If you check the label on the disk of your latest computer software purchase, the company's address is likely to be somewhere in California, right? Or maybe Massachusetts, or Washington state. How about Indiana?
True, Indiana's not really known for its software, but the industry here is growing. According to the Indiana Department of Employment and Training Services, the number of Indiana companies involved in computer programming, prepackaged software development or computer-integrated design grew from 197 in early 1986 to 338 at the end of last year. Employment at those companies grew from 1,517 to 3,221.
There are several reasons a software company might choose to set up shop in Indiana. A major one is the nature of the business: Many software companies were started by a person or two in their spare time, and those people might just have happened to live in Indiana. But also worthy of note is the presence of institutions such as Purdue University in West Lafayette.
"Purdue is the world leader in simulation technology, bar none," says Alan Pritsker, CEO of Pritsker Corp., which develops computer-simulation software. Pritsker was a Purdue professor when he founded the company, and remains an adjunct professor. "Purdue's industrial engineering school has had the greatest impact on simulation technology and its use throughout the world. It is so far above anyone else that I think you'd get 90 percent agreement."
"Purdue is what launched us," agrees Kevin Castleberry, general manager of Micro Data Base Systems Inc. of Lafayette. This firm, as was Pritsker, was founded by members of the Purdue faculty who saw a software need in the marketplace.
An attractive attribute of Indiana cited by those in many industries is its central location, and those in the software industry are no exception. Imagine Products of Carmel, for example, sells software to video producers. "The Indiana location is nice because it gives us a midway point between the East Coast and the West Coast, where large amounts of this business is going on," says Brad Geddes, vice president and head of Imagine's technical department.
Adds Castleberry: "We like to see a company making software that is as good as or surpasses what's going on on the East or West coasts, and have the same kind of talent here, living in what I believe is a more pleasant environment. I think I'd rather be here than in Los Angeles, and there's a lot of us here that feel that way."
From the more than 300 Indiana software companies, what follows are profiles of 10 of the largest or most unusual of Indiana's software developers.
AT&T GRAPHICS SOFTWARE LABS
This is one of the more recognizable names among Indiana software developers because it makes use of the name of its parent company, American Telephone & Telegraph Co. A "venture group" of Bell Laboratories, Indianapolis-based AT&T GSL specializes in color-graphics applications for both PC-compatible and Macintosh-based systems.
The company, which was founded in 1986, markets a variety of software applications, some of them developed by programmers outside the company and outside of Indiana, according to Product Manager Christi Garcia. But two of its popular brand names--RIO and StudioMaster--were developed in-house in Indianapolis.
Introduced early in the company's short history, RIO has become one of the dominant graphics applications in the "true-color" market. Designed for the PC environment, RIO can produce full-color graphics, slides, newsletters and broadcast-quality animation.
StudioMaster "allows you to take tapes and edit them to one source, complete with transition effects," Garcia explains. It often is used, she says, by "videographers"--people who tape weddings and other events but who might not have access to a full editing studio. Rather than renting time at an editing bay, which isn't cheap, StudioMaster users can do sophisticated editing on their Macintoshes.
AT&T GSL employs about 30 people, and is reported to have annual sales of about $6 million.
ADVANCED COMPUTER & COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
This Frankfort-based software developer does a large amount of custom work, but it also is behind such prepackaged software as Vendor Master and Drain Master.
Vendor Master is particularly useful to manufacturers who work under the "just-in-time" philosophy, according to Mike Pitman, software department director. The goal of just-in-time is to receive parts from outside vendors just as they are needed in the manufacturing or assembly process, cutting the necessary inventory space and reducing the amount of capital tied up in inventory. The trick is finding the right suppliers, and coordinating and evaluating their efforts.
"Vendor Master objectively defines where suppliers are in terms of delivery, quality control, their attitude, that type of thing that goes along with each delivery," Pitman explains. "It allows users to weed out those suppliers who are poor suppliers, or encourage them to become better suppliers."
Drain Master is a very specialized product used by governmental agencies and surveyors that oversee legal drains. It coordinates maintenance and other management concerns. As was Vendor Master, Drain Master was designed originally as a custom program for one user. Advanced Computer and Communication Systems later saw the potential to market it as a prepackaged program.
Advanced Computer & Communication Systems has been in business 10 years, employs 11 people and reports annual sales of roughly $1 million.
CAPSCO PALLM SYSTEMS INC.
Computer-programming language may look like Chinese to those who aren't fluent, but if a Capsco Pallm software product appears to be Chinese, it probably is. The Indianapolis-based developer of insurance-industry software now markets products in the Far East, written in the Korean and Chinese languages.
