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  1. Technology
March 29, 1989

FLINT CLUB OF SOLE TRADERS EVOLVES INTO FIRM THAT FINDS FAVOUR WITH EURO COMMISSION

By CBR Staff Writer

It is one of life’s many little ironies that an organisation modelled on that traditional British institution the Gentleman’s Club should be spearheading a study into the information market for the European Commission to the tune of over UKP400,000. The organisation in question is the informal Flint Organisation which began in 1981 as a meeting place for self-employed businessmen and small companies operating in the computer consultancy, system design and installation sectors. Aside from these informal get togethers (which have been known to stretch to family events such as teddy-bear picnics), the organisation also has minuted meetings every quarter, as well as technical meetings when one specific topic will be expounded. Membership is by invitation only, and the latest head count revealed about 120 members. The organisation feels it has to date generated around UKP2m of revenue through bidding for and winning contracts on a consortium basis, but claims that the combined annual turnover of its membership is in the range of UKP3m. A large number of Flint’s membership is composed of sole traders who have left large companies like Scicon to set up their own independent businesses, and who have successfully proved their ability to survive in the market as individuals. Flint Informatics It occurred to the members, however, that Flint projects would be more competitive if the organisation became formalised. To this end the limited company Flint Informatics, headquartered in Stevenage, has recently been incorporated to sharpen the marketing and selling arm of Flint. So far 60 or 70 organisations have joined the company to establish joint ventures under its umbrella. At present the major market areas being addressed by Flint Informatics are defence, health, banking and insurance although more areas will develop over time. Each joint venture will be responsible for its own organisation, and, in case, the outfit sounds a little like the Freemasons it is worth pointing out that a woman, Joan Lennon, heads the health market area. Affiliates of Flint Informatics have to be both trading bodies and a member of the Flint Organisation, and Flint intends to have between 200 and 300 such affiliates very soon. Of course, this will entail taking on strangers who will require two business references and will be subject to a thorough vetting. The company also hopes to extend into Europe working with similar types of organisations. As far as Flint is concerned Europe is a buzz word at the moment since one of its members, the data management and systems consultant White Waghorn Ltd, is the prime contractor for Infoage, the study into the information industry and market in Europe financed by the European Commission. White Waghorn was joined by Cavendish Tricorne Ltd (also from Flint) a firm that specialises in analysing and modelling systems. Other members of the Anglo Dutch consortium include BSO, the Dutch consultancy and software house, Professors Solomonides and Marquand from the University of Salford, and the UK market research company Romtec. The study is action-oriented and will make recommendations for the European Commission’s five year funded information market programme. The consortium’s brief is to develop a successful European information services market as a strategic industry in the context of the world economy. Indeed, John White of White Waghorn believes that information services will play a more central role in the European economy than the technology industry in the next decade. With such contracts under its belt the clubby Flint ethos might just be positioned to rule the waves of the European computer services market in the future.

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