Microsoft picks up Southern Cross University training program for Asia Pacific

Published 17 November 2003

A small Australian university has come up with a training program that software giant, Microsoft, is so taken with that it is actively promoting it across Asia to small application software companies, in a venture expected to bring substantial financial awards and research
opportunities for the university.

The training program, designed and run by Southern Cross University (SCU) in northern NSW, is aimed at helping small business people who sell computer software - such as Microsoft software - to improve their business management skills.

Microsoft has recognised the problem of many small software retailers often running into business difficulties in their first two years of operation. When approached by SCU with a program to address the issue, Microsoft provided development funding and has supported the program in kind ever since, SCU Executive Dean of Business, Professor Lawson Savery, said.

The program is being marketed to Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), as they're known, with the help of Microsoft Asia Pacific. The program has started in New Zealand, Singapore and India, and is about to be offered in Australia in a few weeks, and China and South Korea next year (it will be translated in those two countries).

"We hope that we can run the program to at least 5,000 people across Asia a year initially," Professor Savery said.

SCU's program includes two-day and five-day courses as well as annual updates online, through the specially-formed Enterprise Development and Research Institute (EDRI).

The idea for the training program came from an MBA graduate through SCU, Malcolm Fraser, who has his own IT company called E-Factorium (now an industry partner with EDRI), and marketing lecturer Dr Steve Kelly, who is based at SCU's Tweed Gold Coast campus. Dr Kelly was then supported by his Head of School, Associate Professor Keith Sloan, and the Dean, Professor Savery, in developing the program over the past year.

Through Microsoft, the University has had access to the leading business schools in the Asia
Pacific region, with whom it is forming partnerships to run the program. For instance, SCU's
partner in China is the leading Tsing-Hua University in Beijing. In China alone there are an estimated 100,000 ISVs.

"Being associated with Microsoft has opened a lot of doors for us," Professor Savery said. "They're putting us in touch with the organisations which represent the people who sell their
programs, and the top universities. Microsoft has got behind the program and pushed it, and
has been our marketing arm in many ways," he said.

Some of the university partners were initially dubious about working with a small Australian university when they were used to dealing with big ones such as MIT and Cornell, Oxford and Cambridge, Professor Savery said.

"However the quality of the program and the support of John Ryan, Partner Program Manager for Microsoft Asia Pacific and Greater China region, meant that they have joined us in this exciting venture," he said.

The media release from Microsoft on the program released in India recently is headed 'Microsoft launches management education to strengthen region's software vendors' management skills'. It says the Software Business Management Course is designed to help ISVs reduce their operating risk and leverage the experience of proven management practices in their industry.

"One of the great problems with ISVs is that they tend to be small business people who know a lot about technology but lack small business skills," Professor Savery said. "So we have come up
with a program to train the managers. Our job is to offer programs on strategic management,
finance, accounting, controls and so on, so they better understand how to work their business.

"Microsoft sees this as a very important way in which they develop their frontline suppliers to the public."

The program also has a research arm, and Southern Cross University is carrying out research on the effectiveness of the program and success of those who complete it.

Media contact: Chris Stewart Ph: 02 66203039 M: 0418 431484.