Innovative Computing celebrates 40 years

Delivering the keynote address at Innovative Computing Corp.’s annual user’s conference, held in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, April 7, Ernie Betancourt looked back to the company’s auspicious beginnings.

It was 1969, 40 years ago, that Innovative delivered its original trucking software on IBM mainframe computers in what then was called a “service bureau.” At the time, computing power usually meant the use of terminals connected to an expensive, remote mainframe computer via leased telephone lines and dial-up connections.

The company’s flagship product, Innovative Enterprise Software, began in the late 1970s with the release of the IBM System 34 “minicomputer.” The release of the AS/400 (predecessor of today’s Power Systems) in 1988 spurred a period of intense growth for the company, as truckload carriers in North America adopted the “400” as the de facto standard.

By 1997, however, the company was almost dead. The original owners of Innovative had sold the company to a large corporation, Westinghouse, which proceeded to lose interest in its core software business. For example, the company put too much emphasis on increasing its programmers’ billable hours, which resulted in writing custom code for customers rather than developing the core software, Betancourt said.

This paradigm changed in the late 1990s when Innovative was purchased by a small group of investors and Betancourt became president. In 1999, after many revolutions in IBM mainframe technology, Internet communications and with new company management, Innovative became the first enterprise trucking software provider to launch a new type of “service.” The company started to offer its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) over the Internet with products that later became known as IES Access and Access Plus.

In March 2001, Betancourt led a management buyout of Innovative Computing Corp. Since then, the company has streamlined its focus on profitability and efficiency for its customers, he said. “Innovative has seen its share of changes in technology and the industry,” he said. “Staying on the leading edge has remained a challenge that we have been proud to accept and that we look forward to meeting long into the future.”

Going forward, Betancourt is seeing continued success with the IES Access and Access Plus products. The software is cost-effective for fleets that operate less than 300 trucks, he said, considering everything that customers get as part of the service. Currently, customers that use the SaaS have an average fleet size of 65 trucks, he said.

The cost of IES Access and Access Plus is $19.50 per truck, per month, and customers are billed only on the number of trucks they dispatch in a month. Innovative’s SaaS features redundant servers and nightly backups of all customer data for instant data recovery. Customers can access their system from any Web browser.

Carriers that use IES Access or Access Plus also gain access to all of Innovative’s enterprise software, including all interfaces and external connections to third-party software systems such as fuel cards and mobile communications, Betancourt said. The standard practice among software companies is to charge fleets thousands of dollars extra to add these third-party interfaces, often called software modules, to the base package of a hosted or “premise-based” software system.