Aussie developer takes on Google Analytics

Australian internet systems and software company Elcom is developing its own analytics engine, which it thinks might fit in a sweet spot between free analytics such as Google's and more expensive options such as Omniture.
Written by Colin Ho, Contributor

company profile Australian internet systems and software company Elcom is developing its own analytics engine, which it thinks might fit in a sweet spot between free analytics such as Google's and more expensive options such as Omniture.

Elcom Logo

(Credit: Elcom)

"Free Analytics packages like Google Analytics are great and have set a standard in the industry but often they don't go far enough and you don't own the data; [while] commercial products like Omniture can be prohibitively expensive for mid-sized organisations," Elcom product director Anthony Milner told ZDNet Australia.

"We are developing a best-of-breed analytics engine that has many of the capabilities of the leading products but with the additional advantage that it is integrated into the core CMS engine. This allows us to gain a much broader and deeper insight into visitor behaviour," said Milner.

It's not only Google's work that Elcom's looking at, but also its play. In a Google-inspired twist, developers at Elcom get time to spend on their own training as well as work on personal projects.

"We've actually had a number of [Elcom product] modules come from developer time. Developer time wasn't our idea but Google's — but hey, it was a good one so we copied it," said Milner with a laugh.

While it expects its employees to work hard, the company also takes a leaf out of Google's book in creating a "fun" work environment.

"I guess work environment is something that is quite unique about Elcom, we're a family-friendly, flexible work environment; we have a great break area with Xbox, foosball and table tennis. It's an environment which helps to promote creativity and foster a culture of innovation," he said.


Founded by John Anstey, Elcom has been part of the Australian web application development scene since 1996. While it primarily provides content management systems, intranet and web software, the company has also dabbled in designing and implementing websites.

According to Milner, one of the milestones of the company was helping develop the Australian Taxation Office's online e-tax platform.

"Our development of the e-tax solution for the Australian taxation office, that was probably one of the bigger milestones where we were working in the Australian Technology Park in the Innovations centre," said Milner. It was a kind of "incubator" for creativity and collaboration.

"It was quite serendipitous; there was a culture of collaboration in the innovation centre at time."

"Our involvement in e-tax was around web-based lodgement architecture, security, online chat and help desk systems, plus surveys. We helped the ATO go from an initial pilot to a full production system, which today handles over 2 million tax lodgements," he said.

However, when asked about developing e-tax for platforms like Macintosh and Linux, Milner was unable to comment, since his team was primarily focused on Windows. At the time of publication, e-tax still isn't natively available for Mac or Linux.

Elcom has been able to obtain government contracts on top of the e-tax work. However, the company is also edging into the enterprise market.

"We work across a range of industry verticals and at local level, state level and federal level in terms of government," said Milner, highlighting contract wins with Sydney West Health Service and the Australian Trade Commission, AUSTRADE.

"We actually work on a very aggressive release schedule; we have four major releases a year in Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4," said Milner.

Perhaps it is Elcom's agility and size that allows it to rain down this blitzkrieg of releases.

"We're able to move quicker and respond to changes in the industry, there's a lot less red tape which fosters a culture of innovation to get the best out of our people and attract good staff," said Milner when quizzed about the company's lithe figure.

Elcom goes to the Wild West

While some Australian companies ship off to the UK, for Elcom the decision to move west to the United States of America was a logical one.

"A lot of our leads came in through the web and we weren't just targeting an Australian audience, we were targeting a US audience," he said.

So with luck, several contract wins in its pocket and ex-staffers in the North American heartland, Elcom expanded into the US market.

Regardless of whether a company's in the US or in Australia, Milner believes it's a good time to be a specialist CMS and internet application vendor.

He mentioned there are great examples where Australian businesses had innovated on the web, "but the main cohort of Australian business are only just beginning to understand and fully integrate the web into their business processes".

"If you talk to most of the leading CMS vendors in Australia they are being inundated with customers wanting to go to the next level. They can't find enough staff to sell and implement their systems. This growth and excitement in this space is reminiscent of the way organisations embraced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning systems) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) implementations in the mid-90's," said Milner.

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