Part 3 Learnings in Export: With Opmantek

Part 3 Learnings in Export: With Opmantek
Sharon Hunneybell, Opmantek

Opmantek is a multi-award winning Software Company operating in the field of Network Management and IT Audit. Opmantek creates software that is essential to the smooth running of many large and small organisations to help IT teams detect faults, review current and historical network performance, and predict where future failures are likely to occur. Its software is used by more than 100,000 Organisations in 130 countries, managing thousands of complex IT environments including some of the world’s largest telecommunications carriers, managed service providers, banks and government departments. Every six minutes somewhere in the world, a new organisation implements an Opmantek product. Their products have also been exported globally via the Internet (downloaded from a central web server) since the release of NMIS in 1999. NMIS was the first network management system published in open source – way back in 1998 – and has grown heavily in feature set and user base to be one of the most robust and feature-rich network management systems in the world.

In this piece, we hear from Sharon Hunneybell, General Manager at Opmantek, 2017 winner of The Premier of Queensland’s Digital Technologies Award and finalist of the E-Commerce Award.

Sharon, what do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges in export at the moment, and how are you approaching them?

Well, we make software; there’s never been a better time to be able to take advantage of the connectivity that we have between Australia and the rest of the world in being able to export software, there will be many challenges that other people face that we don’t.

There’s a particular strength for anyone exporting ICT products rather than physical products. There’s no barrier to entry, there are more and more marketplaces, like Amazon Web Services, where you can make it easy for people to deploy software, and there are lots of incentives available from various providers to help you to distribute software over the internet. This is an age of digital revolution. It’s an age where digital marketing is becoming more and more prevalent and so for any product that you can distribute through digital networks, it’s a great time to be doing it.

Does Opmantek engage a special strategy in terms of making the most of that opportunity?

We’ve maintained the same strategy for the last two years, which is essentially a “freemium” model. We have software that anyone anywhere in the world can download, install and start to use for free, and then if they’re enjoying the software, and they want to extend it or do more things with it, they can then pay for add-on modules, and that’s done very quickly and easily through licensing.

When it comes to physical market entry, our strategy is to monitor commercial activity and identify large and well known clients that are trialling our products.  We work with these customers to ensure that they have a successful trial and when they purchase they become our anchor customer for the region; we then deploy a small engineering and sales team into that market and continue to build in that geography of the existing activity we can see coming through from our trials.

How do you establish partnerships along the supply chain?

In our field in particular there are two types of partnerships.

There are systems integrators: these are people who deliver services to other companies. They take our software, bundle it up with some of their services and deploy it as a partner. We have a lot of those across the globe.

The other one is managed service providers. These are usually telecommunications or internet service providers that actually use our software to manage their customers’ networks, so they would deploy our software and then that software would then also be deployed in their customers’ networks, and they use it to to monitor and manage the networks of hundreds and hundreds of little companies. We have a lot of managed service providers that use our software.

And how do you establish networks of people to bounce ideas off and stay current in export?

Expanding our network generally comes from those small sales teams that we deploy into different territories. In each new territory, each sales person and engineer we deploy brings us market insights into those territories. We learn as we go and about different requirements and we have learnt a lot over the years. This was one of the drivers behind our establishment of the Gold Coast Innovation Hub. It is hard to find the right knowledge before entering a market, finding people that have walked the walk, entered different markets and become used to the various customs and nuances around purchasing and selling goods in different countries all over the world. Part of the philosophy behind setting up the Gold Coast Innovation Hub was, as a company that has deployed software and with customers in over 130 countries throughout the world, that we are able to support other Gold Coast companies – and Queensland and Australian companies – by sharing the knowledge we have gained and the connections that we’ve made globally.

How do you keep up with changing buyer habits and trends?

That’s easy: we are huge fans of data, so it’s all about understanding what people are doing, through data. We have a sizeable community because we have an open source product. It’s a huge community that are using our free products, and some of those users contribute code back to our products. We have active forums where people talk about the needs that they have, we have a really strong pilot program, or ‘early adopter’ program, where new customers that have asked for new features are able to get early access to the software in return for feeding back changes that are needed. So basically, we keep very, very open lines of communication between our customer base and our development team. Along with that and other data that we’re able to collect from our customer habits, we use that to make sure that we’re always ahead of the game.

Most companies when they’re exporting, if they’re exporting goods from Australia, they have a bit of a geographical disadvantage compared to the rest of the world, from being so isolated a lot of the time; but when it comes to software, it’s just as easy to deploy and sell a high-scale product from the Gold Coast as it is to be able to sell it from San Francisco. So there is no barrier to entry really, aside from time zones. Software export is something that we should really, really strongly be focusing on in Australia, I think.

I’m really proud of everything that Opmantek has achieved, we built our own company, and from that we’ve created the Innovation Hub so that we can then help other companies to do the same. There will be barriers and challenges that we haven’t faced yet, but by creating that hub and creating that network of businesses that are able to learn from each other collectively we will eventually have faced every challenge between us, and can help each other to bridge that gap.

Like the insights you’ve gained? Sharon Hunneybell will be speaking at the Sunshine Coast’s Exporter’s Forum on 2 August, in a panel discussion moderated by our Director Najib Lawand. It will include insights from Euromonitor International and will feature other Queensland Export Award Winners and Finalists from a diverse range of industry sectors. Seating is limited; book now to confirm your place. Learn more about it here. See you soon!