Building complex applications at clicking speed

Mike Porter, senior vice-president for North America with Vertex Data Science Ltd., a U.K.-based customer management outsourcing company, was in a bit of a quandary. He needed his developers to build an easily convertible, highly complex yet generic utilities billing application. But using traditional technology from Accenture or SAP AG, or even from scratch using Microsoft Corp’s .Net or Sun Microsystems’ J2EE, would have been both arduous and expensive. So he turned to TenFold Corp.

Vertex built its billing system for the utilities industry in about six months with a team of less than 20. Using other technology would have taken years, Porter said. What makes Vertex’s solution highly unusual is its flexibility for use in any utility setting — from water to hydro to gas — in any country, and even accounting for highly specific national regulatory requirements.

Traditionally it takes weeks if not months to rework an application. But Porter said using Tenfold’s Universal Application a new customer could be set up within days. “We felt that using Tenfold’s…technology was the most cost-effective and timely means of building a utilities generic billing system that could be flexibly changed to meet on-going client demands,” he told ComputerWorld Canada in a subsequent e-mail interview.

During a recent visit to Toronto, Jeff Walker — TenFold’s chairman —said a typical development process starts with setting user requirements, building an application, then users changing their requirements after realizing the original requirements were not what was needed and IT being forced back to the drawing board.

Attendee Gord Hoy, liked what he saw. The Unionville, Ont.-based member of the Supply Chain Alliance said building news applications for many SMEs is often prohibited by cost. TenFold’s technology appears “simple to use and (does) not cost a bundle of money,” he said. Hoy said the solutions currently available take too long to build an application.

The EnterpriseTenFold solution allows small teams of users, with the help of a few people from IT, to quickly build a variety of applications. An existing database is needed to populate the new application, and EnterpriseTenFold can seamlessly pull data from almost all databases.

At one point during the demonstration Walker asked the audience if there was anyone in the room who believed him. No one did. He and an associate then built a simple sales force application in less than five minutes.

What makes Walker’s claims possible is a rendering engine similar in process to Microsoft’s Excel. In its code base, Excel allows users to build any spreadsheet, even those not yet contemplated. TenFold’s technology, although more powerful, essentially does the same thing.

Another key feature is the speed in which changes can be made. Design features, such as what information is being pulled from a database and how it is presented, can be changed in minutes — not days.