Interview: Nick Southcombe, Frontier Software

Frontier Software Pty Ltd

By Jonathan Nally
Monday, 04 December, 2017

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Which technologies do you think will be game changers in 2018?

Following the hype over the last few years, we’ll see exponential growth of AI applications on our smartphones and corporate websites. Both governments and businesses will use AI and machine learning to support chat bots, the automation of functions and tasks, and for driving headcount reduction. 2018 will see a dramatic increase in the availability and adoption of blockchain technology, not just for financial transactions but also privacy management and application security. And technology such as the Apple Home app and Google Home will start feeding big data repositories in the cloud. Over time, our smart assistants will extract insights to help us manage our daily lives.

What are your customers most concerned about for the year ahead?

Because our software applications hold personal data and manage financial transactions, our customers are most concerned about cyber threats. We allocate considerable resources to the continual maintenance and enhancement of our applications and infrastructure security. Blockchain technology will start to play a part in the challenge of dealing with cyber threats. Our customers are just now starting to become aware of and asking about AI, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA), and exploring how they might enable automation to achieve greater throughput, greater accuracy and higher levels of service consistency for their employees and customers.

The search for and retention of talent remains a challenge for all types and sizes of organisations. Automation of staff recruitment is interesting as it poses both an opportunity and a threat to our customers. It is now possible to run your search results through AI-driven tools, such as CV parsing, to generate quality short lists. The problem with technology-based automated staff recruitment is that your own employees can become targets for other organisations, simply because they may have a presence on LinkedIn. Employees who are not actively looking for a new role are now much easier to find.

What will be the biggest growth opportunities for your company and your customers in 2018?

Mobility, mobility and more mobility. On any device. Organisations want to free their workforce from their workstations and to offer access to applications when and where they want, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The demand for user-friendly mobile applications is almost insatiable.

Integrated systems remain a high priority for our customers, too. Systems without interface requirements, which eliminate data redundancy, and which provide a single source of truth and support a full human capital management (HCM) lifecycle are in big demand. Looking beyond 2018, a well-implemented, fully integrated HCM lifecycle system will enable organisations to build their own repository of big data. The business intelligence that can be unlocked from these repositories has the potential to deliver competitive advantage.

What’s on your tech wish list from industry, regulators and innovators for 2018?

Firstly, faster internet within Australia and from Australia to the rest of the world. Australia is ranked 50th worldwide for the average speed of its fixed internet connections, and our connections to the rest of the world are also bothersome. Not only does the nbn need to deliver on its promise, regulators have to create an enabling framework that encourages and rewards innovators to chase down this gap. And secondly, the nirvana of development tools is one that would allow us to easily produce software — apps or browser-based — for all types of desktops, tablets and smartphones, and their associated operating systems, from a single set of code.

Nick Southcombe joined Frontier Software in 2007 as general manager for Australia and was recently appointed CEO. During his tenure, the company has grown from 200 staff to over 320 in Australia and around 500 globally, and has diversified the company from software and sales support to providing a range of additional delivery and service options, including hosted/cloud solutions and full BPO services.

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