Data-Basics eyes Canadian construction firms

An American enterprise software company has formed an agreement with Toronto-based Summit Business Systems to expand its Canadian customer base.

Data-Basics Inc., based in Cleveland, Ohio, provides software to the construction and

services management industry. Summit will represent the company as a sales and services reseller in Canada. Data-Basics has also appointed a Canadian manager, Ken Priestman, who will work out of Summit’s offices.

Data-Basics is marking its 30th anniversary in business this year, and started out with legacy and COBOL applications. It later moved its customer focus to services and construction, including mechanical contractors, electrical contractors, and facilities and building services.

Art Divell, CEO of Data-Basics, said the latest iteration of its software, SAM Pro Enterprise, is “”an enterprise-wide solution for service-oriented businesses. That includes all the back office accounting, inventory, Web-enabling (technicians) with devices in the trucks, Web-enabling clients to look at information.””

Data-Basics’ largest Canadian customer to date is Edmonton-based Vector Industries, a holding company for 11 refrigeration service companies. Vector has been using Data-Basics software since 1994, but last year moved off a DOS-based version and onto Internet-enabled tools running on Windows 2000.

The software uses rules-based management to handle data. “”We have a whole set of software written that sort of puts a third dimension to software that allows owners and service managers to look at their business and see what’s not going as they define the rules,”” said Divell.

Priestman aims to expand Data-Basics’ Canadian market by providing upgrade opportunities to target customers that are still relying on legacy-based tools to manage their businesses. “”How we’re going to make it happen is through a combination of marketing and direct sales efforts through the Canadian dealer, Summit Business Systems, and myself,”” he said.

The construction industry in particular is ripe for an upgrade, according to IDC Canada Ltd. analyst Warren Shiau.

The largest companies operating in that business are probably up-to-date in terms of their technology, he said, but there are many small players — particularly those that operate outside of metropolitan areas — that aren’t.

“”Construction in Canada is very under-represented in IT,”” said Shiau. “”There are so many processes that are handled manually”” from administration to site management to billing.

There may be some reluctance to embrace new technology, since the “”IT skill set really isn’t there,”” he said, but it’s bound to happen eventually. He added that software providers like Intuit, PeopleSoft and Oracle are already seeing some gains from customers in the construction business.

Divell said that Data-Basics is also expanding its customer reach into other areas such as telecommunications companies and medical equipment providers.

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