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Australian ecommerce platform Marketplacer announced in December 2021 that it had successfully raised US$38 million to begin its U.S. expansion, product development and partner program.  

The company has already secured US$85 million of funding and has over 100 marketplace clients. It has also partnered with ecommerce giants such as Salesforce (who has invested in them), Adobe, Publicis Sapient, and Fenom Digital.  

To date, Marketplacer’s 100 clients have added more than 13,000 businesses, agencies and enterprises for shopping cart services, payment processing, promotions management, and drop-shipping in one platform.

IBRS interviewed Marketplacer’s executive team about their business and the opportunities that meshed marketplaces have for local merchants and service providers.

What is Marketplacer?

Marketplacer’s SaaS-based platform allows organisations with existing ecommerce platforms or large online communities to quickly integrate third party sellers into their environments. Amazon revolutionised retailing by allowing other retailers to sell on its shopping platform, and gained not only additional revenue streams but also expanded the value of the Amazon site to shoppers. Marketplacer’s platform effectively allows organisations to create a similar business model.

Marketplacer simplifies connecting an enterprise’s current ecommerce system (such as Salesforce Connected Cloud or Magento 2) with affiliated merchants. It allows an organisation with an existing base of customers to rapidly present new products and services to them from affiliates. 

The operator portal provided by Marketplacer covers day-to-day onboarding, marketplace management, product and return maintenance, central database management, process payments and payouts, tax and accounting, orders and logistics, communications and marketing, ratings and reviews, and data and insights. 

The seller portal allows sellers to access their own marke​​tplace and manage orders, refunds, logistics, marketing and promotion, as well as insights and reporting.

Why it’s Important

A new ecommerce segment emerges

Major players in the ecommerce platform industry such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Bigcommerce, and Magento have dominated much of the market. 

However, Marketplacer differentiates itself by allowing sellers to take advantage of pre-built connectors to fully maximise the platform that complements their existing tools and offering to support a wide range of products and services for sale. In addition, its front end is decoupled from back end logic and channel programming language, aside from being framework-agnostic. 

While Marketplacer is not the only platform attempting to define this new ecommerce segment, it has an edge in terms of out of the box integrations and features. The recent capital injection will position the vendor well in the US market, but also strengthens its long term stability in the Australian market.

IBRS predicts that Marketplacer’s biggest competitors will come from large enterprises that have acquired tech startups to expand their services and offer similar capabilities through their SaaS products, such as Oracle’s purchase of NetSuite in 2016, to expand Cloud solutions in more regions and industries. 

Aussie vendors punching above their weight

Many Australian tech and software companies have earned success overseas such as Canva, Atlassian, Afterpay, Xero and NEXTDC, all with market caps above US$5 billion.  

However, most local enterprises - including government - fail to recognise that smaller Australian vendors just starting to do well overseas are worth putting on their shortlists. This is not just a concern regarding national pride. IBRS notes that in many cases, smaller local vendors offer good value and generally have positive project outcomes, due in no small measure to having development resources close to their clients and having a vested interest in keeping such founding clients content.

In addition, local ISV (independent software vendors) often have solutions that are designed specifically to meet domestic compliance requirements and business processes: especially those that support public sector functions.

Another issue worth noting is that there has been a ramp up in the number of acquisitions of Australian tech post-startups in the past years. In 2021, Queensland based Clipchamp was bought by Microsoft, SaaS company CitrusAd was purchased by the Publicis Group, and Quantium was acquired by Woolworths. Channel partners and specialist IT service providers are also being snapped up.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Australian enterprises should look beyond the traditional mainstream players to emerging vendors and local providers. Pay attention to the benefits of local support channels and the costs associated with gaining experienced, local implementation partners that have expertise in the local market.

Finally, when working with internal teams to determine how new platforms will demand changes to operations and even the business model, look more closely at the implications of selecting such tools or platforms, including security and reputational risks, from local vendors as well as the international brands.

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The Latest

25 January 2022: ServiceNow has recently launched ServiceNow Impact that provides AI-driven recommendations along with human-powered solutions on technical support, prescriptive guidance, preventive solutions, role-based training, curated content, and coaching using the Now Platform. Users will receive personalised recommendations on customer success, progress monitoring, platform architecture and performance management to improve their overall workflow automation.

ServiceNow’s AI is leveraged to deliver recommendations that allow users to optimise their existing ServiceNow platform, without integrating third party tools into the system. The solution also provides personal support through on-demand training, and dedicated expert teams and developer consulting depending on a user’s subscription package. 

Why it’s Important.

