Company Reports - Vision/R4 Corporation
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Vision: Offering tailor-made technology solutions
After forming in 1996, the first few years of Vision’s life was spent developing an Enterprise Resource Management Planning (ERP) software solution, known as Apogee. Two years later, in 1998, the company started marketing its in-house developed software to project-driven and activity based service organisations, distributors and manufacturers based in Canada and America. Since then, both the product and the company have evolved quite considerably. Today, not only does Vision service companies in Canada and the States, but it has recently moved into the African market. The Montreal-based company has also invested a considerable amount of time and money in improving the technology and functionality of Apogee.
It was in 2003 that Vision decided to enter the African market and the company now has operations in Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Sudan. Jean-Paul Ouellette, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vision, also explained that the company is currently trying to enter other African markets, most notably Uganda and Tanzania.
After developing operations in the African continent, the company thought it was necessary to have a local presence. As a result, it set up a wholly-owned subsidiary company January 2010, Vision (Four) Africa, with a head office based in Nairobi, Kenya. Despite the company’s obvious success in Africa, both Ouellette and Eric Descôteaux, Vision’s Senior Advisor and Director, admits it was not without its challenges.
“It was a big culture shock,” said Descôteaux. “Here we can do remote demonstrations via the internet and we sell contracts without ever seeing a client in Canada and the US. In Africa, everything has got to be face-to-face and the personal contact is much more important.” Ouellette adds: “The other challenge is the time it takes to get something done. It takes more time to get a contract done and a project implemented than it does in the US or Canada.”
Vision is currently in the process of developing a new ‘.net’ user interface which will make its product and system a lot easier and simpler to use for clients, as well as giving them more control over the look and feel of the application. Descôteaux is hoping this will enhance the user’s acceptance rate of Vision’s software. “One of the biggest challenges in the ERP software industry is that users do not accept a new system,” he explains. “They don’t want to learn a new system, it’s a lot of work and it’s a learning curve, which is often steep. So if we can make it easier for them by having a simpler user interface, then that will help our user acceptance rate.”
The company is also in the midst of integrating a new business intelligence tool into its Apogee solution. This is essentially a business report writer or ‘dashboard’, as Vision refers to it, which will enable company executives and managers to view their company data more efficiently and effectively.
New product development and investment in this area is an essential part to Vision’s operations. “Technology is our biggest area of investment,” notes Ouellette. “We spend about 20 percent of our revenue every year on the development and improvement of our products.” Descôteaux adds: “We would not be able to survive if we were not continuously improving our software. Within a year or two our software would become obsolete.”
As part of that commitment, Vision recently became a reseller of Syspro, a fully-integrated business software solution that provides functionalities not found in Apogee for specific industries such as automobile, construction, furniture, metal fabrication, mining, packaging and plastics. By having two ERP solutions, Vision can meet the requirements of more clients.
A TAILOR-MADE SERVICE
According to both Descôteaux and Ouellette, what sets Vision apart from its competitors is its competitive pricing structure, dedication to high levels of service, unrivalled client support and above all, the company’s willingness to tailor its products and software solutions to meet the client’s requirement.
“The thing that is very important is that we are the author of our software, which means that we can personally change it and customise it,” asserts Descôteaux. “With a lot of other software out there you cannot make changes to it so companies have to fit within its parameters. With our system if our client needs something changed we offer that possibility.”
Feedback, recommendations and suggestions about changes and additions to the Apogee software is incredibly important to Vision and the company is constantly listening to its clients and partners and adapting its system to suit their needs.
Despite developing a presence in Africa and finding success in both Canada and the US, Vision is keen to avoid a very rapid expansion. The company also wants to stay true to its roots; its Apogee software is available in French and English so it only wants to target territories where a language barrier will not be an issue.
Concluding, Ouellette says: “We do not want to become a huge company. We don’t consider ourselves to be a very large company and we want to stay that way because we feel our service is very important and we want to keep control of our operations and customer base.”