Our inclusion in the book alongside companies like Intel, Microsoft, Comparex Africa and Dimension Data is proof that the Eastern Cape is capable of producing a company that is a leader in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Online Innovations is recognised as a leader in the development of “web-based business applications” in the book, which is published by the Corporate Research Foundation.
Online Innovations is a Port Elizabeth based company that is a leader in the development of web-based business applications. This incorporates websites, intranets and extranets for large, medium and small, national and international clients.
The company’s commitment to continual research and innovation and an in-depth understanding of business processes will keep it at the leading edge of both traditional web sites and web-based business solutions.
Flexibility and innovation *****
Growth markets ****
Quality of management ****
International orientation ***
Human resource priorities ****
Online Innovations does not believe that companies should be constrained by technology. A “If you can think it, you can do it,” philosophy leads to the development of solutions.
Being based in Port Elizabeth. The country’s business hubs remain Cape Town and Gauteng. While communications links make both readily accessible from Port Elizabeth, the skills and cost-effectiveness of Eastern Cape companies are often overlooked.
Online Innovations is a privately-held company. It is cash positive and self-funded.
Staff: Averages nine full time, with others brought in on contract as needed.
Online Innovations was founded by Dirk Erasmus and Kevin Grey in 2000, tracing their routes back to the early 90s when they were studying together, and started a small print shop.
After leaving the printing industry they went their respective ways, but maintained very close ties, and remained in the IT industry, with Erasmus pursuing IT and networking full time, and Grey heading up the Eastern Cape branch of Venture Computer Company.
Erasmus received his first exposure to the might of the Internet in 1995 when the IT company, Vantage Computers, in which he was a partner was contracted to the PE franchise of Worldnet Africa, the Internet division or arm of the CSIR, now known as Mweb. Between 1995 and 2000 Vantage Computers continued to provide clients with Internet services, mostly email and connectivity.
In Online Innovations Erasmus is responsible for general management, administration and all matters technical,
Grey's strengths are in design, marketing and sales. His responsibilities include design, consulting, sales (Web), Project Co-ordination, Quotations, Media and Advertising.
Online Innovations was founded in early 2000, after Grey and Erasmus came back together, after each being in the ICT industry for several years, where gaining much experience in business and industry, and recognising the power of the Internet and electronic commerce.
The forming of Online Innovations was an accumulation of Erasmus' IT and business knowledge, powered by Grey's strong creativity and marketing/client liaison skills.
The company helps its customers to use the Internet as an efficient business tool by combining an understanding of both information technology and business processes. The co-founders grasp of business processes comes from their hands-on experience in running and managing a variety of companies.
“A good website is not static. It is an information resource and organisations often overlook the importance of having a current informative website. More and more often the Internet is becoming the first contact made between customer and company and as we all know, first impressions last,” says Grey. A simple, cost effective and practical solution was needed to allow website owners the convenience of maintaining their website’s content.
Online Innovations developed its Advanced Content Management System (CMS) that now forms the backbone to almost all of its creations. The CMS, integrates smoothly and entirely into any dynamic data driven website and was developed to allow clients the convenience of maintaining all content and copy of their site without specialised skills or software. The standard CMS package provides the ability to edit content, attach documents and insert pictures via a web based administration interface.
Additional modules have also been developed that complements this system and may facilitate menu management, a file and document library, an events calendar, opinion polls and surveys and a photo gallery application. The Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate (www.fancourt.co.za), Bridgestone Firestone SA (www.firestone.co.za, www.bridgestone.co.za) and the Eastern Cape Government (www.ecprov.gov.za) are just some of examples of the successful implementation of the ACMS.
“While we make sure we are always up to date with the latest developments, we don’t believe in experimenting at our clients’ expense. We prefer to go with proven technology,” says Grey. Easy website administration and taking advantage of available technologies, to the fullest, is a focus at Online Innovations. Many solutions have been devised whereby sites are maintained by integrating with existing systems that are deployed by the customer.
Applications are often developed, while methods can also be devised to simply plug-into open systems than may exist. Good examples are the extraction of data from a MRP system so that real-time web-based management and productions reports can be viewed from many of the remote locations of a multi-national like Corning and the development of an application for a local radio station (Algoa FM) that displays play list information in real-time on the website. Clients do not require to purchase any software licensing for website maintenance, and the system is entirely web browser driven. Stock standard off-the-shelf software, like many Microsoft applications can also be utilised to facilitate a flexible solution for website maintenance allowing the client, for example, to maintain records on the local pc using a standard Excel spreadsheet. The successes of these abilities are evident with many of the extranets and business-to-business website applications developed by the team. These web-based applications are very successful as they assist with closer collaboration with customers and the reduction of operating costs.
The convenience of the Internet and its server side architecture lends itself to the development of other inexpensive and effective web-based solutions that were traditionally client side applications. These solutions are as far reaching as CRM applications that integrate into POS applications or loyalty schemes to a container tracking system for an international tyre manufacturer where Online Innovations has helped improve the management of its container shipments. Demurrage costs are incurred with port authorities when containers are left in the harbour for longer than the allocated time. The system tracks exactly where in the clearing chain a breakdown occurs, assisting with the identification of solutions and incurred demurrage costs.
Online Innovations identified that advantages of the Internet when deployed as an “extranet” to facilitate communication between entities in the franchise business model, and has successfully implemented such communication extranets for companies like Supaquick, Firestone and Spec-Savers.
Several tourism-focused sites are hosted by Online Innovations, including the official Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism site. They have all experienced a 30% growth in visits in six months. The number of visitors to Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism for example has grown from 200 a month in March 2001 to over 10 000 a month during peak periods. This increase mirrors the growth in tourist numbers to the Eastern Cape, and is also part of a global trend. “You will find the same trend across all markets. Research in Europe and Hong Kong, for example, shows a doubling of the number of tourists visiting web sites while planning and booking their holidays,” says Grey. These successes have been a feather in the Online Innovations’ cap.
They have experienced a rewarding return on investing extensively in providing their customers with a world class hosting and statistics environment. Their firewall secured server (hosted in the secure server farm of Internet Solutions), together with being able to provide customers with real-time site statistics has often given them the edge when tendering for business. Due to the many mission critical websites hosted by the company, security and uptime is of the outmost importance.
“Real solutions can only be developed after a thorough analysis of a client’s needs. There are many good programmers and designers who can develop working applications, or design pretty looking websites…the challenge however lies in accurately identifying the requirement – and then creating a purpose-built, aesthetically pleasing solution,” says Erasmus. This philosophy guides the operations and marketing of the company.
The people at Online Innovations are encouraged to experiment and to grow. Developers, who are all graduates, are given time to experiment with new technology and applications in order to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of information technology. According to independent surveys, the remuneration packages are very competitive nationally.
Online Innovations has developed and hosts the most accurate on-line business database in what is now being marketed as the Nelson Mandela Bay metro. The NelsonMandelaBay.com site is an initiative by the company to help promote and link businesses in the area. The company also designs and supports sites for a number of charities.
Online Innovations is going global. It is being marketed in London and has designed web sites for activities as diverse as yoga and shopping, and launched USA based hosting solutions in 2003, giving them the ability to offer either South African or USA based hosting, or both, depending on a customer’s requirements and audience.
“We are focused on doing things better,” says Grey. “We have to embrace technology in order to grow,” he adds. Revenue growth will also come from more annuity income through the development of web-based solutions and hosting services.
Although based in Port Elizabeth, we have many customers outside of the Eastern Cape. Online Innovations service customers in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town and have international customers in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Online Innovations was included in the Top ICT Companies in South Africa
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