HelpSystems Grows With RJS And Coglin Mill Acquisitions
July 7, 2014 Dan Burger
HelpSystems has picked up two more IBM i independent software vendors to add to its product portfolio. Last week, the acquiring minds at HelpSystems added document management software company RJS Software and the data warehousing product from Coglin Mill into its product ShowCase, which already includes systems automation, security, and business intelligence software.
I estimate the RJS customer base is approximately 1,500. Coglin Mill’s customer count is maybe 150. With HelpSystems’ worldwide customer base at 8,800 before these acquisitions, it seems likely that the company will top more than 10,000 customers. Around 75 percent of those customers are considered IBM i shops.
Strategically the addition of RJS bolsters HelpSystems’ system management strategies with the document management software that was the core product in the RJS portfolio. Although document management is sometimes perceived to be imaging and scanning, for RJS it also includes such things as signature capture and Web forms.
“Document management is such a big piece in today’s business climate,” says Tom Huntington, vice president of HelpSystems technical services. “We are very good at transactional database management with SEQUEL and ShowCase products. But another aspect of business intelligence is document management and content management and tying them into existing ERP and financial systems.”
Linking documents into systems is an important aspect of business process management and, by extension, business intelligence. The success that RJS has achieved, it is reasonable to believe, should be recognized by the existing HelpSystems customers, which should result in broader sales of the data collection and data management products, which is led by a product called WebDocs.
Although primarily an IBM i vendor, HelpSystems has been broadening its scope to run its software on other platforms, a trend that other IBM i ISVs have also followed. RJS product sales growth was increasingly due to the sales of WebDocs running on Windows systems. WebDocs has always run on Windows, but it was deployed in IBM i shops to manage and organize IBM i data.
Richard Schoen, president and chief technology officer at the company that bears his initials, told IT Jungle that software sales for RJS is primarily in the United States, with three-quarters of its sales involving IBM i shops. Most of the IBM i shops would be using the document management in conjunction with the IBM i system, but 25 percent of the revenue is coming from non-IBM i shops.
The RJS customer base spans multiple industries ranging from government, education and healthcare, to manufacturing, retail, and hospitality. The company’s products integrate with industry-specific business applications such as Oracle, SAP, QuickBooks, Sage, Microsoft, JDA, JD Edwards, InforInfor, Epicor, Optimum Solutions, and others.
In his new role, Schoen becomes the director of document management technologies at HelpSystems.
“I will be doing research and development of the product and figuring out new niches where the product can be successful,” he says. “I will also be able to focus on customers and help them build their businesses. I had gotten away from that to some degree as my company got bigger.”
As a side note to RJS being sold to HelpSystems, Schoen said he once applied for a job at the company, back in the early 1990s, before he started his own firm.
The primary reason that led to the RJS sale, Schoen says, is the pending retirement of RJS CEO Dennis Johnson, a partner in the company with Schoen. Part of the reality in the IBM ISV community is that many of the companies are privately owned and when the owners reach retirement age, this is the natural progression.
“I’ve known Janet Dryer (CEO of HelpSystems) for many years and she runs one of the top technology companies,” Schoen says. “We didn’t want to sell RJS to a company that would tear it apart. We wanted our products and our employees to transition as easily as possible. I feel this is the right fit to help grow the business. HelpSystems is a great company. They’ve been doing this for a long time and are still growing. This is the best place I can think of to place my employees.”
The two companies are less than 20 miles apart, which makes employee transition easier.
The acquisition of Coglin Mill and its data warehouse product RODIN (pronounced Ro-dan) might be mysterious to most IBM i users because the awareness level of Coglin Mill does not come close to the awareness of RJS.
“We talk about IBM i being a best-kept secret outside the IBM i community, well RODIN is a best-kept secret inside the IBM i community,” Huntington says. “Most people don’t know they can run a data warehouse on IBM i. It’s important for us to bring this to the attention of the SEQUEL business intelligence customers.”
Alan Jordan, formerly the vice president of development at Coglin Mill and now the RODIN technical solutions director at HelpSystems, explains the impetus of this deal stemmed from conversations that about how an acquisition ‘made a lot of sense’ to both companies.
Coglin Mill and HelpSystems have been co-marketing for several years. The two companies share some common customers. That product integration is something HelpSystems will be developing further and marketing harder.
Coglin Mill is an Australian-based company with its RODIN product development efforts located in the U.S. for the past several years. The development team, Jordan notes, remains intact and based in Rochester, Minnesota, which is the center of the IBM i universe, even though manufacturing has been moved to Mexico. HelpSystems also does development in Rochester. Over the next six months, the Coglin Mill team will be integrated into the HelpSystems team.
RODIN was designed to automate data extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes with tools to manage extract exceptions, create business rules, control extract and conversion revisions, and automatically document the processes in an IBM Power System i (IBM iSeries) data repository. RODIN is considered middleware that helps organize and define databases that are not well designed due to old methodologies, inconsistent application development practices, and sketchy maintenance. HelpSystems’ SEQUEL and ShowCase products are front end reporting tools that will integrate with RODIN, which has multi-platform capabilities in that it can push and pull data from a variety of databases. RODIN runs only on IBM i.
“Once you get into complex analytics, like joining SQL Server data with IBM i data, the importance and significance of building a data warehouse becomes recognized,” Jordan says. “SEQUEL has good connectors. ShowCase has an ETL component that can be used to build data warehouses, but it is not as comprehensive as RODIN, which does not have a front-end reporting tool. That is where the integration of RODIN with SEQUEL and ShowCase user tools begins. The front-end tools do the graphs and charts and dashboards. At this stage there is no specific integration, but it will obviously come.”
The financial terms of the deals between HelpSystems and RJS and Coglin Mill were not disclosed.