Stories by Agnes King

Learning in cyberspace

Education is doing well out of the financial crisis. Workers, worried about their employment prospects, are keen to add skills to their resume and a master of business administration, or enhanced qualifications, certainly helps the employability factor. The federal government is also pouring money into its so-called education revolution, providing more opportunities.
While conventional face-to-face learning is growing, online education is doing even better. Various factors are increasing demand for online learning services. It is cheaper than face-to-face learning for a start. Companies using online learning frequently report savings of between 30 and 60 per cent. It is also more convenient. Students have the ability to dip in and out when it suits them, which makes it particularly attractive to time-starved professionals. Further, geographical location is irrelevant, making courses that were once limited to a metropolitan or regional audience available to a broader set of consumers.

Written by Agnes King22 Sept. 09 22:00

Click go the cheers

In the United States' summer of 1988, internet evangelist Vint Cerf ambled into an information technology conference at the Moscone centre in downtown San Francisco. A huge two-storey display by computer equipment maker Cisco Systems for its new-fangled online products caught his eye. Turning to a friend, he asked how much such an advertisement cost. Between $US250,000 and $US500,000 came the response. "That was the moment I realised that if people were putting this kind of money into internet products they saw serious commercial potential," Cerf says.
In the following months, Cerf wrangled with politicians to open up the internet to the general public rather than restricting its use to the US military and scientific researchers. By Christmas, the first packets of commercial data were travelling across the internet. From 1988, the internet's population of computers and users began doubling annually. "Plainly, a responsive chord had been struck," he says.

Written by Agnes King18 Oct. 08 22:00

Beyond the legacy

Billions of dollars are being spent on the upgrade of banking software systems just so they can compete. But it may lay the groundwork for new, different services - and profits.
In London, customers walk into a bank for a home loan and emerge 20 minutes later knowing whether they can borrow money and exactly how much. In Hong Kong, the locals switch their mortgage between currencies to potentially reduce their debt by playing the currency market. In Australia, a nation that 20 years ago was at the cutting edge of technology in financial services, progress appears to have stalled.

Written by Agnes King13 June 08 22:00

Clicking their heels up

Online shops may leave the retailing king Gerry Harvey cold, but the generation Y fashion label Sportsgirl has hit the mark with its web store launched last November.
Sales are rapidly approaching that of a mid-size Melbourne outlet, says Sportsgirl chief executive Elle Roseby.

Written by Agnes King27 May 08 22:00

IT companies defy credit crunch

Segments of the information technology sector are still feeling bullish about expansion despite the impact of the credit crunch on corporate spending.
Storage hardware maker NetApp and search engine optimisation company ReachLocal have unveiled aggressive plans to expand local operations.

Written by Agnes King03 April 08 23:00

I, Robot

Banks are exploring artificial intelligence as a way to supplement call centre staff and cut expenses amid the rising cost of capital, escalating labour costs and demanding customers threatening to dent their stellar earnings.
Australian start-up MyCyberTwin, which creates three-dimensional computer characters known as avatars bearing artificial intelligence, is holding trials with a number of big banks seeking to clone aspects of their best customer service representatives. It hopes to close agreement with at least one early next year.

Written by Agnes King08 Dec. 07 22:00

Data on the run

By 10am the day after the Newcastle floods hit in June, local plumber Joe Evers had 98 messages on his phone from desperate home owners ankle-deep in water.
Dispatching jobs to his team of 10 plumbers, Evers quietly congratulated himself on investing in mobile data devices - i-mate JasJams at $1000 a piece - for his staff. His competitors were temporarily out of business, their offices wiped out by the floods. Evers' headquarters were flooded too, but his operation, The Plumbing Doctor, kept humming virtually uninterrupted.

Written by Agnes King18 Nov. 07 22:00

Wizards of IT

A close analysis of five successful IT brands unearths a constituent of hard-nosed and seasoned businessmen.
The boss of computer services company UXC, Geoff Lord, is the former head of Elders Resources, IBA Health chairman Greg Cohen was one of the country's top tax lawyers, and Oakton chief executive Neil Wilson is a business strategist.

Written by Agnes King14 Aug. 07 22:00

Firing on all cylinders 09082007

Peter Birtles was acutely aware of Supercheap Auto's deficiencies when he took over as managing director in January last year. The auto-parts business was flat: during 2005-06 it declined by 2 per cent. The opportunity to develop the Supercheap Auto business through new store openings had diminished. Investors didn't share Supercheap's confidence in the newly formed Boats Fishing & Camping (BFC) brand. And in mid 2006, this scepticism translated into a share-price drop from $1.97 to $1.56.
The situation triggered a widespread bout of melancholy among Supercheap staff. "We were used to smashing through goals," Birtles says. "We'd experienced 25 per cent compound annual growth in sales over a 15-year period."

Written by Agnes King08 Aug. 07 22:00