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University of Auckland students win trans-Tasman IT Challenge

By Shannon Williams
Mon 23 Aug 2021

Students from the University of Auckland have taken the top spot in the trans-Tasman MYOB IT Challenge for 2021. 

Helping SMEs gain deeper customer insights while preserving limited time and resources is the focus of an app developed by four University of Auckland students, which took the top spot in the trans-Tasman MYOB IT Challenge for 2021.

Team members Nicholas Kondal, Laith Saeed, Sonia Wang and Emily Zou all studying conjoint engineering degrees, and from Auckland developed Rev-you, a functional prototype app for the MYOB marketplace designed to help SMEs automatically collect and analyse customer feedback using data analytics and artificial intelligence. The technology then converts the responses received into highly detailed information about the different customer groups.

Member of the winning team, Nicholas Kondal, explains they developed Rev-you as a way for SMEs to gain better insight into their customers, looking beyond whats visible in the basic sales data from their invoices.

"We felt that the past eighteen months have made it more difficult for small business owners to form meaningful connections with their customers, and we saw tremendous value in streamlining the process of exchanging feedback and correlating that with each customers orders," he says.

"One of the great things about our solution is its integration with the MYOB Essentials API. By tapping into the information available from each customers invoice, feedback forms can be automatically emailed out a certain number of days after a transaction, with the questions tailored to the customers orders," he says.

The MYOB IT Challenge, which has now been running for seven years, is designed to develop, support and foster the skills of up-and-coming tech talent. The Challenge sees students combine business and digital technology skills, as they tackle real-world business issues using tech-led solutions.

Teams of two-to-four students develop functional technology prototypes and present their ideas to a panel of judges. Forming part of their presentations, students are also tasked with considering everything from financial and marketing planning, to market launch strategies.

MYOB chief technology officer and a judge of this year's competition Darren Smith, says he was "blown away" by the quality of the submissions and presentations by the 2021 finalists. 

"Every single team presented pitches with confidence and clarity, and this was all backed by high-quality presentation material, often going beyond what Ive seen from people with significantly more commercial experience," Smith says.

"In our judging sessions, it was clear that all teams had put their analytical and communication skills from their tertiary courses to good use. 

"We were particularly impressed that the students across all teams focused on the customer and the end goal and that was a big part of what stood out for us in the winning pitch," he says.

As winners of the MYOB IT Challenge, the Rev-you team came away with a top prize of $4,000 from the overall $8,500 prize pool, as well as valuable development experience and some learnings for the future.

Kondal says, "Winning the competition serves as proof of our business acumen, technical skills and presentation ability.

"Having a panel of industry leaders judge and recognise our idea, implementation, and presentation, is a great confidence boost and a source of motivation for u," he says.

"Each team member has taken something away from this experience, and the analytical mindset of always considering the end-user is bound to help us in any problem-solving scenario in the future, no matter where we end up."

With the winning students approaching university graduation Laith, Sonia and Emily in 2021, and Nicholas in 2022 the Challenge has increased their confidence in the skills they developed, and for some of the team, may boost opportunities to land a tech-related role after graduation.

"We are keen to continue developing the skills we gained from the competition and some of us might even throw ourselves into the deep end and apply for some internships or graduate roles in the related areas," Kondal says.

"The MYOB IT Challenge will definitely play a big role in helping to shape our future career aspirations."

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