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Focus on farming’s future

CEO Report: February 2018

Mark Morton in the Kimberleys.As CEO, Mark Morton often provides advice to customers. But what lead him to this point and motivates him in his role?

Mark joined Practical Systems a decade ago, after spending 20 years consulting to the Australian cotton industry.

“My work for the cotton industry instilled in me enthusiasm for knowing the numbers: industry benchmarks, customer financials,” Mark said. “I found that when you understand the numbers, you can identify where you are vulnerable and where there are opportunities.

“Like most consultants, I believed I had the best spreadsheets in the world, but I got sick of pulling data from a range of accounting platforms to create a meaningful budget to actual position.”

Joining the team

Following the numbers led Mark to develop a relationship with his predecessor Hugh Beattie.

“I was working on Cashbook with Hugh and he asked if I was interested in taking on his job when he retired,” he said. “I knew absolutely nothing about coding or building software, but Hugh said what was important was my understanding of the information needs of agriculture.

“I have never come at this from a software point of view. My motivation is that robust information leads to good decisions and I aim to build the decision-making capacity of our customers.”

While Mark cut his teeth in the cotton industry, jackarooing around Hay NSW instilled a passion for livestock. “When the opportunity arose with Practical Systems to combine good information processes and livestock, I thought ‘this is exciting’,” he said.

A new age in Ag

According to Mark, for some years following his appointment at Practical Systems the livestock industry effectively stood still but now the industry has an edge of excitement.

“Our customers have enjoyed a period of sustained asset growth and enhanced economic returns, but the level of volatility and risk involved promotes a need for solid, robust information processes to make informed, calculated decisions,” Mark said.

“Market volatility, higher inventory values, productivity changes from genomics: these produce new avenues of decision-making exploration and capability. For instance, who would’ve thought that you’re actually targeting a 65kg ewe that will wean twins? That’s an ideal animal, so how do we help customers position their livestock enterprise to be both metabolically and economically efficient?

“Our platform allows you to ask questions. Our job is to build a ‘data road train’, to help a customer collect their data, store it, assess it, report it, analyse it, and importantly discover opportunities.”

Tools for the future, now

mark-kimberleys-3-1Technology has undergone a dramatic change in the past decade, and Mark sees Practical Systems as having a place in helping farmers choose the right tools and predicting their future requirements.

“It is our task to find, source, deliver, support, and coach our customers to use a range of livestock technology that delivers productivity,” Mark said. “Whether we build it, our partners build it, or it comes from another company, our primary task is to find products that allow our customers to take advantage of opportunities and implement a robust risk management process.

“It can be challenging to keep up with new technology, ideas and sources of information. At Practical Systems, we have to keep an open mind about the potential of new products, but I think we have a good filter for what works and what will struggle in the agricultural environment.

“We’re in a good position to be able to tell customers when we find technology that can contribute to their production, or pinpoint technology that is all noise and no value.”

For farmers, by farmers

Mark considers the loyalty and input of Practical Systems customers as the company’s most valuable asset.

“Success for Practical Systems would be recognition as a significant contributor to the industry, our customers’ businesses, and their families,” Mark said. “Nothing pleases me more than when a customer comes up to me and says their children have now taken over the property and are continuing to use our software.

“I believe our customers expect us to have an opinion and participate in the discussion. They want us to sort the wheat from the chaff and help them choose tools with the industrial strength to last the distance.

“Our customers don’t want to hear tech-speak: they choose Practical Systems because of our people, we speak the same language.”