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Productivity Gain

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  • | 6:00 p.m. November 23, 2007
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Productivity Gain

T&I Tampa Bay Winner

by Dave Szymanski | Tampa Bay Editor

Sean Walsh is leading Skyway Software into markets around the world with a product that cuts down software development time, saving resources.

A technician writing custom software for a company can do an average of about 100 lines of code a day, typing it in by hand.

Tampa-based Skyway Software, a business-to-business software maker, is simplifing and speeding up that process.

The company is named after the signature Sunshine Skyway Bridge between Pinellas and Manatee counties, a symbolic nod to technology as a bridge from the old way of making software to the new. It added its current CEO and president, Sean J. Walsh, a former IBM executive, in June 2006.

Skyway is a six-year-old company that has a product that cuts software development time - in some cases in half or less. It does it by a modeling process, which allows the software developer to use images and drag and drop information, rather than coding it in all by hand. That saves time.

An average developer will run a company $80,000 to $150,000 a year. If a company can turn around work two to 10 times faster with the Skyway software, it is saving money. Plus, it reduces the need for more software developers, which are difficult and costly to find.

Skyway revenue should grow 30% to 50% this year. Beyond that, projections are for 50% to 100% growth, Walsh says.

In the United States, it sells directly to businesses and uses partner distributors. On the international level, it is setting up distribution partners.

A number of companies are doing modeling software or are looking into it, including industry behemoths Microsoft with its Oslo project and IBM.

CreateASoft of Naperville, Ill. builds modeling software which needs no code. It's been in business since 1992.

Borland Software in Austin, Texas, creates modeling software, but said the product can only respond to certain software needs, like Web sites for retail applications. For other companies, hand-coding may still be needed.

"The days of hand-coding will be around for a long time," says Richard Gromback, chief scientist for Borland.

"In the future, (modeling) could generate all of it," he adds. "It's something that will take place in the next 10 to 20 years, rather than the next five. It all depends on the scope of the work."

Highway to Skyway

Two Tampa entrepreneurs started Skyway in 2001 after working on the technology for three years.

The first customer was Enporian, a Tampa-based company, which found that its programmers were five to 10 times faster with the Skyway software.

Skyway has 12 customers today, including TD Ameritrade, British American Tobacco, Southern States Corp. and Verizon.

"We see very bright things ahead," Walsh says. "The first 10 to 12 customers are more difficult than the next 20 to 30. The big guys don't have what we have yet."

Skyway has produced five versions of its software. Version 6.0, on an Eclipse platform, is due in April.

"All big guys are trying to do it," Walsh says. "That's a great validation we're on the right track."

Skyway's motto is "Simplying software delivery." It plans to continue to try to do that with newer versions of its software that incorporate feedback from its clients.

"We will continue to look for opportunities to expand our footprint," Walsh says.

Skyway's goal is to grow the company through its current product, rather than developing new ones because there is still opportunities in the current market, Walsh says.

"We're really ramping up our partners program, so we wouldn't want to send the wrong message," Walsh says. "What's the old saying - tending to our own knitting? That's where innovation and prosperity lie."

If you're a CIO, when you look at the application backlog and demands on your tech staff, you may try to buy off-the-shelf software. Companies often don't have time to rewrite systems. But many companies still need custom software. That takes time, something most companies don't have in abundance.

Customers download Skyway's product and receive access keys to use it.

"Anyone who needs to build a rich Internet application could easily use Skyway," Walsh says. "It's a very horizontal, very robust product. Small companies and large companies can use it."

Two-thirds of Skyways' employees are technicians. It relies on digital marketing, primarily the Web, to generate awareness worldwide.

In its offices are a series of cubicles, including one for CEO Walsh, an electrical engineer from Purdue University.

The lights are slightly dimmed, allowing developers to view their dual screens. A foosball table sits nearby. Skyway has not had a problem recruiting local software developer talent.

Walsh took over as CEO from the company founders, who are still with the company. The management lesson he's learned: Hire good people, give them a clear understanding of your expectations, create a good system, get out of the way and tweak the product with suggestions from customers.

"We are constantly listening to them to do what we do next," he says.

An example of that is the upcoming new version of Skyway software that will include the Eclipse framework. The software will act more like a workbench, where developers can plug their tools in, an integrated-development environment.


Company: Skyway Software

Industry: Modeling software

Key: Help customers reduce development time for custom software.


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