I’m often asked who is a typical OpenInsight developer and . . .


Mike at last years conference.
Mike at last years conference.

I’m often asked who is a typical OpenInsight developer and why?  I pause for a moment, take a look at the current user base and this usually has me thinking back many years and to ‘why, those people chose to use Revelation Software’s products in the first place’.  That tends to be the more interesting question to answer.

When I look back, I see countless Value Added Reseller (VAR’s) and end users with growing systems and small teams of developers and in most cases one key individual.  That person may not have started out as a software developer, in fact, they are very frequently not a trained software professional at all and they usually come from a totally different background.

I could use numerous individuals as an example, people that started out in a profession, became frustrated with the software solutions available to them and who went on to build their own solution and then to begin offering their solutions to the benefit of hundreds of others (friends and customers).  I don’t paint myself in the same light, but I will use myself as an example.

When I joined Revelation as an ‘Internal Sales Engineer’ (some 15 years ago), I was given Lotus Notes to use.  It came to the end of its useful life within our business and we moved to Act, that was not up to the task and we tried Goldmine, that was too difficult to get data out of and we moved to Maximizer.  I then began to learn about developing the Maximizer interface to give me the data views (datasets) that I needed to support my job role.  All was good for a time and then the authors decided to go the MS SQL Server route and I found myself facing a five fold price increase with decreased functionality – actually, it got so bad, I found myself looking for another solution.

Enter a little plug in for Outlook and once again more frustration.  All seemed to be pretty good initially and then it crashed Outlook, resulting in a restore and time setting everything back up again and lost work hours.  A second occurrence, and then a third.  I used to fly (a Cessna out of RAF Henlow as a work bonus) and I was reliably taught that when three things go wrong, you don’t fly.  I live by that rule even now, so three strikes and the Outlook plug-in was out.

So what next???

Unsurprisingly, the solution was staring me in the face.  It often is in life.  You just need to open your ideas to something new.  I had access to OpenInsight, I had access to some of the best OpenInsight developers on the planet and I had begun to dabble in my own product demonstrations, building simple databases, forms, reports and the like.

So, like many people before me, I was that individual with a need.  A need for a software solution that worked with me and which supported my job role.  I knew my job, I knew what I needed to support that job role and I just needed to get on and build my own system.  And, that is just what I did.  Over the next couple of weeks, with the help of my colleagues (usually Aaron fixing things up in the car whilst I dropped him home from London to Northampton, or Mike on one of our long UK road trips between RUGs and client meetings) I wrote a basic contact manger for RevUK and I have gone on to add to that as it has grown and evolved with our business – much like just about every other Revelation based system that has been running for any length of time.

So why the long and protracted story?

Well, I guess that I’m finally proud of what I have built.  In fact, I knocked up a comprehensive system to manage our archery club (Andrew helped me to build a wicked tournament module that saved a lot of time collating results for multi-round tournaments) and again to manage a small photography business I dabbled with for a time – I wrote that one totally on my own.

But, the real reason is to outline Revelation’s traditional application developer.  Yes we have developers join us and our clients teams who have studied computer science, obtained degrees and can work in one of many different programming languages.  But, this posting is about the individual entrepreneurs, business leaders and department staff members that have the vision and who have used ARev and/or OpenInsight to help them to realise that vision and build that perfect application.

It is those people that take OpenInsight, build solutions and enhance their working lives and who then often go on to enhance the working lives of their colleagues and then their clients.

Furthermore, it is OpenInsight that sits in the middle ground between the lower end fully integrated database tools that are designed for the individual and which are not really scalable and which have their limitations, and the professional software development suites that need degrees and expensive training to master them.  These large systems often need knowledge about; third normal form, inner and outer joins, record locking, working with datasets, how to write and debug code and how to bring several disparate technologies together.  No small undertaking for an individual in an organisation with little time on their hands, but who needs a solution quickly to support their work function.

OpenInsight sits right between these two categories of products.  It’s is fully integrated with everything you need in one toolset – desktop and web development tools, database, user interface, reporting, data warehousing tools and more.  Plus, it is scalable and we have systems supporting hundreds of users over LAN, WAN and Web (mobile) environments.

Better still, with the upcoming release of OpenInsight 10, Revelation are once again providing application development tools that anyone can take to build solutions.  It is amazing how much can be done without having to write code, and how you can then take those systems and easily deploy them to end users, and then how you can further enhance those systems WITHOUT the need to re-engineer your system all of the time.

Interestingly, the team have done so much to enhance the application development process in OI10, I now find myself deleting thousands of lines of cobbled together code in my contact management system, in favour of simply setting a property or two in the designers property panel.  For me, the benefit is setting one option or typing in a value (into a property) to use professionally written code and a better, more optimised and robust solution.

Yeah Mike, I’m giving OpenInsight 10 a double thumbs up as well.

OpenInsight WORKS subscribers can get their hands on the OI10 Beta right now, just log into OI WORKS and locate the OI10 Beta Gateway on the main WORKS page on www.revelation.com.  If you are not a WORKS subscriber, please get in touch and I’ll be pleased to see how we can help you to get into OpenInsight.

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