When I was first introduced to Latitude Geographics, they were described as a company who picked up dimes in front of a steam roller. The steam roller in question was Esri, and the dimes were little nuggets of functionality that Esri might get round to developing someday but until then were to be offered to consumers in the form of Geocortex Essentials. It is a business model that has proved very successful; the popularity of Essentials across the world and here in New Zealand stands testimony to the fact.
The trouble with being in front of the steam roller is that if you stand still you run the risk of being squashed, so consequently agility is the order of the day. Latitude is the very definition of agile and with a release cycle of every 6 to 8 weeks, they have to be. Further testimony to their nimble business methods can be found in the form of the recently released HTML 5 viewer.
Latitude has looked at the market, listened to customers and business partners, noted what ESRI was and wasn’t doing, and in the time it takes some companies to organise a meeting the decision had been made to create an HTML 5 viewer. Developers were focused on a concerted effort to make an HTML 5 productised viewer available to customers.
The progeny of this effort was version 1.0 of the HTML5 viewer. Yes the viewer is basic but it provides a glimpse of what is to come and with the rumoured improvements in version 1.1, HTML5 looks as though it will be a viable solution for the emerging mobile market as well as providing cross-browser support without the need for a plug in. To be able to make such a decision, in such a short space of time, and still produce a viable products demonstrates that not only that Latitudes developers are agile but the whole company, from marketing and sales to quality control, management and support.
So where does that leave NSG? Well in recent weeks I have come to realise that in some cases we are picking up the dimes in front of the steam roller that is Latitude in front of the steam roller that is Esri. New Zealand clients can be a demanding bunch (you know who you are) and there has been the odd occasion where the functionality that Latitude has provided hasn’t fully met the needs of the client.
In these situations our developers have written functionality that enhances Essentials in some way. It might have been a help module, it might have been a particular type of search or mobile viewer. In each case we know that Latitude or Esri are likely to develop core functionality that will replace our functionality in the same way that Esri has replaced Latitude’s, but that is the business we are in, and in developing quickly and effectively, using Workflow wherever possible we are able to create modules that have reusable components that can be used time and time again in different projects regardless of the new functionality that arrives in core Essentials.
Indeed the growth in core Workflow Activities has proved how effective this method of development has become. We are able to drop out custom activities that we have written, and replace them with core activities as they arrive without having to rewrite code saving customers money in the process.
Workflow isn’t always the answer and in some cases we have had to look at what Latitude were planning, look at what Esri were planning and make the decision as to which technology will best meet our clients’ needs.
So with two steam rollers to keep an eye on does that make NSG twice as agile as Latitude or just double the risk of being squashed? Actually it isn’t a question of agility but rather a question of flexibility. Latitude’s core business is the development of Essentials and therefore it needs to be agile if it is to keep ahead of Esri. NSG on the other hand is a GIS consultancy first and foremost meaning that we have many more irons in the fire than Essentials sales and development. We have a great relationship with Esri and Latitude, meaning that we know what to expect from both, the flexibility therefore comes from being able apply that knowledge to client requirements ensuring that the customer is provided with the best solution.