TechOne’s Di Marco steps down
Adrian Di Marco: TechnologyOne has grown to become Australia's largest software company
TechnologyOne executive chairman Adrian Di Marco will step down from his position on May 23. It will be 30 years since he founded the company in a spare room in a tanning factory in Brisbane.
He will be replaced as CEO by Edward Chung, currently TechnologyOne’s chief operating officer and a former finance director with Queensland Rail.
Mr Di Marco will remain as chairman of TechnologyOne’s board.
TechnologyOne has grown to become Australia’s largest software company. Many people don’t realise just how big it now is. The company’s market cap is over $1.6 billion, and it is on the verge of entering the ASX 100 (it has been a public company since 1999).
It has more than a thousand staff and a thousand customers. Most are in Australia and New Zealand, but it had also been successful in the South Pacific and in Malaysia. It has a large UK operation, which after a slow start is now profitable and growing strongly. It is eyeing expansion into the US.
Its growth from very humble beginnings is a remarkable story. But a disclosure first: I have been commissioned by TechnologyOne to write its 30th anniversary corporate history.
That job, which has been enormous fun, is nearly finished and the book will be out next month. So I am not unbiased. But it means I do know a bit about the place.
I have interviewed dozens of current and former staff members, all the current board members, and spent a lot of time with Adrian Di Marco himself. This is a story of remarkable perseverance.
The vision was actually pretty simple. Adrian Di Marco wanted to build a products company, not one based on custom software. He also wanted to ensure that TechnologyOne did everything itself – from sales, to implementation to after sales support.
It has no business partners – at least none on the sales and support side. Customers only ever deal directly with TechnologyOne.
TechnologyOne refers to this internally as ‘one throat to choke’, but its official branding is ‘The Power of One’.
TechnologyOne first appeared on my radar in the early 1990s. By that time I had already spent ten years as an IT industry journalist and market researcher. In 1994 my company launched CFO magazine as a companion to our successful MIS (Managing Information Systems) title, which styled itself as a management publication for senior computer professionals.
CFO magazine was intended to do the same for chief financial officers, talking to them about the management and technology issues they faced, rather than boring old accountancy. As part of this process we started surveying CFOs about what sort of financial software their organisations were using, and their experiences with it.
Back then the market was very fragmented, with dozens of packages available. The market leader was German software vendor SAP, which had come into Australia in the late 1980s and made an enormous impact by popularising the concept of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which was a fancy term for software integrated across a range of functions in an organisation, not just finance.
To our surprise, the survey found that most popular financial software was from a small Australian company we had not previously heard of.
TechnologyOne outpointed its competitors in ease of use, ease of installation, and overall customer satisfaction. We published the results, then they got in touch and asked if I could present the findings at their next user conference on the Gold Coast.
There I met Adrian Di Marco and Ron Maclean and dozens of satisfied users. As a journalist and analyst I go to many such events, but this one was a standout. I had never before witnessed such a positive vibe from a software company’s customer base.
TechnologyOne went on to repeat its performance for the three more years the study was conducted. It asked if it could use the findings in its advertising. We agreed of course. We should have asked for a cut of increased revenues – we found out years later that it was this advertising campaign that really made corporate Australia aware of the young upstart from Brisbane.
Since that time I have tracked TechnologyOne closely. I interviewed Adrian Di Marco many times over the years and was always impressed with his clarity of vision and the way he has championed the Australian software industry.
And, unlike many who complain about how things could be better, he actually did something about it, and successfully built a large global software company from within Australia.
The ERP and financial software market in the 1990s was a bloodbath. There were acquisitions, rationalisations, mergers and bankruptcies. The industry consolidated enormously. By the end of the decade there were just a few big players left.
One of them was TechnologyOne. It had pulled away from the pack and become one of the market leaders. Just three weeks before the end of the millennium, in December 1999, TechnologyOne went public. It was now one of the big boys.
The amazing thing is that it just kept becoming more successful. It expanded internationally and it massively increased its product base. Its revenues, profitability and share price just kept growing.
The most striking thing about the company’s growth has been its consistency – the way in which the company has kept growing, kept expanding, while staying true to its founding values. It is an object lesson in focus and determination.
It is a genuine Australian success story. Adrian Di Marco has every reason to be very proud of what he and his company have achieved.