In the late 60s John Neller was a mild manner Accountant at the Bank of Adelaide with a keen interest in Fixed Asset Accounting. As such he was acutely aware that much of the approach to Fixed Asset Accounting was quite different to the practices in other parts of the world.
But he was unaware that the opportunity would arise for him to create a company that played a very significant part in the development of the Australian computer software industry – Neller Software
In fact he saw an unmet need in computerised accounting systems becoming available at the time as they were not designed to meet the specific needs of Australia. But in those days software was bundled with hardware and was built to meet major e.g. USA market needs.
So the choice was clear create your own or go along with what the market offered which was not easy to modify
But when IBM, who were are the time the main supplier of hardware and software for big business adopted a new marketing policy in 1969 John saw the opportunity to capitalise on this unmet need in the Australian market .
“Until this time customers did not pay for software or services separately from the very high price for leasing the hardware. Software was provided at no additional charge, generally in source code form; services (systems engineering, education and training, system installation) were provided free of charge at the discretion of the IBM Branch office. This practice existed throughout the industry. Quoting from the abstract to a widely read IEEE paper on the topic:
“ Many people believe that one pivotal event in the growth of the business software products market was IBM’s decision, in 1969, to price its software and services separately from its hardware. ”
At the time, the unbundling of services was perhaps the most contentious point, involving antitrust issues that had recently been widely debated in the press and the courts. However, IBM’s unbundling of software had long-term impact. After the unbundling, IBM software was divided into two main categories: System Control Programming (SCP), which remained free to customers, and Program Products (PP), which were charged for. This transformed the customer’s value proposition for computer solutions, giving a significant monetary value to something that had hitherto essentially been free. This helped enable the creation of a software industry. source Wikipedia
John Neller was one who took the opportunity and started his own business John Neller and Associates Pty Ltd to meet an unmet need of Australian business …. developing a product which he called Fixed Asset Management System (FAMAS) designed to meet the specific needs of Australia. Sadly the name FAMAS was already in use and al little while after launching the product there was a need to change the name to MAFAS. I never did work our what that stood for.
But Neller was born and the mild mannered Accountant was about to become a great salesman and leader in an industry that previously did not exist.
Given John’s limited knowledge of computers he worked on the basis of nobody ever got fired for buying IBM… so he partnered with IBM and acquired a System 3 the forerunner of the IBM Midrange that was to lead to the System 34, 36, 38 and eventually the AS400) And Neller was to be a partner with IBM through all of the transitions
So if you identify an unmet need and the right opportunity and are prepared to go for it ….you never know where it might take you…. And above all you don’t need to be an expert …but you do need to be a good salesman (problem solver as opposed to the traditional view of a salesman of course) and above all a good leader.