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Service that avoided mistakes of many
Tuesday 22 May, 2001


You don't have to be a financial wizard to know that this time last year was not a good time to be trying to get an Internet venture off the ground.

Founded amid the flaming wreckages of the dot coms, the local administration portal links to online ordering facilities for taxis, couriers, office supplies and other goods and services required by administration staff.

Relying on first-round funding from Sofcom, ValueAdmin's founder, Peter Rubinstein, says that he set out to avoid the mistake made by other dot coms of burning too much venture capital on back-end integration.

"We could spend $50 million on the system and still not have fully streamlined procurement," Rubinstein says.

"That's really where a lot of the delays in most other systems have occurred, where they're trying to have this perfectly seamless integration with back-ends. What we're saying is, let's create something that actually adds value today."

ValueAdmin went online in February and now links to more than 10 suppliers - including Black Cabs, Spotless and office products supplier Boise Cascade - with a varying degree of back-end integration.

Users clicking through from to Boise Cascade's online procurement system are recognised as ValueAdmin subscribers and automatically allocated a specific pricing structure. ValueAdmin also assisted Black Cabs in the development of an online taxi booking service. The system is based on form generation, with the details manually re-entered into the main Black Cabs booking system, but the long-term plan is to fully integrate the two systems.

"The project has been done in a way where we have tried not to rely on any third parties to provide back-end integration to our system, so we could get it up as quickly as we could," Rubinstein says.

Based in an office in Melbourne's St Kilda Road, Valueadmin is an Australia-wide service and is affiliated with suppliers in every capital city. The portal is being trialled by "a number of companies", says Rubinstein, and he projects it will have 10,000 users after 12 months of operation.

The system is fully customisable for individual companies and can be integrated into an existing intranet. A system administrator within each company is given the responsibility for adding new users and customising their access rights.

Through this customisation, ValueAdmin users are not limited to the suppliers affiliated with ValueAdmin, which Rubinstein sees as a strength.

"There are companies like Optibuy [now wound down] and CorProcure and they're all looking at single relationships," he says.

"What this system is about is allowing companies to streamline their procurement in a way that they don't have to be tied into any one company.

"They can set up the system so that whoever they're dealing with, they can have that provider as part of the system. If they're not dealing with a company we can offer them a provider."

As well as links to suppliers, the ValueAdmin site contains forums, news headlines and original content in the form of articles on human resources issues. A company's system administrator can also add content to the company's personalised site.

"It's really about bringing efficiency and productivity into the workplace - not trying to replicate the back-ends that tens and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on, but actually looking at it from the perspective of the user sitting at their desk," Rubinstein says.

"What do they want from the Internet? How can it actually assist them? How can it assist the company?"

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