IT Industry Attraction Project

Information Technology Enterprise in the Great Southern Region of Western Australia

An IT Industry Consultancy for the Great Southern Region Development Commission

Part 1: Developing the Concept

Contents:

Introduction

The aim of this phase of the study is Developing the concept to optimise IT industry attraction potential through initial market assessments by:

  1. Scoping analysis of existing call centres/IT businesses that recently re-located or opened up a new operation.
  2. Assessment of the "foot-loose" capability and quantify locational determinants.
  3. Assessment of the range of IT industries that would best suited the Great Southern region, through a capability statement.

As explained in the Background to the Study, is not intended to be an academic, or pure research, study. The project aims to attract call/contact centres, and other small to medium size IT enterprises to the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Therefore each phase of the project will report lessons learnt on attraction of IT projects in other areas and highlight aspects of the region which would be attractive to those intending to set up a call/contact centre or other small to medium size IT enterprises.

This document is a work-in-progress and as such will change as it is developed. Comments, corrections and contributions are welcome.

Scoping analysis of existing call centres/IT businesses that recently re-locate or opened up a new operation.

In March 1999 ACA Research released The Australian Call Centre Location Report (ACA Research 1999). This provides a detailed analysis of Factors effecting the location of call centres in Australia

ACA Research define a Call Centre as:

... operation that uses telephone and computer technology to deliver services to customers. It is comprised of people whose primary dedicated function is to respond to telephone traffic, either inbound or outbound. These Call Centres are structured environments and are physically characterised by the dedication of four or more telephone agents to handle this telephone traffic.
However, it should be noted that in a recent edition PC Week (1 May 2000) argued:
The culture of the call centre is changing and customer contacts via the Web and e-mail are driving this change.

As with much of computer and telecommunications development, there is a convergence taking place of what were telephone call centres and other IT support facilities. This might extend as far as technology parks and similar facilities for technology start-up companies. One recent example of development in this area is the Brisbane Information Technology and Knowledge-Based Industries clusters Action Plan (BCC 2000):

Tenders are invited for consultancy services to prepare a Brisbane Information Technology and Knowledge-Based Industries clusters Action Plan. The Action Plan will recommend suitable locations and infrastructure support to encourage existing and emerging clusters of Information Technology and Knowledge Based Industries (IT & KBI) in appropriate proximity to Brisbane's major universities and research institutions. This is an initiative of Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government under the Capital City Policy with support provided by The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University. Proposals are sought from consultants/consortia, which bring together all areas of expertise required. Such expertise will include the disciplines of industrial location market research, particularly for IT & KBI firms; property development feasibility analysis; project planning; marketing and promotion; statutory provisions regulating property development; infrastructure planning; and operation of public/private sector partnerships.

ACA Research define as regional, locations outside Australia's major capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth). But draw a further distinction between major population centres of the east coast and the rest of Australia. Under this analysis, there is a challenge for the Great Southern Region being located outside the east cost corridor, where the Australian call centre industry has been mainly focused. However, it does create the opportunity for the region to compete with other regional areas of Australia and with non-east coast capitals (Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Darwin). Based on ACA Research's figures, 78% of call centres are located in the east coast capitals. That represents an opportunity for the Great Southern Region, and other regions, to attract business.

The two key factors identified by ACA Research were staff availability and location:

We consequently decided to examine our hypothesis that: A proportion of Call Centres are actively considering non-metropolitan locations, with a view to lowering their operating costs caused by constant and growing staff attrition and poaching.

It should be noted that technology and government policy are factors which could change radically the applicability to the results of such a study. As an example the availability of low cost, high quality, bulk telecommunications in regional areas could change the equation for call centre location. This could come about as a result of a combination of new technology and a federal government concerned about a rural voting backlash:

Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 17:10:08 +1000
Communications Information Technology and the Arts Portfolio
URL: http://www.telstra.com.au/newsroom/release.cfm?ReleaseID=6021
MEDIA RELEASE, TELSTRA CUTS HIGH SPEED INTERNET COSTS FOR REGIONAL AND RURAL AUSTRALIANS

Regional and rural Australians will now pay up to 80 per cent less to connect to Telstra's high speed internet satellite services, Telstra chief executive Dr Ziggy Switkowski announced today...