The company's primary product is known as CAPSIL, says Gary Neace, president and CEO of Capsco Pallm. It runs on all IBM and IBM-compatible platforms, and handles various administrative computing tasks for a number of major players in the life insurance industry. In fact, it was one of those players that pointed the company in the direction of the Far East.
"One of our major clients, The Prudential, came to us and indicated that they would be moving into both Taiwan and Korea," Neace explains. Prudential wanted Capsco Pallm to develop versions of CAPSIL in the native languages of those nations. It's not as easy as it might sound, because characters in those two languages require more "bits" of computer information. As a result, Capsco Pallm had to develop the new software to work under a different operating system. But the project has opened the door to more possibilities for the company, Neace says. "We intend to further our expansion into the Far East."
The company was established in 1971, employs 92 people and reports annual sales of about $8 million.
DECISION INFORMATION SYSTEMS
This Peru-based company is an example of how many software developers get started. Primarily, it is a dealer of computer software and hardware, not a developer, but opportunity knocked and the company answered.
Pete Jarding of Decision Information Systems explains that one of his customers, the Plymouth CPA firm of McQueen and Boyer, approached him three or four years ago with a program designed to prepare Indiana personal property taxes, and asked if he could market it. The firm had developed the program for its own use and saw the potential to sell it to others.
Dan Boyer, partner in the CPA firm, says that state personal property tax forms are particularly tedious to prepare, because they require numerous calculations. Before the program was created, the firm's accountants had to do the math, then have the return typed, then check the typing and the calculations on the finished form. The software it developed accepts the raw data, performs the calculations and produces a finished form on a laser printer.
Jarding agreed to market the software, which carries the Decision Information Systems name. "The first year, Pete marketed it only to CPA firms in the state, and last year he started marketing it to private companies, especially ones with multiple locations, because each location has to have a separate property tax return," Boyer says.
Boyer is examining whether there are other tax tasks that might lend themselves well to computerization, so more products may be on the way.
IMAGINE PRODUCTS INC.
As were so many other software companies, Imagine Products was started by people who couldn't find an existing software product that met the needs of their business. In this case, the needs were related to video production.
Imagine's main software package is known as The Executive Producer. Unlike StudioMaster developed by AT&T GSL, The Executive Producer is not designed to perform tape-editing tasks, but it will handle practically everything else.
"In the video and film markets, basically there's a lot of paper work that has to be done," says Geddes, the vice president. Video producers, for example, work with time-code reference numbers, which identify individual frames of video. A producer will keep notes of all of the different shots, or takes, along with the time-code numbers. Later, when planning how to string the takes together into a finished product, the producer will write instructions to the editor using those numbers. The Executive Producer helps to organize those instructions, known as an event-decision list.
The software also will organize a database to keep track of takes, Geddes says. The database is versatile enough that it also can keep track of a film library, or practically any other type of information. (In fact, Geddes says, one customer used the software to keep track of the exotic cats that she raises.) The other main function of Imagine's software is communication. Producers can use it to send event-decision lists to editors via modem.
Imagine Products has only been in business since the first part of this year, but already has landed major clients such as NBC and the NASA. Imagine has 10 employees.
MICRO DATA BASE SYSTEMS INC.
This is one of several software firms that owe their existence at least in part to the presence of Purdue University. Located in Lafayette, the 12-year-old company that prefers to use lower-case initials--mdbs--employs 75.
"We build tools for application developers," explains Castleberry, the general manager. "We have various products, but they're all targeted at professional application developers, people who make their living in one form or another by building software applications."
In other words, mdbs is the software developer behind a lot of other software developers, a crucial role that is, perhaps, less-glamorous because of its behind-the-scenes nature. "We feel like we make these smooth, quiet engines. We don't put on the fancy exterior; usually our direct customers are doing that and then reselling it under their name."
The major products are MDBS IV, GURU, KnowledgeMan and Object/1. "The Comptroller of the Currency, who monitors some banks, has built a system using GURU that every night analyzes banks," Castleberry says. "Exxon's chemical division uses KnowledgeMan for keeping track of all of its pipes and valves. And for the Eurotunnel project between France and England, the financing and other business parts of that involve several hundred banks in many countries with all these currency translations, and that's done with GURU and mdbs IV."
"You can think of our products as trying to put the factory in the computer," says Pritsker, CEO of the company that bears his name. "We try and do in the computer what the factory would do in real life. We see what would happen as we change the amount of resources, as the amount of orders increases, as we change operating policies. We see how we can improve the operation, doing it in advance of having to do it in the factory itself; we can visualize that by showing a picture of the manufacturing floor and watching items move through the floor."
Back in 1973, when Pritsker and some others with Purdue connections launched the company, Pritsker Corp. was the first to bring such simulation technology to the commercial market. He and his associates found that the business world didn't seem ready to use some of the simulation technologies that students were learning about. "We decided we had to go out and show people how to use these techniques that could help them, sort of educate industry."
