who's struggling with entering a new transaction for a new vehicle, for example, we can remote on and guide them through that process. It cuts down on frustration on both ends of the telephone from the tech support person, as well as the client. It solves the problem quicker in most cases.
Internally, benefits... I guess it's the efficiency and the automation. So it's less stress on staff. Just with our customer base being in the rural sector, it is a conservative sector when it comes to technology. So, in a lot of cases, we are the ones introducing some of these new technologies. And to do that, we are educating to a point, whether that's just introducing the technology, let alone the use of the technology. So, yes, we are involved day to day, engaging with customers and helping them understand and feel comfortable with using some of these new technologies.
We get a lot of feedback from our customers about our software and the solution we've provided to them, where they've fed back to us that, why haven't they done this sooner, it's so easy to use, the technology itself makes their business easier to run, being able to extract information and make timely and critical decisions about the operation of their business. After implementing our technology, our customers quite often get more time back for themselves, whether that's to spend more time out in the field, out in the paddocks, or whether to spend more time with the family, friends and having more time for recreation.
We're constantly looking to grow our business and the technology that's available out there underpins that growth. Without that technology, I don't see how we could continue to grow the business. Having implemented some of these technologies and just looking back on it, the obvious thing is, why didn't we do it sooner? So, just the benefits to be had by using some of these technologies, you'd be mad not to take them up.