company profile Managing director David Millward and software architect Murray Spokes of ambitious Aussie financial software company, Arrow, talk to ZDNet Australia about the market, open standards and what it's like playing with the bleeding edge of Microsoft technology, such as Azure.
Arrow managing director (Credit: Arrow)
Employing 30 staff in its Australian offices, Arrow delivers its Finance and Tencia products for small- to medium-sized enterprises.
"Our target market is generally organisations with 15-plus employees and approximately $2-$3 million in turnover," said Millward.
For Arrow, the future lies in its flagship product Tencia, a finance software platform that manages functions like payroll and stock, comprising over 9.5 million lines of SQL source code and 20 million lines of .NET source code.
"We're running on, at this stage, Windows desktops. Basically, any platform that can support the .NET framework with the Windows Forms applications is a first step," explained Spokes, adding that Arrow would be looking at developing for different operating systems and mobile devices in the near future.
Due to its .NET architecture Tencia is quite segmented, comprising a business layer, user interface layer, communications layer and a data-centric layer.
However, Spokes said that this was its strength. While many software platforms are self-contained and insular, Tencia can be used with existing business software and requires minimal set-up.
"You can use a Windows Forms Client, we call it a 'rich' client, and it's using Windows Communication Foundation for communication back to a server, so it actually works extremely well over the internet," he said.
Spokes also believes that while the majority of its clients are currently hosting their information on their own servers, Arrow may be seeing a flight from "lock and key" towards the cloud. He boils it down to familiarity and confidence.
"I think that as [Microsoft's] Azure platform becomes more commonplace, people will become more comfortable with storing their information in the cloud," he said.
The company is "looking seriously" at using Microsoft's platform. While it's easy to get swept away by all the hype and hysteria, Spokes believes a level-headed approach is best.
"It's definitely an option ... we're not saying it is the option, but it is an option for deployment for software as a service basically," he said.
"We need to sit back and see how much uptake occurs, how much it changes, one thing I've learned is that nobody gets it right the first time. With Microsoft Azure being very, very new I'd sit back and see which direction it heads and let it mature."
While there might be plenty of toys for Arrow to play with in the future, there is also room for more traditional growth as the company continues to roll out and refine Tencia in more markets.
"Ultimately, we're working towards implementing similar projects in [the] UK and NZ markets in the future," said Millward.
Bolstered by the home crowd
Millward was largely positive when quizzed about government support for local software development, citing an improvement in communications through the formation of a Software Developers Consultative Group by the Australian Tax Office.
"In the past, little consideration was given to the impact on software developers to incorporate and deploy legislative changes. This group has positively assisted in providing a voice for [independent software vendors] to provide input," said Millward, adding that Arrow Research had been a member of the group since the early 2000's.
However, there was room for improvement, especially in the grants process.
"Criteria requirements have changed significantly and are prohibitive in submitting grant submissions," said Millward.
"For instance, in relation to the current SBR [Standard Business Reporting] initiative, it would be helpful if the government could provide grant assistance towards the [research and development] required to implement [this measure]."
Spokes also shared his thoughts on open source and open standards.
"It has its advantages and disadvantages, I like the idea of open standards rather than open source, the new .docx format for all the Microsoft office applications being an open standard means there's greater opportunity for interoperability," he said.
"At the end of the day that's what clients want and that's what they need," said Spokes, adding that customers had become more savvy about data exchange and interoperability.
Where Arrow fits in the market (Credit: Arrow)