Fujifilm focuses on in-house apps development

Digital imaging giant Fujifilm has weighed into the enterprise applications buy-versus-build debate by saying software projects are less likely to fail if development is done in-house.

Fujifilm's IT manager Steve Maxwell said the organization is in "build mode."

"We like to be in charge of our own destiny, we have good people, and it's hard to find good products out there," he said.

Depending on the type of software, Maxwell said, the biggest problem with buying is the [restricted] ability to adapt and change the software.

"We've always wanted to change software [and] if you can't adapt it and have bought into a solution you can run into problems, especially with workflow processes," he said. "Streamlining only what you need to can be more efficient and cost-effective."

Fujifilm's recent software development adventures began two years ago when Maxwell was looking for software to help improve the information flow of its product management portfolio.

"We were looking to achieve better throughput and the best route was to invent something ourselves," he said, adding that he rarely saw any software product for less than "the hundreds of thousands of dollars" that could do what Fujifilm required.

"The software was either very expensive or very inadequate. Our goal is to develop our own solutions so we don't have to purchase packaged software and pay licence fees. It has been extremely productive and cost-effective."

Fujifilm partnered with Online Corporate Software (OCS), which for a "significantly less than software licences" subscription fee, allows access to its collection of applications which can be modified by the customer.

Fujifilm has a small IT team of 10 people and is an "IBM shop" with an iSeries machine running the Geac System 21 ERP application since 1990. Maxwell is confident the in-house development has yielded 98 to 99 percent supply chain efficiency and a payback within 12 months through productivity benefits.

The development process took three to six months to get an application that was fully workflow-enabled and hence could be used in production. "When you are a distributor there are many aspects to sourcing and selling products," he said. "Having a system for all information processes, including marketing and logistics, not just ERP, [is required]."

Fujifilm is now rolling out its in-house CRM after developing it on top of OCS's Radar product last year. Maxwell said Radar was about a 90 percent fit. "It's customized to suit Fuji - with one for the medical business and one for film," he said. "This couldn't be done with packaged software."

Applications on Maxwell's to-do list include those for helpdesk and asset management, and integrating the product catalogue with the existing Web-based CMS.

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