Thirty Years In The Midrange, Help/Systems Is Going Strong
January 7, 2013 Dan Burger
In a business world obsessed with startup companies with lots of flash in their pans, what sort of milestone achievement is 30 years in the IT marketplace? That depends on how much you believe in the presumption that age and experience is of greater value than youth and exuberance. There is a lot to be said for standing the test of time. Shoddy products and second-rate customer service typically do not weather well. Help/Systems, at 30, has learned through experience.
It also happens to have 6,300 customers and 200 employees who depend on the success of its 45 products and more than 43,000 software licenses. Many of its products are mature and have acquired the trust that comes with dependability over time and the continual enhancements that customers have requested and internal research and development have created. With time on your side, you can sell the steak and not just the sizzle.
The fear of being labeled old or traditional or, heaven forbid, legacy looms large in the IT industry. Blame the media, blame the pundits, blame the marketers who work for the young gun competition, blame whomever. Showing that you have done a creditable job carries the weight of proving you can continue to innovate. Responsibility to a custom base includes opportunities to grow, which means being a better company so that your customers can be better companies.
An emphasis on customer service and support is a great place to start before expanding the product line. With Help/Systems it began with automated job scheduling software and grew into a wider range of operations automation tools for monitoring system performance, networks, messages, and reporting. Through acquisitions in recent years, the product scope expanded to include security (Bytware and PowerTech in 2008; Safestone Technologies in 2012) and business intelligence (ASC in 2006) software. The company also acquired IT process management tools for the Windows, Unix, and Linux market (Open Systems Management in 2011), a database monitoring tool (from Innovatum in 2012), and a competitor in the systems management field (CCSS in 2012).
After all the acquisitions, Help/Systems is one of the largest ISVs in the IBM midrange vendor community. And although the users of that platform make up more than 90 percent of the customers and revenue for the company, it’s also of note that Help/Systems has its eye on increasing its multi-platform capabilities with workload automation tools. It has become much more of an international company, with 14 offices worldwide.
The private equity firm Summit Partners is a majority stakeholder providing the acquisition muscle. Summit’s financial support was originally added in 2005, but it sold its shares to the private equity firm Audax Group in 2007. Less than a year ago, Audax sold those shares back to Summit.
Commenting on the 30th anniversary of Help/Systems, company president Janet Dryer noted, “Our customers are great evangelists for our software and our company. Some of them have been with us since the System/38 days.” She also said more than half of Help/Systems customers own multiple products, which speaks well for the company’s product development and product acquisition strategies.
“Development decisions are based on the needs of our customers,” Dryer says. “In addition to IBM i, our customers increasingly run critical applications and processes on Windows or Unix servers. We look forward to providing solutions that accommodate this growing trend.”