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of AI decision support services being integrated into workflow automation tools. Hyper-automation on decision-making processes built on top of existing workflow platforms and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions is where most organisations will obtain the quickest impact from AI - specifically machine learning (ML). Therefore, instead of investing in separate ML tools and developing custom algorithms, it may be more prudent to leverage existing SaaS platforms emerging AI and ML capabilities.

In addition, many service providers that use AI to automate workplace processes, customer journey flows and enterprise spend management continue to expand their tool’s capabilities in terms of customised solutions to address each organisation’s requirements on value acceleration. In this regard, AI will continue to maintain its essential ‘invisible’ role by recommending better workflows, which in turn drive service quality and agility.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • System administrators
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Look for opportunities to leverage AI (and ML) from existing investments in SaaS platforms. In particular, look for how AI is being used to make recommendations on improving workflow with low-code development platforms. Bespoke AI initiatives will be less utilised in favour of AI being added to already existing SaaS applications.

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The Latest

25 January 2022: IBM has announced its acquisition of Sydney-based data analytics software company Envizi. In an official press release, the move was finalised to boost IBM’s capabilities to provide environmental, social and governance (ESG) analytics, which is an emerging specialised field.  

Envizi will be integrated with IBM’s existing package of manufacturing and supply chain solutions such as IBM Maximo, IBM Sterling, IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite (EIS) and IBM Turbonomic to support feedback automation in their operations and corporate environmental initiatives. 

Why it’s Important.

IBRS has observed increased activity by large vendors acquiring small, local Australian enterprises that specialise in data analytics. Some of these include the following:

  • Fujitsu’s acquisition of Melbourne-based data and analytics firm Versor in 2021
  • Cognizant’s 2021 purchase of Sydney-based Servian, a data analytics and AI vendor
  • Healthcare tech firm Beamtree’s acquisition of New South Wales-based comparative analytics enterprise Potential(x) in 2021
  • Accenture’s 2019 purchase of Australian big data and analytics consultancy Analytics8 then its series of acquisitions involving advanced analytics firms overseas such as Bridgei2i and Byte Prophecy in India, Novetta Solutions and End-to-End Analytics in the United States, as well as PRAGSIS BIDOOP in Spain.

Aside from these, acquisitions of data analytics startups by other firms outside of Australia have become prominent in the industry with the likes of Capgemini on Sweden-based Advectas, Genpact on Enquero, and Infogain on Absolutdata, which were all formalised in 2020.

IBRS believes that while it is beneficial for the industry to have vendors expand their analytics capabilities, customers or enterprise partners need to constantly assess the likely impact on their existing service contracts with analytics partner vendors. Some of the areas that are critical include terms and conditions, possible pricing changes, future services, contracted support and personnel changes, among others.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Organisations need to be prepared for their analytics partners to be the next targets for acquisitions. As part of its strategy, organisations must remain vigilant and engaged with their analytics vendor partners regarding any acquisitions and the potential impact on services and costs. This includes assessing the implications of the potential scenarios that are most likely to occur, as well as the risks or opportunities that may be present with regard to adjusting to ramifications to the existing service, if there are any. Some potential risks or challenges that must be reviewed by the organisation’s legal and procurement teams can be found on this checklist.

Finally, organisations need to be cautious on assurances that are critical to their operations if these have not yet been put into written agreement. Becoming more pragmatic about the new vendor will minimise service disruptions in the future.

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The Latest

4 January 2022: RingCentral recently announced that it is expanding its telephony solutions through the Message Video Phone™ (MVP™) platform via a ‘bring your own carrier’ (BYOC) offering. The vendor will also enhance its service to enterprise call centre solutions by allowing Microsoft Teams clients in Australia to integrate the RingCentral app for embedded dialler integration, direct routing solution and fax, call-to-web and voicemail capabilities.

Why it’s Important

IBRS has observed a rise in the number of call centres integrating apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom in their operations for embedded phone features. In March 2021, MaxContact, a vendor of a Cloud-based call-centre solution, announced it is supporting integration of Microsoft Teams clients. 

The increased interest in integration of popular video collaboration solutions is a direct result of customers’ recent experiences with video calling. The pandemic has raised expectations for digital service delivery and omnichannel experiences.

IBRS predicts that within the next three to five years, video call centres will be common, and supplement existing in-house facilities. This will coincide with the majority of call centres adopting real-time agent solutions to off-load common service requests and free up operators to offer a deeper, hyper-personalised care that will increasingly include video. These companies will also leverage advanced real-time analytics and artificial intelligence that will accurately detect client sentiment and reaction in every digital interaction.

However, while white-glove service is ideal and will be the norm in the coming years, two challenges will arise. First, even if the technology is already available, it is too early to determine which industries will lead the way and what impact it will have on traditional call-centre outsourcing models. For instance, Australian banks have relocated their call centre operations back to Australia to streamline communications and quickly resolve issues firsthand.