Also relevant to the current political situation is the issue of government incentives and benefits effecting the location of call centres:

Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 13:17:17 +1000 (EST)
From: owner-all@minister.dcita.gov.au
subject: New Ministerial Media Release

The following Ministerial Media Release is available at: http://www.dcita.gov.au/cgi-bin/trap.pl?path=4898

Doug Anthony reappointed Networking the Nation chairman

The Rt Hon Doug Anthony has been reappointed as Chairman of the Networking the Nation (NTN) Board for a further term by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston. As part of the nearly $1 billion of Government initiatives funded from the sale of Telstra, the Networking the Nation fund has $421 million available for rural, regional and remote communities to identify their communications needs and develop projects to meet those needs...

Government incentives and benefits were not found by ACA Research to be widely considered by organisations in their Call Centre location decision. However, the issue of indirect incentives may be relevant. A example is assistance in the development of a call centre in the Cooma Region, which then attracted a major Defence Department contract (DoD 2000):

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today announced that a $30 million Defence Service Centre will be established in Cooma, New South Wales.

The Service Centre will be a telephone call centre offering a 'one-stop-shop' for Defence personnel who need assistance with employment issues such as entitlements, pay and leave. It also will provide detailed advice on more complex matters including personnel policy and procedures. "The new Defence Service Centre will be a state-of-the-art call centre," Mr Moore said. "Highly skilled staff will deliver quality administrative services for all Defence personnel.

"I am particularly pleased with the Centre's role in assisting Defence families who are posted around Australia. These families will find that the Centre provides an easy to use service which helps take care of relocation and housing arrangements."

The Defence Service Centre will be operating by late 2000 and when fully established by mid-2001, it will employ up to 150 staff in Cooma who will be supported by processing staff and case managers located around Australia.

"The decision to locate the call centre in Cooma is recognition of Cooma-Monaro Council's efforts to take advantage of the Federal Government's infrastructure support for regional Australia," Mr Moore said.

It is estimated that this modern, streamlined operation will save at least $40 million a year against the cost of the existing system...

John McCoy-Lancaster, former executive director of the Australian Teleservices Association (ATA), estimated in December 1999 that there were 4000 call centres in Australia, with 2000 teleservices organisations and growth of 25 per cent per annum (PC Week 1999). ACA Research report that approximately 30% of existing Call Centres intend to expand, 10% to open an additional facility and 11% to relocate (growing by approximately 20% per annum to A$3.4 Billion in the year 2000) and representing approximately 8,700 new and 5,700 relocated jobs. The bad news for regions looking for growth is that almost all the planned expansion is in metropolitan centres. The 4% of regional centres intending to expand are to do so at their current location and not move.

Assessment of the "foot-loose" capability and quantify locational determinants

Given this somewhat gloomy outlook for regions, what would attract call centres? ACA Research suggest it is overwhelmingly (70%) a cost-benefit decision, with the prime identified attractions being:

  1. General cost benefits
  2. Low rental costs
  3. Availability of suitable accommodation
  4. Availability of appropriately experienced staff (at the right price)
  5. Accessibility by transport/car.

However, as discussed above, advances in technology and convergence may be creating new opportunities for small centres in regional areas. One potential area is for web call centres.

The New Zealand Example

There are a number of similarities between New Zealand and the Great Southern Region in terms of attracting call centres and IT businesses. Both are relatively remote from main commercial centres (but the GSR is much closer to Singapore than Sydney, let alone NZ). Both have English speaking communities and good telecommunications.

Ian Shields, a business analyst for Investment New Zealand's Call centre Attraction Initiative argues that Web-integration will bring a new wave of smaller (50 to 200 seat) call centres (Shields 2000). Suiting complex client interactions in the financial services and technology sectors with high value products, these centres allow the operator to talk to the client by telephone while also seeing what is on the client's screen.

A less glamorous application which is not discussed widely, but could have a significant impact is the e-mail based call centre, where the operator types replies to e-mail queries. This takes different skills from the operator. It is possible to have a "call centre" were phone calls are not taken, just e-mail replied to. This could save on set-up and operating costs and reduces some of the time pressures. Virtual working from home is also possible.

One interesting aspect of e-mail, which Shields did not discuss, is that it is possible to service multiple languages, using automated translation services. Another aspect not yet explored is the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) based call centre, which would respond to queries via the screens on advanced mobile telephones.

