Mid-market ERP developer Greentree has built its business navigating tricky technology transitions.
The company, which began rolling out its HTML5 empowered version 4 early this year, effectively began life in 1984 as CBA and became one of the most widely used accounting applications in Australasia.
Around 12,000 customers happily ran their businesses on DOS-based CBA - rumour has it some still do.
But by the late 1990s, after the company was sold and reacquired, it was time for a complete technology refit. CBA was rebuilt in Jade to run on Windows and renamed Greentree.
CBA customers had a choice: they could hold, switch or change. Chief executive Peter Dickinson says around 10 percent of the original customer base moved to Greentree. Most of the rest were small, even single-user sites that have probably gone to Xero or MYOB.
Those that stayed with Auckland-based Greentree have seen the software quietly develop a unique value proposition over nearly two decades and four versions. The latest includes rich browser-based functionality courtesy of California-based Sencha's Ext JS and Sencha Touch.
"It is built for a fragmented world of tablets, phones and other smart devices," Dickinson says.
Version 4 effectively transforms Greentree's cross-platform and mobile capabilities, connecting to fundamental capabilities of devices such as tablets and smartphones and even allowing users to configure their own browser-based workspaces through an application called Screen Designer.
But for Dickinson the "killer app" in Greentree is still its built-in workflows and business process management, especially for companies that sell and service. Such functionality is normally seen as expensive and strictly for the big guys.
With a single architecture across all of its modules, Greentree's built-in business process engine allows users to "connect the dots", Dickinson says. Customers can configure their own business rules and automate processes.
"If you don't have really good process intelligence, your customer can become the victim. We have users with 2000 rules in place," Dickinson says.
Greentree can talk about business intelligence, but also about process intelligence and operational intelligence, he says.
From its imported CBA base of around 1200, Greentree now boasts more than 10,000 customers. 55 percent of those are in Australia, 25 percent in New Zealand, 18 percent in the UK (up 60 percent in the last year) and 5 percent in the US.
As to the biggest development in IT over the last decade - cloud computing - Greentree is agnostic.
"We've always had a subscription model, but the majority of customers haven't taken it," says Dickinson.
Greentree is delivered by a partner in Queensland via a SaaS model to 700 pharmacies. Others, such as Perth-based AOD, offer existing Greentree customers the option to shift to the cloud.
"We take the stance that we don't care," Dickinson says. "The customer can choose. They can have subscription pricing but the majority of new prospects are still buying on the perpetual license."
The only way to get a majority of cloud or SaaS customers would be to dictate it.
"I haven't been brave enough to do that," Dickinson jokes.