Remember personal digital assistants (PDAs)? They were largely erased from the collective consciousness with the advent of the Blackberry, and touchscreen smartphones just hammered the final nails into their coffin.
Well, that’s what I used to think, anyway. Apparently, PDAs are still very much in use in specific industries, as I found out in a recent conversation with CompuEase founder Vange Mourmourakis.
“Yes, they still do exist,” he assured me. “Among other things, we do PDA development for logistics companies that still use PDAs, although they’re now slowly moving towards Android-based systems.”
While PDA development seems like a very niche market for these high-tech times, it’s not CompuEase’s bread and butter. When those logistics companies finally make the move to Android systems, Vange and his software development and consultancy company will be there waiting.
“We branched out about a year and a half ago into mobile apps,” he explains. “We have a spinoff company called FACTORinteractive, which specializes in enterprise mobile development. Our clients are based mostly in Australia, but we also work with one that operates across the United States from Santa Monica, California.
“Mobile app development was definitely an area we looked into 18 months ago when we were looking for a focused direction for a new company and we saw what was happening in the United States,” he continues.
“We knew mobile apps, especially in retail, were really taking off. We thought that was an area that was largely untouched in Australia and wanted to get in on the ground floor. We wanted to offer it to our major corporate clients and help them extend their systems and their reach into the mobile space.”
Straight out of high school
All this talk about PDAs probably belies our age — both Vange’s and mine. Sure enough, Vange has been in the software game a long time. Since high school, in fact.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time,” he laughs. “I originally started with BHP Information Technology (BHP IT) as a trainee straight out of high school.”
Back then, he recalls, books were pretty much the only way you could get information. There was no Google, no GitHub, no Stack Overflow. You had to innovate a lot of things by yourself, and you had to basically invent a lot more by yourself.
“Nowadays, a lot of the time you can find most of what you’re looking for on the internet; someone will have already done it.”
The BHP IT gig helped put him through college. He ended up staying with the company for a full decade, although he started taking on freelance consulting jobs a few years before he left.
Looking back, Vange says he probably should have struck out on his own earlier. “When I started, there wasn’t much emphasis on innovation going on,” he explains. “Most people would just work for big companies and stay there.
“When I finally did leave, I joined one of my customers, a startup in the medical radiology field. We pioneered teleradiology solutions and its later evolution, picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), for medical radiology imaging. We pretty much pioneered that in Australia; we were the first company to have filmless medical imaging in hospitals.
“I worked with them for 11 years and kept my consulting business going on the side. In 2007, I decided to strike out on my own and form CompuEase. My former employer stayed on as one of my very first customers.”
Expanding and moving to the cloud
In the nine years since Vange formed the company, CompuEase’s growth has been brisk. Its consulting services grew to encompass systems integrations, desktop and mobile software development, and even a branded safety management system called SafeIntentions.
CompuEase expanded its services into the enterprise mobility space in a very deliberate move. According to Vange, it’s all a matter of keeping up—with customer needs and the ever-changing face of modern technology.
“Technology changes so rapidly that with every project, we always start from scratch and look at what technologies are out there to make sure we’re using the best approach for each project,” he explains.
“It’s a bit of a challenge—we’re basically learning something new with every project that comes along. It’s a big part of what we do, making sure we’re up to date with the most current technologies and what’s going on overseas.”
As such, Vange made the decision to move CompuEase completely to the cloud. Although the entire CompuEase team works from one big office, they do have some remote workers every now and then.
“Often, when family concerns come up, we let people work from home, so it’s important for us to be completely cloud-based,” he says. “Now we have nothing that can’t be done from anywhere you can get an internet connection, and WORKetc plays a pivotal role in helping with that.”
Working with WORKetc
CompuEase’s iOS and Android projects usually take around four months from concept to development, and the company prides itself on having a team ready to go the very next day once contracts are signed. Sticking to the timeframe can be challenging, but Vange says WORKetc has been a big help.
“WORKetc played a big part in letting us manage and stick to our timeframe. It let us keep track of everybody and kept our project on track. In two weeks, we had a full design pretty much done, complete with fully interactive mockups done through Axure.”
With time being such an important resource for CompuEase, Vange and his team have found extensive uses for WORKetc’s timesheet feature, which initially got them into WORKetc in the first place. Now, all their projects are run through WORKetc.
They also use many of the other modules, including the CRM, the sales module, and the help desk. The knowledge base in particular has also proven very useful for the team, especially when onboarding new people.
“We use the knowledge base to keep track of how our clients’ sites are set up and all sorts of other client-related information.” Vange explains. “We also use it for our little internal wiki library to store procedures, tips, tricks, and things to look out for, like how to set up software development environments, etc.—all the little things we do to help get new people up to speed when we take them on.”
A platform-agnostic future
In less than a year, CompuEase will have been around for a full decade. Vange and his team are showing no signs of slowing down, though, and they are already looking towards whatever the future may bring.
“In the next few years, I think we’ll be pushing more for mobile,” he says. “I see that as being a bigger and bigger part of our business. Apart from that, it’s hard to say where it’s going. A lot of people are making predictions, but that’s all just guesswork, I suppose.
“We’re hedging our bets and basically just trying to stay innovative. We keep trying new things. We’ve got a Beacon toolkit we’re mucking with right now—you never know where all this stuff will merge, converge, and integrate.”
He may be holding his cards close to his chest when it comes to CompuEase’s future, but Vange already has a vision of where the industry is headed in the larger scheme of things: a future where platform becomes irrelevant.
“I think the type or brand of devices are going to become less and less important,” he says. “Whether you’re using an iPhone, an Android phone, or a desktop, you’re going to want the same experience across all your devices. So I think it’s going to be important to be able to build software that gives the same user experience across different platforms.
“Future solutions will sort of transcend any device; you don’t even want to think of them as separate products,” he muses. “They’ll just be another component of the same product, whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or even a wearable device.”
- Innovate or die; always try to stay on top of current technologies and best practices, no matter what industry you’re in.
- If you want to go mobile, make sure you have good processes and systems in place. Mobile apps will prove useless if you can’t integrate them effectively into your systems.