Small and medium-scale businesses need a sophisticated intranet software with a good sales and customer relations manager to help them identify and target their best customers, manage marketing campaigns, optimise information sharing by multiple employees, and provide employees with the information needed to understand customers needs, amongst other things.
The intranet is a collaboration tool which facilitates working in a group, as well as serve sales and customer relationship management and project management to enhance productivity.
While many companies build their own intranet, some outsource it to IT managers to help them get a good one. Most of these are proprietary and you can rarely get a good open source one that can help you do the basic function needed of an intranet service.
Precurio, an open source enterprise intranet portal software with workflow automation and robust reporting, is the brainchild of two young developers, Shola Akinlade and Mayowa Okegbenle, both graduates of computer science from Babcock University, Ogun State, under the company Klein Devort.
Though not classmates, they have worked together on projects within the software developers' community at Babcock University.
"Precurio is a set of tools, productivity and communication tools for small businesses. It helps you create an intranet, so that means you have your employee directory, task manager, contact manager, you just have a lot of little documents management tools that organisations would need, we bundled everything together as one and then called it an intranet suite, that is what Precurio is," says Shola in defining what Precurio really is.
Precurio vs. Google apps
In explaining the difference between Precurio and Google apps for businesses, Mr Akinlade pointed out that Google apps is an online platform, while Precurio is offline, which means you download it and run it on your own server, thus running it locally. "Precurio has more collaboration tools than Google apps, and Google apps is primarily email, document creation and some simple parts", he explained further.
"We are on different path and different market, but our next aim is to get on the Google apps marketplace as there are close to 30 million businesses online, so that companies that use Google apps already can leverage on Google apps and Precurio which is an offline collaboration tool," he concluded.
"Precurio is targeting more of the off-line market where you get to manage work that are done on the intranet, while Google apps is in the cloud for people that want to manage documents that are in the cloud."
Open Source and KleinDevort
"Precurio is open source in the sense that it is open for usage. As a user, you have access to all the files, add and modify any settings without necessarily getting in touch with the company," Mr Akinlade said.
The duo decided to throw their software open in 2007 when they realised that they were sitting on a gold mine while small and medium companies all over the world are looking for good intranet and collaboration software with great productivity outputs.
Instead of going from one company to the other in Nigeria making demos, they took advantage of the World Wide Web by putting up the first version which they called the community version. They allowed people to use, edit and modify, thus getting lots of feedback from different part of the world.
"The funny thing is, open source is responsible for our success right now," Mr Okegbenle pointed out. "Because by the time we left it open and in the global space we do not really have so many competitors, the feedback and requests from the users of the free version led to the development of the new commercialised version which is being sold for a fee."
The duo explained that their company name, Klein Devort, is a combination of two German words meaning ‘small lab'.
Challenges of being a Nigerian company
As normal with any upcoming business, funding was a major challenge, taking into consideration that they are young people as well.
"The issue of talking to customers was another one. The customer discovery process is difficult. There is the trust issue because they are not sure whether you can deliver or not," Mr Akinlade said.
"Starting out in 2008 when the local software market was not yet mature was another challenge. There is always the question of international support and when we explained that it is a local-based company, the next question is: ‘Are you sure this thing will work'? But now that is changing as companies are beginning to trust," Mr Okegbenle said.
Being Nigerians and a Nigerian company do have its own disadvantage the duo said, adding that losing about two clients whom though loved their product said they couldn't do business with any Nigerians. Some react to the GMT + 1 time zone difference. Yet some others express their happiness at the venture of the duo, letting out that they watch Nigerian movies; they even ask to know the meaning of phrases they encounter in Nollywood movies they have watched.
The firm has clients in Dubai, India, United Kingdom, and the United States of America, among others. What people really care about mostly is the fact that the product served their purpose and it helps their productivity in the long run.
Precurio is meant for small- and medium-sized companies and is not industry bound. On the kind of marketing strategy used, the duo talked about inbound marketing and primarily email marketing. They focus on the group of people that need an intranet service and document management system, and make sure that they are accessible to these sets of people.
In the next few years, the firm hopes to be a major global player operating on three different continents, while exploring of partnership with various IT consultants who provide support for different companies.
"First, you don't have to be intimidated; it's not bad to be small. Then follow your dream. Focus on the big picture, as focusing on the big picture pays as against trying to just make money in the short term," Mr Akinlade quipped.
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Good work guys.The next thing is get the venture capitalist to keep the dream going. Good luck.
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