Assessment of the range of IT industries that would best suited the Great Southern region, through a capability statement

Web-integrated call centres may make a good market for GSR to explore as:

New market:
ACA Research's report (ACA Research 1999) indicates that there is relatively little "footloose" capability in the Australian call centre market. That is existing centres are unlikely to move from their current, mostly eastern-state metropolitan locations. Rather than try to attract existing established centres to move from where they are comfortable, it should be easier to convince new centres to set up from start.
Less special equipment required:
The web-based call centre requires at a minimum a few web screens. The specialised software which would normally be needed is replaced by a web-based interface. Less sophisticated telephone equipment is required and in some cases may be replaced completely by voice-over-IP (that is voice calls over the Internet in place of conventional telephone connections). A halfway approach is to use PC-based telephone systems, such as Enterprise Interaction centre from C4RM.
Start small:
Due to the reliance on services via the web it should be possible to have small satellite centres, as small as four operators. Specialist support and supervision would be provided over the web from a central location.
Better differentiation of staff skills:
A web-based call centre will require a higher level of staff skills. This provides the opportunity for the GSR's TAFE to supply web training from its existing courses, to supplement call centre staff skills.
Align with new companies:
Companies developing on-line call software and services are relatively new. This may provide an opportunity to work with companies not already aligned with large call centre organisations.
Integration with IT companies:
web-based call centres provide convergence with some forms of IT company operations. As an example very highly paid IT support staff who provide on-line customer support may be considered a specialised form of call centre staff. Such staff attract many times the salary of typical call centre staff and could provide a greater economic boost to the GSR.
Marketing device:
Despite the bursting of the .COM bubble, there remains intense interest in business and the media in web-based technology. web-based call centres are therefore more likely to get attention.

Background Research

Search term: "Scoping analysis of existing "call centres" "information technology" IT businesses that recently re-located or opened up a new operation"

Examples of online assistance

Moving to Seattle, Seattle Chamber of Commerce, mailto:clareh@seattlechamber.com: http://www.seattlechamber.com/moving/

Seattle - we are known for our lifestyle.

Be it Starbuck coffee or Boeing jets, Microsoft Windows, PACCAR trucks or Nordstrom-style customer service, our local companies and products have become global icons for quality. Meanwhile, our Northwest home has become a national target for quality living. Magazines such as Fortune and Money rate Puget Sound communities as the best places to live in America.

But what makes Seattle so great? The answer is as simple as it is complex: our people. A prime geographic location poised at the brink of global trade, Seattle succeeds because of its unique culture of pioneers. Their one mysterious quality, noticed by all who visit: everyone here is so very "nice."

Moving to the Greater Seattle region? With the Chamber's Relocation Packet or Relocation-Video Packet, you will have no problem making a good start! Click here for packet descriptions, pricing, and ordering information.

Nebraska Department of Economic Development Business Assistance Toolkit for Startup and Existing Businesses, State of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68509-4666 USA mailto:swilliams@neded.org: URL: http://assist.neded.org

Includes:

Studies and Resources on Regional Issues in the IT Industry

Converging Technologies: Consequences For The New Knowledge-Driven Economy, John Reynolds mailto:john.reynolds@cudv.dti.gov.uk, UK DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY: http://www.dti.gov.uk/future-unit/complete

Highlights the potential impact that the convergence of information systems, telecommunications and broadcasting will have on companies and markets over the next 10 years:

Successful clusters - overstating the death of distance?

There has been much speculation that ubiquitous, high quality communications, at low cost, will undermine the role of commercial centres and, in particular, negate the forces which create clusters of related activity, such as ?Silicon Fen? around Cambridge. This is far too simplistic a view and fails to address the social and innovation context. Indeed, the forces of convergence may well reinforce the role of existing clusters whilst changing the nature of the barriers to the creation of further clusters based on new industries and developments.

The people dimension is crucial. Face to face contacts, and the trust and personal relationships that these engender, are essential to the management of tacit knowledge, which is the core rationale for clusters. Whilst convergence makes access to formalised information both easy and distance independent, this merely increases the value of the unstated tacit knowledge which comes from years of direct experience. The quality of tertiary education, the attractiveness of surroundings and the social and lifestyle facilities will be key factors in the competition to site new clusters. Research also suggests that clusters have manageable characteristics, including optimum levels of diversity in their supporting companies and supply chain, and a defined lifecycle.
The continued development of strong clusters will be one key to tilting probabilities in favour of the desirable knowledge-driven ?Post - Industrial Revolution? scenario discussed in chapter three and away from the treadmill of the ?Faster, Faster? scenario.

Convergence will allow more scope for working from home, and thus major opportunities for those who through disability or role (such as carers) are restricted in their ability to go out to work. Again, however, social contact is important. The creation of local or regional shared work centres will be essential to striking a balance between solitary work at home and the necessary broader social contact. This will have the positive effect of shifting some jobs from urban centres to lower cost provincial towns and rural communities. It should be noted however that work which does not require tacit knowledge (call centres, data entry, software coding,...) is at real risk of loss to lower cost economies.

