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Fancy moving to the country ?

01 Oct 2006

Located one hour south of Christchurch is Ashburton, population 15,800. Aside from stunning scenery and world-class salmon fishing it’s also home to Ashburton Computer Associates, established in 1981 by Peter Yates. Why did you set up ACA?I’d previously worked in software support at Burroughs (which later became Unisys) first in Christchurch and then Auckland. I was invited by some Ashburton chartered accounting businesses – which I’d previously supported for Unisys – to directly support them and their systems. Hence ACA was born. One of the prime requirements was to write good and easy to use software solutions.With the later advent of the PC, ACA also began to retail the PC and its various peripherals and accessories.What significant changes has the business gone through?ACA started as a ‘one man band’ but I knew it would require additional trained staff.   I embarked on a programme of bursaries for school leavers to attend Christchurch polytechnic for a one year course and then work for the company.  This was a very successful way to have staff trained and the scheme operated for the first five years – the first bursary recipient still works for the company.  ACA now has nine staff most of whom are university graduates.One of the biggest changes has resulted from the internet, as staff now don’t have to travel to clients’ offices as often to support and manage their systems because they can do it from the Ashburton office.Another  significant change has been in the development platform and language with the procedural language COBOL being replaced by the object orientated JADE platform.What are your key business areas?ACA develops software solutions for a range of clients around the country but specialises in finance companies for which it develops solutions covering the funding and lending aspects of these businesses.  Finesse, a package developed in JADE,  is used by a number of finance companies nationally. ACA recognises each of its clients have different requirements and willingly customises its solutions to match the client’s. For the local mid-Canterbury market ACA has a retail shop and service centre providing services to all type of clients.What challenges do you face operating outside a main city? Being taken seriously by prospects in metropolitan areas and finding appropriate staff.Once we can demonstrate our software to prospects they recognise its high quality and the geographical challenge becomes considerably lessened and recognise that we’re able to develop very sophisticated and robust solutions using JADE.Finding appropriate staff to work in a regional area has been a significant challenge however there are now many well trained university graduates who are willing to work and live in an area such as Ashburton.  We do have some who commute daily from Christchurch but this only takes an hour – comparable to commuting time in metropolitan areas.Which distributors do you use? Jade for its software development platform, Insite and Ingram Micro for computer equipment.What are the hot products/technologies right now? We find JADE is able to deliver everything that we and our clients require.  Developers enjoy using it and we can develop systems in a timely fashion with sophisticated functions normally only available on large systems.  What’s dropped off? COBOL!What’s the best thing about your location?To be able to live in a great town with a very short commute (five minutes) for most of our staff and yet still be within an hour of Christchurch, Mt Hutt and the airport.