In Papua New Guinea you are ‘only as good as your last implementation’ says Steve Hillyard, General Manager in PNG for Pronto Software. He tells Business Advantage PNG that networking and creating positive ‘word of mouth’ are crucial for success in PNG’s ICT market.
Hillyard says new business for the software company, which specialises in management systems for logistics and finance, often comes about from employees changing firms. ‘Sometimes people, from a management point of view, move businesses so we become known.
‘People sometimes advertise for staff with Pronto skills.’
‘Having over 50 sites in PNG means that we have got a lot of staff that know Pronto.
‘So, if they find themselves out of work sometimes they can find themselves another job—even to the point that people sometimes advertise for staff with Pronto skills.’
Hillyard says economic conditions remain difficult in PNG. ‘I think it is a tough market. One of our advantages is that we have been there for a long time and we have a good reputation.
‘It is important to know where the stock is and where the cash is.’
‘It would be difficult to go into the PNG market now, particularly in the current climate. So what for us, I suppose, is an advantage is really is a disadvantage for people who might want to enter into the market.’
Users of Pronto’s software, says Hillyard, are able to predict what they need to buy based on what they are using or selling. They are also provided with a level of stock control.
‘It is important to know where the stock is and where the cash is. Is it in one of their branches or is it in transit? Has it landed in the country? All of those things they can track,’ he says.
‘Sometimes, with less advanced systems, they wouldn’t be able to do that. It disappears from one site and doesn’t appear on the other site until it has checked in. With Pronto, they know where it is.’
Hillyard says the company’s software ‘only takes up a small amount of band width’, which is an advantage in PNG.
‘It is very robust, easy to use. Because we cover such a broad range of modules, with those businesses we only turn on the bits that we need. That gives us strength in a country like PNG.’
‘We have opened a data centre in Port Moresby and that will be initially for customers in the city.’
Hillyard says it would be beneficial if PNG had better communications, adding that ‘over the last couple of years’ communications have improved.
‘We have opened a data centre in Port Moresby and that will be initially for customers in the city. But we will look to extend that.
‘Communications between PNG and Australia aren’t good, so it is difficult to host [services] for people in Australia if they are in PNG. Whereas with other countries, like New Zealand, we can host for people in Australia because the band width for Australia and New Zealand is pretty good and stable.
‘That is why we have opened a data centre in Port Moresby; connectivity around Port Moresby is better than connectivity back to Australia.’
Pronto is an Australian company with customers in Africa, the United States and the Philippines: over 30 countries in total. The company’s research and development is undertaken in Australia. Hillyard says PNG accounts for about five to six per cent of the company’s business.
‘Getting money out of the country can be difficult.’
‘We do a number of industry verticals [sectors] in PNG: import and distribution businesses, mining businesses, retail businesses.’
PNG’s foreign exchange shortage, he says, has been an issue. ‘Getting money out of the country can be difficult, but we spend a fair bit in the country, so we get paid in kina and we are spending it in kina.
‘We have been lucky to have business in areas other than mining, but there is a knock-on from mining to other businesses, particularly in a country like PNG. Importing companies have less money to spend; less people are working.’
Hillyard says ‘it is a pity’ that when the PNG LNG project finished it was not followed by another big infrastructure project.
‘Things went a little bit flat. There is probably some key staff that PNG has lost to other parts of the world.
‘But the thing is that those people like to come back home to work in PNG. So, if there is work for them, they will come back.’