MC Systems Ltd.
Jamaica’s technology management company
Business View Magazine interviews Dwayne Russell, GM of MC Systems Ltd., as part of our focus on best practices of Caribbean IT companies.
Back in 1973, well before computers were an essential component of every business, six individuals in Jamaica founded Management Control Systems (MC Systems) Ltd., and committed themselves to creating “the next big idea” in technology in order to solve critical business issues. They acquired the portfolio of an existing company, began to understand how software and hardware co-exist and how, together, they can be made to deliver value and generate efficiency for a company’s management. “That concept led to the name Management Control Systems because, back then, a computer was referred to as a system and it was more focused on internal controls,” recounts MC Systems’ General Manager, Dwayne Russell.
The company’s first invention was BizPay Central.com, the first payroll service of its type in Jamaica, which allowed for the entry of all relevant employee data, payroll processing, printing of pay-slips, and other essential reports. Since then, MC Systems has evolved from primarily processing payroll to providing leading-edge technology solutions for businesses in 17 countries in the English speaking Caribbean. In 1978, the company became a member of the JN Group, one of Jamaica’s pre-eminent and most recognizable brands, comprised of several world-leading entities that provide a wide array of financial, technology, creative, debt, property and fleet management services, among others.
“Over the years, the company has always introduced new technology to either improve efficiencies or create new business lines,” Russell says. “We spent a lot of time looking at challenges within the country and within companies and we brought technology partners to the table and created IT value added solutions to solve problems.” MC Systems is a company of firsts with technology advances including: an internet-based money transfer system; an online payroll processing application; electronic phone card top up; cash deposits, cash recycling and card-less cash deposits at the ATMs; mobile POS application; and a Payroll Loan App. Based in Kingston, MC Systems has around 130 employees – a mixture of permanent workers and subcontractors, who serve the company’s clientele. “We’ve spent years understanding the financial industry, so we have a lot of insurance companies, commercial banks, billing societies, etc. as customers,” Russell explains. “The banks are key partners; a lot of what we build is banking services and making payments easier – converting from cash to electronic payment. We provide them with technologies for payments and transactions or for compliance reports, etc. We also deliver services to government – mostly hardware and software and a little customized development. The majority of our customers are in the financial industry and government.”
In terms of the competition, Russell says that MC Systems competes favorably against other technology companies and sometimes even against the Big Four auditing firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, particularly in the realm of technology consulting. “What makes us different, I think, is that we are more focused on continuous improvement and enhancement,” he avers. “A lot of time is spent on research and introducing new technology within the business community. That ensures that we remain relevant with the capacity to respond to the changing needs of our customers. That has been what has allowed us to be around for over 40 years. We continue to grow, focusing on that part of technology support. We’re a pioneer type of a company. A lot of time is spent understanding new technology and how it can be applied within business communities across the Caribbean. That’s the main difference. However it’s not just a matter of introducing technology – you have to have an understanding of the industry, and the customers, and their customers in order to ensure that an investment in technology creates value. That is our focus.”
Because of that focus, many of MC Systems’ clients are obtained through word-of-mouth. “Referrals are the number one thing,” Russell states. “We have customer stories, so whenever we work on specific engagements, what we’ll find is that customers will refer us because challenges tend to be similar in industries. We get customers that way, plus we’ve been around for awhile so a lot of specialized IT managers are aware of our offerings. We’re also partners with global leaders in the tech space – Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard – and through those partnerships, we’re also able to generate new customers.”
The one true thing about technology is that it’s constantly changing, and Russell notes that, going forward, more and more companies will be less likely to invest in new hardware, and more likely to shift to cloud computing. “That means that a lot more emphasis is now required on connectivity – the internet is far more important to the running of businesses,” he maintains. That paradigm shift offers a more affordable operating model for businesses, while, at the same time, presenting new challenges. “Because your business information is not internal anymore, there’s a lot of focus on security. There’s also a gap in terms of governance because there are not a lot of people who totally understand how a lot of these new technologies work. Based on what we know is coming, our role is to help companies to navigate what they call their digital transformation; to help them to understand how to protect their data, protect their IT, and protect the risks associated with introducing the new technologies.”
Another one of MC Systems’ goals is to create more jobs for people in the technology space, so that a new cohort of trained workers can help increase the level of technological services exported from the Caribbean community, because, right now, the region imports a lot more technology services than it exports. “Five years down the line, we expect MC Systems to grow in size to offer more opportunities for young people and to start to create a sizeable pipeline for export of services on the tech side,” Russell shares. “The region will start to become one of the places where larger global companies will look to for technological expertise. Right now a lot of that expertise is being sourced outside of the region. One of the things that we’re trying to do is to establish a relationship with Heart Trust NTA (the leading provider of Technical Vocational Education and Training in Jamaica) to see where their students can repair some of the equipment that’s here to earn some money to pay for their programs. If we can leverage our partnerships and get more equipment within the country for repairs, then we would be able to offer more jobs for these young people. Our focus is about development of capabilities so that technology can become a key part of our earnings from export.”
In the end, Russell says that the narrative of MC Systems is straightforward: “We’re pioneers. That’s important. Our experience is also important, as is our expertise. We’re a strong technology company within the region that can assist businesses to navigate the very complex world of how to apply digital technology and create value. That’s the story.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: MC Systems Ltd.
WHAT: A technology management company
WHERE: Kingston, Jamaica