'Cloud-based' software throws a helpful spanner in the works

'Cloud-based' software throws a helpful spanner in the works

Wellington software company Core Technology is weeks away from the global release of a "cloud-based" software development environment that it hopes will change the way many business applications are built and improved. The company, which employs 65 staff in the capital, Palmerston North and Australia, has spent six years and "many millions of dollars" creating its Aviarc software. The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have contributed hundreds of thousands. Core chief executive Shane Mercer says the completely web-based Java software lets customers see what applications look like as they are developed and annotate features and functions with comments. If customers come across an error before or after the application is developed, they can drag and drop a "spanner" to the offending item and developers can relive what went wrong, exactly as it happened. Head of markets John Boon says numerous international studies show that only about one in three software projects are an outright success, and that ratio has not improved. Mercer believes the software could change the relationship between IT departments and their business customers. "It is the first time the business can see if it is going to get what it wants before it is too late." He expects Aviarc will be used mostly to develop "line of business" applications that fall in between mission-critical enterprise systems and "situational" applications that users might develop for themselves, such as Excel spreadsheets. The idea is that once applications have been deployed, they can be continuously improved through the interaction between users and developers that the software allows. Aviarc has been used by 30 customers. An Australian private health insurer used it to develop an application to manage sales commission incentives and another developed software to let call centre staff send out information electronically rather than on paper, saving more than $2 million. Next month, it will be generally available for businesses to buy and use themselves. Boon says Aviarc is likely to appeal to IT managers who are under pressure to show they are being responsive to the needs of their business. Once end users regained confidence in IT departments to deliver "tactical" applications, they often also asked them to sort out software they had developed themselves, he says. Core Technology, an IBM business partner, was this month chosen as one of eight firms on a panel appointed by Internal Affairs to help advise government agencies on cloud computing initiatives. Mercer says the firm's biggest challenge is getting across the message to customers that Aviarc is something fundamentally new.

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