Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Hamish Howard, Assura Software

Assura Software, based in Christchurch, New Zealand, aims to help businesses automate their everyday manual processes. Its software platform combines the configurability of a bespoke solution with the ease and assurance of an off-the-shelf product. In this interview, Hamish Howard, Assura’s CEO and managing director, speaks with Irrigation Leader about the situation in New Zealand and how Assura has assisted businesses during this crisis. 

Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about yourself and about Assura Software. 

Hamish Howard: I’m one of the owners and the managing director of Assura Software. Assura’s solution is a platform that provides a highly configurable workflow engine that solves problems in the office or in the field via a browser or a smart phone. Our solution is already addressing particular needs in the United States—our first U.S. customer is Roosevelt Water Conservation District (RWCD) in Arizona. RWCD’s manager and his team have started to use Assura to collect field reports via a smart phone and send them back to the office. This ensures that issues raised are dealt with in a timely fashion and that things move through a process to resolution. In New Zealand, Assura’s solution is also used to manage the assets of an irrigation district and ensure they are well maintained. 

Assura can be accessed via mobile phone in the field.

Irrigation Leader: Your technology dovetails nicely with social distancing. Have you seen an uptick in its use among your customers? 

Hamish Howard: I’ve been pleasantly surprised that, through this time of social and economic crisis, we’ve continued to sell solutions to people who are looking for ways to enable their workforce to carry on being productive. I would certainly link it to social distancing: With Assura’s solution, you no longer need to meet with a lot of people. You can enter information into a mobile device, whether it’s a phone or tablet, and share that information with managers or other team members who can then move it along through the process. It reduces the need to meet in person or to handle shared paper that has the potential to carry germs. I think that people do see it as a tool to help them continue business while socially distancing. 

Irrigation Leader: How has the COVID‑19 pandemic affected your business? 

Hamish Howard: Until recently, in New Zealand, everybody except essential workers was working from home. We’ve had pretty strict stay-at-home measures, which we refer to as living in your bubble. All my staff have been working from home. Fortunately, because we work on software, we can do everything remotely. As long as we can remotely connect, we can make the changes that customers request. There’s been an obvious effect in terms of economic activity. I’ve been in contact with all my clients across a range of sectors, and while some of them haven’t been affected at all, some have been affected quite substantially. At the moment, there’s still so much emotion and hysteria from the media that it’s hard to look through all the noise to find actual data and see what the longer term really does look like, so we’re just trying to focus on the things we can control. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the situation in New Zealand right now? 

Hamish Howard: On Thursday, May 14, we moved to what we call level 2. New Zealand has a four-level system, with level 4 being the most serious. At level 4, only essential workers like emergency services, doctors, nurses, and people in agriculture and food production can be at work. At level 2, everyone is allowed back at work, but there are still social-distancing rules in place as well as limits on the numbers of people who can gather at events, restaurants, weddings, funerals, and so forth. Schools are opening on Monday, May 18, allowing kids to reconnect with friends and stop their online classes. New Zealand has had a number of days with no new cases of COVID‑19 reported, and our total case numbers remain under 1,500. 

Irrigation Leader: What is your message to irrigation districts in the United States? 

Hamish Howard: A saying we have here in New Zealand— and I’m sure it’s the same in the United States—is “Never waste a good crisis.” This is an opportunity to make yourself more efficient and to ensure that you can ride out these kinds of crises and shocks. Obviously, social distancing is a big requirement under the current situation, and an application like Assura can certainly help. We’d love the opportunity to talk to talk to U.S. irrigation districts about how that could be possible. I would like to highlight the return on investment people are seeing with this software. Companies are able to get more done with the same number of people because of the number of efficiencies this product creates. 

Hamish Howard is the CEO and managing director of Assura Software. He can be contacted at hamish.howard@assurasoftware.com or (480) 477‑9283.