Meet Mr ‘anti-frustration’ when it comes to dealing with technology challenges in franchise businesses.

A holistic approach to IT management and electronic security has proved a winning combination for Addictive Technology Solutions founder Rob Marsden.

Rob Marsden Jpg

Addictive Technology Solutions (ATS), based on the Gold Coast is essentially a managed IT service provider and commercial security systems provider wrapped up into a one-stop- shop organisation.

Targeting small to medium business enterprises, primarily in the manufacturing and retail space (particularly franchises), the company can deliver all the traditional day- to-day IT offerings — such as managed IT including outsourcing, hardware and software provision and point-of-sale systems including drive-through — in tandem with security solutions such as CCTV, which can also be used to assist sales by tracking in-store traffic.

Rob Marsden

After finishing an IT degree at Queensland University of Technology then working for a start-up, Rob Marsden founded Addictive Technology Solutions in 2009. Named as a finalist for the ACS Young ICT professional of the year in 2010, Rob had long thought that IT and security were a natural fit.

“We took a holistic approach and have blended IT and security, rather than treating them separately which is how the rest of the market is currently operating” says Rob. “That’s enabled us to fill the gaps in the industry where there has been a lot of finger pointing in the past. Our technicians are certified and licensed across both IT and security. Things are changing rapidly and everything is becoming IT — if you don’t have skills in both areas, you’ll be left behind.”

Integrated electronic security

After several well-publicised instances of security breaches affecting small business, Rob says there is a much greater awareness in the SME sector that anyone can be a target, but that the need for integrated electronic security and IT systems is still not widely accepted — which is where he steps in.

“We’ve been watching companies patch their computer networks, but completely ignore their CCTV networks for six years now. Our holistic approach is to go in and say, ‘OK, we’ve got you protected here, but we’ve also protected your security network and made sure that all these devices are patched and upgraded’. You can only do that if you have the skills across both areas.

It puts a bit of pressure on us to maintain those skills, but we don’t see the need for businesses to have two providers when one could do the job — why would you?”

A Business That Constantly Monitors Data And Potential Vulnerabilities

The need for IT and security technologies to talk to each other has never been more important, Rob says, mentioning a case in the US to illustrate his point. “A particular casino in Las Vegas went public bragging about how untouchable it was from a security point of view. Within 12 hours of the press release, the casino was hacked — through an IoT (internet of things) point in a fish tank!”

A single managed services agreement

It was the broken systems he encountered while working in the retail sector and his desire to stop all the resulting vendor finger pointing and blaming that inspired Rob to establish the business model 10 years ago.

“I watched the POS guy blame Telstra; I watched Telstra say ‘we don’t know what you’re talking about’. I watched the loyalty system blame the broadband provider. In a modern retail environment you can have as many as 16 technology products from as many different vendors. I thought it just made sense to put everything under a single managed services agreement, so that no matter what goes wrong, you have systems that talk to each other.”

Rob was running a web design company and working as a barista at Zarraffa’s Coffee to put himself through university. He started helping them with their IT, eventually transitioning to full-time IT as the café chain grew. “I started assisting those guys when they only had two shops, and that’s where my passion for retail and franchising started — but it’s also where spotted a lot of problems. I left there to work for a fast-paced, high-stress start-up in the accommodation industry, where I gained about 10 years-worth of experience in two short years, and got to play with a lot of serious IT infrastructure. Before I left Zarraffa’s, I said I’d come back one day to fix all their problems.”

In 2009, Rob did just that, setting up Addictive Technology Solutions with an immediate goal of reforming Zarraffa’s IT, starting with their POS systems.

“We brought in communications, integrated all the CCTV networks and put everything under one managed service agreement. Within 18 months we successfully rolled out a POS system with a support network of integrated eftpos, integrated customer wifi, managed networking and security, CCTV and drive- through communications. It’s now in use at more than 100 sites.”

An Un Named Vegas Casino Was Hacked Through A Vulnerability In An Internet Connected Fish Tank Thermometer

A successful IT model

So successful was that initial model that Addictive Technology Solutions is now rolling it out to other retail chains. “It worked so well that we took that cookie cutter model to other chains — expanding and replicating the model to other franchise systems. It’s essentially a turnkey solution for retail chains,” says Rob.

Installing systems is one thing, making sure they have full tech support is another. Rob achieves this with managed service levels that vary according to the customer’s requirements. “We have everything from 9am5pm support, to round-the-clock 24/7, tailored to the needs of the clients business,” says Rob. “For example, we’ve got a large cosmetics manufacturer who runs a factory and distributes locally — we have a tailored agreement to manage their IT and security environment. But then we go right down to a drive-through coffee shop and we have a tailored solution that covers them as well.” With what presents as a wide range of products and services, Rob describes Addictive’s offer as focused on the three main “verticals”— security, managed IT and POS systems.

“We’re doing a lot of smart security solutions with perimeter protection and things like that. But then we’ve got a queue of people wanting our POS systems — that’s very much a partnership. We work with the franchise to make that system work for them, as well as broad IT support. We take a holistic approach to how we assist franchises in particular within the three verticals.”

As its reputation grows, Rob has found that companies actively seek him out when it comes time to acquire other digital solutions. “This amazing IT ecosystem has formed,” says Rob.

Yes A Fish Tank Retail Point Of Sale Systems Pos Have Been A Big Part Of The Business

“For example, a company might ask us to do their digital signage because we already manage their IT. By keeping it in-house, we can make it more cost-effective for them. We’re competitively priced and because generally we cover all our technology under the same service agreement, they’re not running up individual service charges. It’s a real advantage that we have.”

The business is so confident in the reliability of its IT model that it feels comfortable taking a strict line with clients when it comes to ongoing security. “We have to think in terms of non- negotiables now,” says Rob. “We’ve got the model that good now — our digitalised disaster recovery solution — that if a company wants us to support their network and be responsible for the integrity of their data, but don’t want to perform business continuity with us to protect that data with the right tools, then we literally have to get them to sign a waiver releasing us of responsibility.” Looking ahead, Rob envisages the business broadly getting even better at what it does.

“We’re going to go much deeper, to scale up in an intelligent way and look at replicating what we do to grow our partnering abilities and help assist other businesses with our technology,” he says. “We’re developing much more intellectual property around what we do and looking to other IT and security providers to help us grow.

We’re also significant software developers in our own right, with our proven track record in developing our own AddictivePOS.”

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