Canadian ERP vendor moves from FoxPro to Servoy to build revolutionary new solution
Jonar has been making enterprise resource planning software (ERPs) for the Canadian garment and textile industry since 1986. Following a recent change of management, the company reviewed its customers’ needs and long-term road map. Jonar wanted to design ERP software that provides a stellar user experience (UX) and removes user frustration.
For Jonar, the only way to make ERPs better was to create a brand-new product that was nonthreatening, uncluttered and easy to use. The company conducted in-depth research into skeuomorphism, saliency and context-based design to conceive a flawlessly functional solution with a clean interface and minimal training requirements.
Having honed its vision for a revolutionary new ERP, Jonar needed an integrated development environment (IDE) to enable that vision. Jonar was sensitive to vendor lock-in and diverging interests. FoxPro, Jonar’s previous programming tool, had been deprecated by Microsoft.
Requirements for a new rapid application development platform included:
- The capacity to accelerate development and implement Jonar’s vision
- A solid framework (with components such as an audit trail, a security module, database abstraction, etc.) to build the features and UX
- A vendor with aligned interests and a complementary long-term road map
Jonar tested multiple IDEs, which tended to fit into two categories: they either performed tasks well but scaled poorly or they offered the required horsepower but lacked a flexible enough tool set to execute Jonar’s vision. Only two products could deliver on both fronts.
Ultimately, Jonar chose Servoy because:
- It is written in Java, which is less susceptible to vendor lock-in
- It offered the best intersection between scalability and tool set
- It had a history of successfully converting development from FoxPro
Additionally, as a company Servoy:
- Offers a transparent pricing model that is suited to Jonar’s evolving needs
- Is sizeable and financially stable
- Cares about its customers’ success, can be relied on and is willing to work with Jonar over the long term
Jonar found Servoy easy to learn thanks to its use of a 4GL. For example, Jonar’s UX design team is made up of designers—not software engineers—yet they were able to work on fine-tuning user interface details after only a day and a half of training.
The first six months of the project consisted of rapid prototyping using the Servoy platform. Jonar’s engineering team relied on the framework to cut development time. Servoy suggested other time-saving devices such as a scrum methodology, a high-fidelity collaborative mock-up tool and test-driven development.
“Servoy recommended that we build 80% of what we wanted and then work on improving it, instead of chasing a theoretically perfect model,” comments Jon Ruby, Managing Director of Jonar. “They saved us from falling into a rabbit hole that might have wasted years.”
As the Jonar team grew more proficient, it removed optional framework components to further optimize performance. As soon as clients were willing to pay for the new ERP, a soft launch ensued. A backlog of potential customers soon developed.
“Servoy gave us a springboard to develop our product,” reports Ruby. “It normally takes six to nine years to build an ERP from scratch. With Servoy, we did it in a little over two years and with a much smaller team. By vastly accelerating the speed to market, Servoy helped us slash our development costs.”
“Clients love the new user experience,” notes Ruby. “Previously, we approached two or three leads per month, of which 50% would convert within six months. Now, 20 potential customers contact us every month, of which 80% sign up immediately. The sales team hasn’t made a single cold call since the new ERP launched.”
Jonar has expanded its customer base from Canadian only to clients all over the world. The company is also reaching new industries, thanks to its highly flexible ERP. Customers look for software that is specific to their business. Jonar is able to customize its product in a matter of minutes and offer clients exactly what they want. The company has successfully demonstrated that ERPs can be powerful and simple to use if they are well-designed.
That Jonar’s trailblazing new solution was built using Servoy should be credit enough. However, Ruby has equal praise for the support his company received. “Bouncing ideas off the Servoy team was invaluable,” he says. “A conversation would turn into a milestone from which the project would accelerate further still. I also agree with the direction they are taking with successive versions of the Servoy platform, based on customer feedback. They understand that our success is their success. They take us seriously and treat us like partners.”