Smartbill’s DHS win sets up Asia

James Riley
Editorial Director

An Australian expense management and analytics software developer Smartbill has cracked the Australian Government market with a potentially huge win at the Department of Human Services, which the company says will give it a huge leg-up into other public sector markets in the region.

Smartbill is a cloud-based platform that lets organisations monitor and manage the personal and business usage of its telecommunications assets. In short, the company helps these organisations split personal usage from business usage – and repatriate to the organisation money being spent on personal calls.

For large enterprise – and DHS certainly qualifies – that carry telecommunications bills running into the tens of millions annually, better visibility of bills is a no-brainer. The platform is cloud-based and intelligent, learning as it goes so that the workforce isn’t spending time sorting through their phone histories.

Hangzhou springboard: If it’s good enough for Jack Ma, it’s good enough for Smartbill

Smartbill chief executive officer Sam Ayad says better management of telephone bills can save customers between 15 per cent and 25 per cent off their total spend. This is real money.

Mr Ayad says the DHS contract is enormously important to the company’s efforts in Asia. While it already has contracts with the Queensland, NSW and Victorian governments, a contract with the Commonwealth carries great weight in selling into the region.

“In Australia, the government is small compared to a lot of the governments in Asia,” Mr Ayad said, “but there is a lot of focus on what the Australians do in government, especially in Asia. Having the Australian Government as a reference-able site certainly does give us a boost in Asia.”

Smartbill is the kind of company that goes unheralded in Australia – but is precisely what our industry development policy is trying to build. It is fast growing, develops IP in this country and is export facing.

The company employs about 100 staff, with roughly 60 in Australia and 40 in China. It sells product into the Southeast Asian markets and New Zealand, and has started to make progress in China.

The company uses a base in Hangzhou – home of the famed Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma and his Alibaba headquarters – as both a service centre and a springboard into other Asia markets.

Mr Ayad says the company had ruled out going to a ‘first tier’ Chinese city, as it was in startup mode when it arrived and was cost conscious. It was unsure it would be able to compete for excellent staff in the bigger centres – and Hangzhou universities are famous for producing the kind of mathematics, and physics and other analytics intensive subjects that it needs to run its service centre.

Smartbill runs both onshore and offshore services, depending on the customer. Its government clients from Australia are clearly hosted onshore.

The company’s business has grown rapidly in Asia. Mr Ayad says although there are competitors – mainly American – it feels like it has a better understanding of specific needs in Asia. And it has a broader, deeper product.

The opportunity is big. The Department of Human Services signed a multi-year contract to use the company’s Personal Usage service. The system provides easy categorisation of business and personal calls and sessions. Employees identify business and personal calls easily and quickly.

Australia’s Department of Human Services has 34,000 employees and is responsible for the distribution of over $150 billion of government payments to over seven million citizens.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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