Adcor Australia Pty Ltd, sales@employment.com.au: http://www.employment.com.au

employment.com.au is a generic employment website covering a multitude of industries and occupations. The site was developed specifically for the Australian market and continues to introduce value-added software making the site more attractive to both recruiters and job seekers. Established in 1995, employment.com.au is entitled to use the registered domain addresses of employment, jobs, career and recruitment. This initiative along with the design and functionality of the site has positioned employment.com.au as one of the leading employment websites in Australia for both consultancies and corporations.

Our client base includes major corporations, management consultants, government statutory authorities and universities, Australia-wide.

European Telework Online - The Internet portal for teleworking, telecommuting, and related topics, European Telework Development Projec; mailto:eto-info@eto.org.uk: http://www.eto.org.uk

What are Europe's priorities for the Information Society? http://www.eto.org.uk/faq/e-europe01.htm
European Commission President Romano Prodi proposed three high level aims and ten main "priority areas" for the Information Society in a statement on 8th December, 1999, which will be considered by the European Council (representing the 15 member states) at a Lisbon meeting in March 2000 and taken forward at a ministerial conference on the Information Society in Lisbon a month later. The Commission invited comments, to be sent by 1st February 2000.

Summary of the European Commission statement - below Response by European Telework Online Pole21 - a forum for policy input, organised by eurbit (see message in the Telework Forum archive) Your comments welcome in the Telework Forum

The full statement (available online in .pdf format at the Commission's web site - see below) spells out specific targets for each of these priority areas, generally proposing achievement dates in 2001-2002. The Commission has called its new initiative to meet these targets:

"eEurope - An Information Society for All"

The three high level aims of the initiative are:

Bringing every citizen, home and school, every business and administration centre, online and into the digital age.

Creating a digitally literate Europe, supported by an entrepreneurial culture ready to finance and develop new ideas.

Ensuring that the whole process is socially inclusive, builds consumer trust and strengthens social cohesion.

and these are the ten priority areas:

  1. European youth in the digital age: bring internet and multimedia tools to schools and adapt education to the digital age.
  2. Cheaper internet access: increase competition to reduce prices and boost consumer choice.
  3. Accelerating e-commerce: speed up implementation of the legal framework and expand use of e-procurement.
  4. Fast internet for researchers and students: ensure high-speed access to internet, thereby facilitating co-operative learning and working.
  5. Smart cards for electronic access: facilitate the establishment of Europe-wide infrastructure to maximise uptake.
  6. Risk capital for high-tech SMEs: develop innovative approaches to maximise the availability of risk capital for high-tech SMEs.
  7. "eParticipation" for the disabled: ensure that the development of the information society takes full account of the needs of disabled people.
  8. Healthcare online: maximise the use of networking and smart technologies for health monitoring, information access and healthcare.
  9. Intelligent transport: safer, more efficient transport through the use of digital technologies.
  10. Government online: ensure that citizens have easy access to government information, services and decision-making procedures online.

References

  1. ACA Research (1999) The Australian Call Centre Location Report, ACA Research, Sydney, March 1999 . URL: http://www.callcentres.net/australia/report3.html
  2. (PC Week (1999)) Call centres - just the answer, By ZDNet News, Wednesday December 29, 1999. URL: http://www.zdnet.com.au/zdnn/stories/zdnn_display/au0001111.html
  3. PC Week (2000) Why Call centres are now Contact, PC Week, Sydney, 1 May 2000.
  4. Shields (2000) Web Based Call centres, Ian Shields, Business Analyst, Investment New Zealand Call centre Attraction Initiative in Proceedings of the IIM 2000 Global Information in the 21st Century Conference 15 May 2000, Melbourne, IIM
  5. DoD (2000) New Era in Service Delivery for Defence Personnel, MEDIA RELEASE, The Hon. John Moore, MP, Minister for Defence, Thursday, 30 March 2000 MIN 064/00 URL: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2000/06400.htm
  6. BCC (2000) Brisbane Information Technology and Knowledge-Based Industries clusters Action Plan, Request for Tender, Brisbane City Council, Contract No: N90104-99/00, Closing Date: 12:00 pm, 05 May , 2000 URL: http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/oltapp/plsql/bcc_tenders.DISPLAY?in_content=tender+information&in_contract_no=N90104-99/00&in_tender_status=5

Further Information

Web page by Tomw Communications Pty Ltd A.C.N. 088 714 309 for the Great Southern Development Commission - Comments to: webmaster@tomw.net.au