From developer tools to a marina management application, George James Software uses InterSystems Caché® as the platform for a growing portfolio of innovative software products.
George James Software has built its business around InterSystems’ core technology – using the Caché high performance object database to create applications that take full advantage of its powerful capabilities, such as version management tool VC/m, and supporting Caché developers with its debugger, Serenji. Its developers also use InterSystems Ensemble®, the seamless platform for integration and the development of connectable applications. Yet it was an unusual opportunity that led to one of its most successful software products, also based on Caché: a marina management system called ClearWaterMMS.
- Rich Management information
- Enables targeted marketing programmes
- Aligns processes and pricing
A development opportunity
In the mid 1990s, George James Software was asked to develop an application to help its near neighbour Shepperton Marina organise its billing and booking.
The developers created an integrated management application, underpinned by a Caché database, that enabled the marina to take control of every aspect of its operations– from allocating berths to sending out bills to managing customer and boat information.
The solution proved so effective that other marinas were soon in touch, and George James Software gained an entirely new market.
Today, ClearWaterMMS has been installed at dozens of sites across the UK, from a 20-berth super-yacht marina to Dean & Reddyhoff’s four major south coast sites, including the 600-berth Portland Marina. The application has evolvedfrom fairly simple beginnings to become a fully Web-enabled management tool that not only simplifies marina administration but also offers rich management information, enables targeted marketing programmes and even helps align processes and pricing between different sites in the same marina group.
Deceptively simple: the user experience
Even the largest installations barely scratch the surface of Caché’s power and performance. However, ClearWaterMMS is the perfect showcase for some of the database’s other attributes: its simplicity and usability.
“Unlike our developer clients, marina owners and managers are generally not technical people,” explains Tim Huggins, Programmer at George James Software. “Theywant something that’s easy to use and reliable.ClearWaterMMS is exactly that. In fact, the marinas we work with often barely know that they’ve got this enormously powerful database behind the scenes – and that’s probably just the way they want it.”
At smaller sites, ClearWaterMMS is often run as a hosted application, with Caché on an offsite server managed by the George James Software team. Clients simply use it over the Web, accessing all the information about their marina, their customers and the boats moored there, without needing any extra training or IT skills. At larger sites, the benefit is even greater: it frees up vast amounts of staff time. “We’ve had occasions where we’ve installed a single Caché database to replace several separate instances of Microsoft SQL Server,” recalls Tim, “but what amazes clients is that despite the combined database sometimes being bigger, they don’t need a dedicated database administrator (DBA).”
Management information at the touch of a button
One of the reasons a DBA is not essential is that users hardly ever need to directly manage the database itself. ClearWaterMMS’s built-in reporting tools mean that marina manager scan access all the information they need at the touch of a button. This reporting functionality is an impressive selling point for the application– and George James Software works closely with its clients to have the right management information available for their requirements.
However the developers are under no illusion about what makes it possible: Caché. “You can do so much with the reporting,” Tim acknowledges. “You can connect to the data in a huge variety of ways to get the right information out in the method and format of your choice.”
“You can connect to the data in a huge variety of ways to get the right information out in the method and format of your choice.”
Tim Huggins, Programmer
The overall flexibility that Caché provides is invaluable, making it easy to customise ClearWaterMMS for every installation. “Every marina is slightly different,” Tim confirms, “not only in the number and mix of berths, but also in how they work and charge. Part of our proposition is to make sure that ClearWaterMMS meets users’ exact needs, so we have to adapt a few aspects for each site. If we encounter any very unusual scenarios, we can always turn to InterSystems for support.”
Although Tim and his team have a wealth of experience, the extra support from InterSystems – which extends as far as literally dialing in to access the ClearWaterMMS system on a customer site – really helps the company deliver on its service levels. “On the rare occasions that we suspect there is a problem related to Caché, they will look at it and send us solutions, even when the site has nothing more than a single Caché licence. If it’s something that they can’t fix immediately, they will even consider building extra functionality into the next release. You just wouldn’t get that from other vendors.”
This level of support is an integral part of why George James Software sees InterSystems as a supportive partner. It has also encouraged George James Software to work with other InterSystems products, such as developing and integrating applications using InterSystems Ensemble. Yet the real strength of the relationship is underpinned by the power, usability and flexibility of the Caché database –which the team at George James has harnessed to develop its market-leading products.