SolNet: Quality, service and expertise

SolNet: Quality, service and expertise

SolNet has grown into one of New Zealand’s leading services organisations, with offerings ranging from software development to architecture design and implementation and 24x7 support.

SolNet has grown into one of New Zealand’s leading services organisations, with offerings ranging from software development to architecture design and implementation and 24x7 support. While SolNet has made its name in New Zealand as the representative for Sun Microsystems, a significant focus for many years has been on software development. “We’ve always concentrated on the enterprise space,” says Mark Botherway, managing director of SolNet, “with a specialty in infrastructure. Our background with Sun has given us a wealth of experience in helping clients move to open, standards-based environments.”

“In software development we have expanded from working with Sun-based systems and are now extremely comfortable with multi-platform environments; in fact, networks built exclusively around a single platform or programming language are becoming increasingly rare. Open systems and programme portability are the catchwords for today’s environments.”

SolNet’s success in this extremely competitive marketplace is due to a number of factors including highly skilled people, an agile and flexible management style, an appreciation for emerging technologies that support innovative solutions and the ability to design systems that support the client’s business goals. “Our Professional Services encompass architecture design and implementation as well as full 24x7 support,” says Botherway. “We have specific expertise in the delivery of online and web-based solutions from integration into legacy back-end systems to ‘front-end’ portal implementations. With the largest dedicated team of Java developers in the country, we have delivered solutions for many of New Zealand’s largest companies across all sectors including government, telecommunications and finance.”

Top-quality people guarantee top-quality outcomes. This is the primary reason that SolNet has grown from a dozen employees in 1993 to more than 150 highly skilled professionals today, with offices both in New Zealand and Australia. “In any hiring category we aim to target the top 5%,” says John Hanna, director of sales and marketing at SolNet. “For example, in development our interview process is intensive. In addition to technical proficiency tests, prospective employees are also assessed on their expertise, goals and personality to ensure that they are a good cultural fit. They then undergo a group interview with their prospective colleagues. If they pass muster, only then do we welcome them onto the team.

“The process has worked very well for us,” says Hanna. “In fact, our staff retention is unusually high for this industry. One of the reasons for this is that our project work is varied and interesting so that teams are always challenged. We also enable them to take advantage of new technologies as they become available. Our people are innovators when it comes to Java, Linux and other leading-edge technologies and thrive on projects that fall into the ‘too hard’ category.”

One of the key advantages of the SolNet software development team is a well-defined methodology. “We have created a thorough 12-step process that provides a structured format for all of our software development projects,” says Bob Bulpin, Auckland software development manager. “While there is a lot of flexibility built into the methodology, the basic steps and tasks are well-thought out and highly developed. For instance, we have an estimation process that we follow rigorously. One of the hardest parts of any development project is estimating how much the project will cost. There are so many variables involved, ranging from shifting priorities, new technology and more, that it is often difficult to predict how much resource will be required.

“What we’ve done, however, is developed a process based on ‘functional decomposition’ where we take each individual aspect of the project and break it down into the most basic constituents such as number of screens, transaction processing, etc. We’ve refined the process to the point where we recently delivered a multi-million dollar project to within 1% of the estimated cost. We can even adapt the model for use when consulting to assess the ultimate feasibility of the project .”

SolNet’s service portfolio covers essentially all aspects of software development. “In addition to full-blown development projects,” says Bulpin, “we have a wide variety of capabilities and packaged services that can add value to projects. For instance, we have developed two performance testing tools, PerfectLoad and PerfectTrack. These applications simulate how software will react under varying conditions as well as track and display performance statistics for a full range of software architecture components. This can either be done on-site in the actual physical environment in which the applications will run or we can replicate the environment in our own test lab and run any number of simulations.”

Part and parcel of a successful project is a successful specification. “We take the analysis process very seriously,” says Hanna. “Before any proposal goes out, it is peer-reviewed to ensure that everything promised can be delivered. So by the time we’ve completed the design work and specified the final deliverable, a lot of the hard work has already been done.”

It is this flexibility and attention to detail that has fuelled SolNet’s growth over the past decade. “A key part of our value proposition is that we specialise in taking the hard jobs that require a complex mix of technical expertise, an in-depth knowledge of the infrastructure involved and senior-level people who understand the client’s business requirements and how the technology can be harnessed to achieve those goals. We focus much more on quality as opposed to quantity and have taken a pragmatic approach to our methodology. At SolNet we are proud of our track record of satisfied customers with whom we have an on-going relationship.”

SolNet is very much a locally based organisation. “We’re a privately-owned New Zealand company,” says Botherway, “so that gives us even more incentive to establish long-term partnerships with our client base. We’re here for the long haul so we can’t afford to make short-sighted decisions. Quality has brought us this far and we’re fully committed to carrying on in this way.”

The combination of good people, leading-edge technology, conscientious execution and comprehensive support has proven to be a winner for SolNet. “The unique way in which we partner with our customers has worked very well for us,” says Botherway. “Our approach which includes continuous transfer of knowledge throughout the process has allowed us to build a solid bond and trusting relationship with them. The bottom line is that, regardless of the software development requirements, we can either facilitate the entire requirement or work at any step of the project to ensure customers achieve their business goals.”


Level 1, Sun Microsystems House

10 Viaduct Harbour Avenue

Auckland: Ph 09 977 5800

Level 12, Sun Microsystems House

70 The Terrace

Wellington: Ph 04 462 5000

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