Focusing on efficiency and cost reduction for mid-sized companies may not be the most glamorous goal, but it is a strategy that has enabled SORCE, Ltd. to grow at 40%–50% per year since its founding in 2000. SORCE builds prepackaged intranet and extranet software solutions for mid-size companies ranging from 50 employees to 50,000.
"The deciding factor for whether a company needs an intranet," according to founder John Nicklin, "depends not on how big the company is but how many people outside the organization they need to communicate with." He adds, "If a company has 50 employees who communicate with 500 clients, then they need a client extranet. Otherwise, instead of building community, you are just bouncing emails off your clients all day."
Founded on the need to bring rapid deployment and flexibility to the sluggish process of designing and building a company intranet, the software company has since established a credo of delivering tangible business process improvements. Speed is still a factor, and the company claims to offer an intranet and extranet product that can be fully deployed within 12 weeks, even for large organizations.
To break through potential client resistance to investing in software during these difficult economic times, "An intranet or extranet plan must go beyond pure communications, it must deliver business efficiencies within the organization," asserts Nicklin. He continues, "If not, the project will stall and not get CEO approval because they cannot see the cost benefits."
Nicklin adds that this type of functionality cannot be accomplished with a pure content management-based intranet. The SORCE product offering can integrate with internal software and systems such as SAP, customer relationship management systems, or even phone systems.
In addition to internal efficiencies, a law firm uses its SORCE extranet to show clients the status of all of their projects with the firm, which saves the client time and gives clients a greater sense of accountability and value from the firm.
Many applications are developed first by the clients themselves using the set of development tools that are a key part of the SORCE software offering. The tools, based on the Microsoft .Net architecture, enable people whose skill level is roughly equal to "proficiency with Excel or building a database using Access to program the product themselves," according to Nicklin.
SORCE owes a great deal of its sales and innovation success to its clients. "Our best salespeople are our clients," states Nicklin. The company uses its annual user conference as a forum to highlight SORCE clients’ innovations across companies and industries to their mutual benefit. According to Nicklin, "Innovation from clients makes its way into the core product."
A U.K. company based 60 miles west of London, the majority of SORCE’s customer base is in the U.K. and Continental Europe. The product, which has language localization features to deliver navigation and links in the mother tongue of the user, is also used in South Africa, Dubai, China, Canada, and the U.S.
In terms of future trends, the company sees web-based business applications gaining acceptance in the European market, which may be driven by the increased availability of wireless networks making workers more mobile than ever. The company’s goals are twofold: 1) to deepen the process improvements delivered through SORCE products by partnering with consulting firms that can help work through the business process changes clients must adopt to see big gains in efficiency, and 2) to offer a product that is available to clients via the web, rather than requiring them to host it themselves. "This is preliminary," according to Nicklin, so there is no timetable for rollout of the new web-based version as yet.
Nicklin’s perspective on the company’s maturity may reflect a cultural difference between the typical information technology startup in the U.K. versus one in the grips of U.S. venture capitalists. At 8 years of age, Nicklin says of the company, "We’re still young." SORCE has about 165 clients and 35 employees today and hopes to continue its impressive growth rate.
Fun Fact: The company intranet hosts a "Fantasy Football Contest," in which contestants hand-pick an all-star football team (soccer to Americans) which is scored based on the individual players’ performance. This year’s winner received a football shirt from the team Manchester United, which happens to be a client.
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