Second, will be the value of outsourced call centres, especially in Asia Pacific where millions of business process outsourcing (BPO) workers in the Philippines cater to telecommunication, banking and insurance customers in the United States, Australia, Europe, Canada and Japan. Video calls will require more than just accent training to make it appear that the servicing company is based locally. The entire user experience - including the call centre environment - will need to be ‘localised’ for different markets.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • User experience/customer journey teams
  • Customer service teams
  • Call centre teams

What’s Next?

Call centre managers must invest time in exploring new modes of communication with the aim of enhancing customer relationship management (CRM) tools. However, given that it is highly profitable for vendors to take advantage of this trend in the next five years, call centre solution vendors will be looking for ways to differentiate themselves, while also supporting a wide range of common integrations.

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The Latest

December 2021: Data centre and colocation service provider NEXTDC announced it will buy 20 per cent (AU$35m of equity) in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider AUCloud to support the latter's Cloud platform zone expansion in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. These centres will be operational as early as the fourth quarter of 2022.

Why it’s Important

NEXTDC is a major data centre provider in Australia with strong contracts in the public and private sectors. By buying into AUCloud, the firm is preparing its position for what is expected to be a wave of 're-localisation' of Cloud services, bringing Cloud workloads back from geographically spread environments to smaller, Australian-based sites.

With re-localisation, enterprises can benefit from highly responsive support from regional Cloud providers that do not just ride the trend of introducing solutions based on US or European requirements and enforce it for local enterprises.

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads

What’s Next?

Organisations must consider the advantages of working with localised Cloud service providers, especially those with a strong reputation in the industry. They have to look into the benefits that it can bring to their platform in terms of service and technology, delivering geographic redundancy while taking advantage of the proximity to their facilities. These localised services can help with latency and meet data security and compliance requirements demanded by some industries.

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The Latest

2 November 2021: Two former Western Sydney TAFE (WSI TAFE) executives have been charged by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for allegedly engaging in illegal solicitation and acceptance of $450,000 from IT consultancy firm Oscillosoft. The three-year investigation published its findings in a public report that revealed how the executives failed to comply with the proper IT procurement processes when they acquired the iPlan software program on behalf of the institute.

Why it’s Important.

IT-related fraud and corruption have grabbed the headlines in the past years, including:

  • the payment of false invoices in 2015 by a former IT manager who worked at several Australian universities 
  • the 2016 corruption investigation involving $1.7 million in payments for the personal business of an ICT manager at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute 
  • the 2012 illegal ICT contractor recruitment by the head of ICT projects at The University of Sydney 
  • and just recently in 2020, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) investigated fraud allegations concerning $2.8 billion worth of procurement contracts by government agencies made with IBM. 

While these headline grabbing examples are concerning, the reality is questionable contracting and programming in ICT is far more pervasive than most executives would like to admit.

IBRS has seen multiple examples of this problem. 

Sometimes these have been uncovered as part of ‘project rescue’ engagements where IBRS has been asked to review why a project is failing and recommend remediation. This is the worst time to discover that the consulting services being procured are more or less thin air, as it means significant budget has already been spent. In one case, IBRS identified a project to implement a major information system had burnt through $3.5 million over three years without a single delivery milestone being met and no code being available for review. There was a ‘friendship’ between the contracting company and the ICT executive.   

In another case, IBRS uncovered consulting being awarded to a family member of the person granting the contracts, and the organisation had an ‘over-reliance’ on contracting.   

Neither of these situations may warrant a corruption investigation. Though they certainly skirted the edges of the law.

At other times, IBRS has uncovered questionable contracting and procurement as part of project assurance reviews. This is the best time to reveal problematic procurement, since it occurs earlier in the project cycle and thus heads off significant losses. More importantly, when staff know that such activities are likely to be exposed as part of the regular due diligence of project assurance, the temptation to engage in such activities that just barely skirt corruption is far less likely to occur.

There is a great deal of financial and reputational savings to be accomplished by putting appropriate governance, such as formal gateway reviews and project assurance programs, in place. 

That said, not every project needs a top-down approach to procurement. Still, the industry needs a more careful process of choosing the right level of governance and assurance for the right projects, taking into consideration the context and culture of each organisation.  

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • CFO
  • Procurement teams
  • Executive board

What’s Next?

For fraud and corruption to be prevented, better oversight by an institution's board should be extended to overriding controls, reviewing financial transactions and reporting processes, coupled with a program of project assurance.

Internal controls in payroll, procurement, inventory, sales and financial reporting must be proactive to prevent the manipulation of processes. 

Finally, organisations must review procurement processes regularly and amend sections that promote poor supervision and weak adherence to routine audits.

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