It goes without saying that industry is learning the lesson. Pritsker now employs 115 people at various locations. Its product development and training take place in West Lafayette, while most administrative tasks are centered in Indianapolis. Pritsker's major products are known as Slamsystem, Packaging, Slam/Tess, XCell+, and Factor.
Writers around the country have a lot to learn from this Carmel-based company. The division of Macmillan Computer Publishing Inc. markets a product known as RightWriter that gives users tips on how to improve their writing.
RightWriter, which runs on all major personal-computer platforms, works in conjunction with all the major word-processing programs as well as some layout and spreadsheet applications. After a story, letter or other document is written, RightWriter analyzes it, looking for incorrect grammar, poor punctuation, improper style and other problems.
Here, for example, is an excerpt from a sample business memo: "There is a problem of a severe nature in widget production. It is clear that our current system will not cut the mustard. We may possibly need to move on this reasonably quickly." Running it through RightWriter generates a report that calls the phrase "there is a problem of a severe nature" too wordy and recommends simply using the term "severe problem." RightWriter also suggests omitting "It is clear that," and flags the use of the cliche "cut the mustard." "We may possibly" is redundant, the report advises, and "reasonably quickly" is called a weak phrase.
Since its introduction, RightWriter has earned recognition from several computer publications as being the best program of its type. In addition, three independent tests found RightWriter to be the fastest and most accurate grammar- and style-checking software, with an error rate of as low as 1 percent.
Que Software was founded in 1990, and RightWriter is its first product. Another Macmillan subsidiary, Que Corp., is the world's leading publisher of computer books.
One problem facing many computer users, particularly publishers, is the incompatibility of different operating systems and software packages. It is that problem that gives Shaffstall Corp. of Indianapolis a purpose.
Shaffstall develops both hardware and software designed to translate files from one format to another. Such a need might arise when a user has a Macintosh disk that has a file he or she wants to copy onto an IBM-compatible computer, says Tony Shaffstall, vice president of sales. That's a hardware compatibility problem, and that's where his company's hardware solution comes in; it will read files from scores of different systems. Then the software inside that unit takes over, translating the file to a usable format.
Shaffstall says many computer users run into trouble even if the files they need were not created on a different type of computer. An IBM user, for example, may not be able to read a file turned in by another IBM user if the software is different. "It's still like Russian and English to the computer," he says. But Shaffstall's popular software solves that. These days, now that the majority of personal computers used in the working world are IBM-compatible, much of Shaffstall's business is related to the software compatibility problem.
It's not just industry that runs into compatibility problems. Shaffstall notes that, during the Reagan years when the first Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty was being negotiated, the various parties to the treaty worked on different types of computers. It was a Shaffstall product that performed the translations.
Shaffstall Corp. has been in business since 1973. Its 25 employees generate nearly $3 million in sales annually.
SOFTWARE ARTISTRY INC.
Artificial intelligence is the specialty of this Indianapolis software developer. Among its biggest customers are businesses that operate customer-support "help desks," as well as those that spend a lot of time scheduling labor.
Software Artistry was founded in 1988, and since then has grown to employ 24 people. Sales are reported at roughly $3 million. The company focuses on two areas of artificial intelligence--expert systems and hypermedia--says Joe Adams, co-founder and vice president of marketing.
"Expert systems mimic the decision-making of a human model," he says. "Hypermedia is an advanced, object-oriented approach to information storage and retrieval. You're no longer necessarily dealing with text on the screen; you may see full-motion video or still images, graphics, data, documents--all linked together in an intelligent fashion."
The company markets Expert Advisor, a hypermedia expert-system application designed for corporate help desks. "Instead of having high-paid experts sitting there, you can build a system that contains all the knowledge and information necessary to disperse to anyone who requires information."
Another major Software Artistry product is Expert Labor Scheduler, which Adams says works well in retail situations. "Computers have been around for 30 years, but people often are still scheduled by hand. The reason is that no one's been able to write a computer software program that can do that job in conventional software." So the company wrote an expert-system program for scheduling, which he says is the first of its kind.
These and other artificial intelligence applications, Adams says, can give companies a phenomenal competitive advantage. In fact, his company's customers often don't want their names released because they don't want their competitors to know they are using artificial intelligence products such as expert systems.
"It's as if you could clone your best people and make a million copies of them or as many copies as you want. You can just drive someone into the ground," Adams says.
"Some 47 percent of the Japanese manufacturers are using artificial intelligence," he concludes. "Less than 11 percent of the U.S. manufacturers are using it. Take a look at the marketplace and make your own decision."
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|Title Annotation:||computer software industry in Indiana|
|Publication:||Indiana Business Magazine|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1991|
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