Jobscope's Customer Focus is Made-to-Order
Published: January 20, 2009
by Alex Woodie
When it comes to the make-to-order and engineer-to-order discrete manufacturing industries, there's a little company from South Carolina that you may not have heard about called Jobscope. With roots that can be traced back to the original "Silverlake" AS/400 program, Jobscope is happy to be off the radar of the major ERP vendors, as it concentrates on helping customers drive more efficiency into their processes.
Like many software companies, Jobscope was born out of need. A manufacturing organization was having difficulty finding an ERP package that could handle its make-to-order (MTO) manufacturing setup, so it decided to write its own. The result was an RPG program called Jobscope, and the product was such a success that the company decided to bring the product to market.
Today, Jobscope counts a couple of hundred companies from around the world as customers; about half run on AS/400, and the other half on Windows. Jobscope Enterprise Edition can be found wherever there's a need to track the manufacturing of various one-off products and the materials and hours that go into building them. For example, many of the signs advertising casinos and hotels in Las Vegas were built by an AS/400-based Jobscope customer.
Jobscope was originally developed for the now-defunct HP3000 minicomputer platform from Hewlett-Packard. However, Jobscope was soon ported over to the S/38, and when IBM started work on the AS/400, Jobscope was one of just a handful of ISVs invited up to the lab in Rochester, Minnesota, to provide input on the Silverlake project to develop the AS/400.
Keeping an open line of communication with customers is an important element of Jobscope's success. It's so important that Jobscope created a formal Advisory Council to streamline the process. Today, the Jobscope Advisory Council is working on version 15 of the AS/400 product, which is due out late next year.
Jobscope version 15 will be a major release of the product, says Shigemi Heffernan, vice president of product development for Jobscope. "Over the years we've incorporated all the functions we thought would be good for customers," she says. "Now we're hearing from customers that they want input on what goes into the version, so we started that [advisory council] a couple of years ago."
One of the most requested new features revolves around dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs), says Hank Sanders, president of the Greenville, South Carolina, company. "We see a lot of business intelligence," he says. "They want executive level, KPIs or order-analysis type of functionality. The system is good and the backend is powerful, but the question is: How do we display the data a little bit better in the UI?"
Jobscope still has many fans of the 5250 green-screen interfaces, which many say are quicker for order-entry. However, the company also received rave reviews for last year's release of Jobscope version 14, which included native Web interfaces for the first time.
Jobscope may not have the resources of a billion dollar software vendor or a slick service oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, but it seeks to make the best use of what resources it does have. "Being our size, we're able to say this and actually deliver on it: We implement well, and we implement quickly," Sanders says. "We are more nimble because we're smaller, and it actually plays to our advantage."
Sanders, who joined Jobscope 18 months ago and used to work at Infor, sees a lot of advantages in being small, including the fact that Jobscope can hand "a big chunk" of the product roadmap over to the customer advisory council.
"A lot of times you see the same functionality in a lot of these products. So it really boils down to who is better able to implement and better support over the long run," Sanders says. "That's what we try to key in on--a quick implementation, and then direct support."
The Advisory Council, which meets twice a year, will also help Jobscope avoid features that customers do not want, allowing Jobscope to squeeze the most bang out of its development dollar. That's another differentiator from Infor products like MAPICS, Syteline, and VISUAL.
"We have no plans on sunsetting the iSeries product," Sanders says. "We are going to not only continue to support, but develop on both platforms. I think that's important. A lot of companies say they are going to continue to support a product, but they don't put any R&D into it, where we are actually putting R&D into both platforms."
Despite the global economic crises, Jobscope is moving full-speed ahead with product development plans, because that's what customers expect. "We're trying to spend smart," Sanders says. "But we are trying to increase our message and our market awareness of who we are and what we have to offer."
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