Farm reseller sails Australian Flagship

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Perth-based agricultural software specialist Agrimaster has signed a contract to distribute Australian Flagship's integrated payroll and accounting package directly to Australian farms.

David Egerton-Warburton, managing director at Agrimaster, said the distributor had been seeking to add a payroll product to its books but few provided the integrated functionality of Wage Easy Payroll HR, a software system developed and sold by Melbourne ISV Australian Flagship.

“We researched the other products around Australia -- there's just thousands of payroll packages -- and the reason we picked Flagship was it was the most innovative and also had things like the award interpreter and was easy to set up and use,” he said.

Egerton-Warburton said Wage Easy Payroll HR integrated with a system called eWage that enabled users to access details about specific employee awards, tax issues and staff entitlements for factoring into payroll calculations. That functionality meant pay clerks could cut two or three steps from the pay preparation process, saving time and money.

“At the end of the day, what we've found is that could fill a real gap in the market. There are different types of wages programs but they're often a computerised version of the blue book you buy from newsagents. They often don't offer much more than a large calculator,” he said.

Egerton-Warburton said the product could make it easier for farmers and other rural businesspeople to sort through the morass of employee regulations and award allowances. “It's a leverage tool as opposed to just a calculator,” he said.

Agrimaster had found another product that offered similar functionality to Wage Easy Payroll HR, but in-house managers had reported that the rival software was a “nightmare” to deploy, he said.

The Australian Flagship software took half a day to get going, he said.

The deal was a new relationship for both companies. “They're a great company to work with,” Egerton-Warburton said. “Our developers have been working together. Our products are delivered into the back end, tied together -- that was also a big plus.”

Agrimaster does not use a network of resellers, preferring instead to offer products direct to its specialised agricultural sector clients via its own consultants.

“We would be delivering this for the top 20 percent of our client base ... but what we have found is that smaller companies than you expect are taking the product up,” he said. “It works just as well if you have one employee or 100 employees. If you're a big company, you buy more licences.”

Egerton-Warburton said he had “no idea” how much revenue the new software could earn Agrimaster in the first year.

Yet although financial problems in the bush have been a recurring theme for years, Egerton-Warburton said demand for specialised agricultural sector software -- that included functionality for such things as stock unit calculations and integrated tools to help the many farmers that ran more than one business -- was booming.

“We find the farming market is very computer-oriented. [IT] is essential and what we've developed is agriculture-specific software,” Egerton-Warburton said.

Grant Dunoon, managing director at Australian Flagship, said Wage Easy Payroll HR was a generic package that the two companies had adapted specifically for the agricultural sector. The software was attracting interest for its ability to integrate with other systems, including standard office applications such as Excel, he said.

“We got an R&D grant a couple of years ago to produce a system called eWage, which allows the distribution of award data and updates it automatically. But what Agrimaster is doing is reselling and distributing it and also creating the pastoral awards for it, so farms and pastoral businesses can keep up to date,” he said.

Industrial awards were usually “horrendously complex”, he said, and could lead to costly litigation and wastage of resources if companies failed to dish out staff allowances and penalties correctly the first time.

“There's a lot of different [issues] in the community as to how they should be repaying different penalties and so on. So eWage helps them sort that out,” Dunoon said.

He said the Australian Flagship software had proven popular in the hospitality industry. The company had done a pilot program with clubs in New South Wales and Victoria and had found some that had overpaid 50 staff for overtime worked. “That worked out to about $90,000 a year,” he said.

Most popular accounting systems, such as MYOB, did record-keeping and accounting-type operations but failed to include “interpretive” functions that examined regulatory requirements and other HR considerations.

Businesses everywhere sought to consolidate their IT packages and communications across their entire networks, Dunoon said, but many packages targeted businesses with thousands of staff and were priced accordingly.

“We're seeing people like SAP and PeopleSoft bring out $25,000 small business packages,” he said. “Wage Easy fits in all the details, and goes through the industrial awards and calculates out all the overtime, penalty rates, holiday pays and so on -– the whole lot,” he said.

Australian Flagship also distributed Wage Easy via Business Management Software in Melbourne, but sought other resellers for the product on a case by case basis, Dunoon said.

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