From DOS to the browser in 25 years

Nelson firm plans to open shop in Auckland

Nelson-based Nimbus Software is one of the survivors in the local IT industry, celebrating 25 years in business this year — and opening an Auckland office in the process.

Nimbus emerged from Microcomputer Systems as a separate accounting software business in 1983. Two of the original shareholders are still involved in the business — CTO Brian Pollock and Bill Irwin, who is now retired, says managing director Ken Connoley.

The company has evolved from being an accounting software provider to become a developer and provider of business solutions, but the target market remains the same — primarily the contracting and service sector, he says.

Connoley, originally from Australia, has been with Nimbus for six years. He thinks the company has been able to pull through the tough times thanks to loyal staff and clients, as well as a major investment in research and development.

The company realised that it had to reinvent its DOS (Disk Operating System) product to be able to survive, although around 100 of Nimbus’ clients still use the DOS-based system, says Connoley.

“The reality is — it works,” he says.

Nimbus developed its latest, browser-driven product using .Net, and using Microsoft’s SQL Server as its database engine, he says. The software aims to improve productivity through the identification and implementation of best business practice. Nimbus has just released a mobile module, allowing clients to access the system from the field, he says.

“Our first systems were installed on IBM XT 8086 processor computers with 640KB RAM and 20MB hard disk. [The software] is now installed on multiprocessor servers with unheard of processing power... Quite a journey over 25 years,” he says.

Today, the company has over 300 clients and is growing by around 15 new clients a year, he says.

The company has not had problems finding developers and business consultants in Nelson, Connoley says.

Many skilled workers choose to move there for the lifestyle. People from all over the world come to Nelson looking for work, and the company currently employs Australians, Americans and South Africans in addition to Kiwis, he says.

Most staff has been with the company for at least the last seven years, he says. Of the 20 employees, five are developers and eight are business consultants.

Nimbus is opening an Auckland office in October, and has appointed additional staff to provide new business development and customer support for the upper North Island, he says.

In the next 12 months, Nimbus is planning to offer its products off-shore, but whatever happens, R&D will remain in Nelson, says Connoley.

John Skeates, the former CEO of Mail Marshall, has recently joined Nimbus’ board to assist with its ambitions to take on the export market.

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