Article

We Have HelpSystems!

IBM i
Posted:
June 27, 2016

During my tenure as corporate representative at dozens of tradeshows, I have noticed a recurring theme in the enthusiastic greetings we receive from folks who approach our booth. It usually begins with “Oh, we have HelpSystems and we love it!”  

Working for an organization that places so much emphasis on quality software and customer support means that we truly appreciate the loyalty people show us.  I’m so proud to witness this enthusiasm from our customers, many of whom have careers that have intertwined with HelpSystems solutions for more years than they actually love to admit.

But referencing HelpSystems as an “it” that customers have and love highlights an interesting dilemma: HelpSystems is often still seen as a product brand—typically synonymous with the Robot solutions. We also contend with the notion that the brand includes only one or two products like Robot SCHEDULE.  

Three Decades of Diversity and Growth

While the proud lineage of HelpSystems can be traced back to the genesis of this amazing automation solution, the breadth of function that HelpSystems now represents three decades later is breathtaking by comparison. It’s a story of exponential solution diversity mixed with amazing organic product growth.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The HelpSystems PowerTech division has a legacy that evokes a similar identity challenge. Many people still know us as PowerLock, the fondly recalled but now retired name for our very first product, Network Security, which monitors and secures TCP services like ODBC and FTP.

As additional products were developed and released, PowerLock came to represent the product line and that first solution became known as PowerLock Network Security. Unfortunately, this tended to confuse more than clarify.

When PowerTech was acquired by HelpSystems in 2008 and the PowerLock jersey was retired, that original product became known simply as Network Security. Sure, many of us are gray-haired enough that we don’t correct people when they call in with a PowerLock question, but technically it could be a question about any of four primary security modules that existed in the portfolio when the name was dropped.

Providing a Portfolio of Modular Solutions

If you think of HelpSystems as just scheduling software or have heard of PowerLock as a security solution, then I invite you to take a closer look at how our company is positioned today. With more than a dozen acquisitions since 2005 (SEQUEL software was the first), HelpSystems is now one of the largest IBM i (AS/400, iSeries) software companies in the world. In fact, our brand logos now take up an entire banner at tradeshows and we could fill a complete PowerPoint presentation with nothing more than our corporate portfolio and development roadmaps. Of course, we have a core competency in systems management and automation, and we continue to invest heavily in that space. 

Just as HelpSystems is not only Robot, Robot is not only Robot SCHEDULE. Rather it is a comprehensive suite of more than 20 disparate (but often synergistic) modules designed to simplify the task of managing and automating server tasks. From backup and recovery to disk space monitoring to two-way message escalation, the Robot brand remains the leader in advanced automation. HelpSystems also owns and maintains the popular Bytware and CCSS brands in this space, allowing us to meet the needs of an even larger global audience.

Similarly, PowerTech is not just exit point monitoring but a suite of solutions for managing privileged users, auditing database access, provisioning profiles, and auditing for compliance. It’s joined by Safestone to add self-service password reset functions and two-factor authentication. 

Modern Applications Meet Today’s Demands

Application modernization has become a popular theme over the past ten years as corporations demand IBM i solutions that blend seamlessly with the rest of the data center. Modernization techniques have evolved significantly from the initial basic screen-scraping solutions that started it all.

HelpSystems developers are experts in a multitude of modern programming technologies to exponentially increase the usability of those backend server applications. The latest generation of HelpSystems applications—including PowerTech’s Network Security and Compliance Monitor solutions—are now arriving with impressive browser-based interfaces for an easy-to-maintain and highly-functional user experience.

In fact, if you haven’t seen what an IBM i application looks like in the new millennium then I recommend you register for a demo. Hint: You won’t be calling it an “AS/400” much longer!

New Solutions for New Markets

One of the most exciting aspects of HelpSystems is our foray into the worlds of Windows and Open Systems. Expertise gained from more than thirty years as the leading automation provider has enabled us to build new applications for these platforms from the ground up. We may have been the “new kid on the block” when we introduced our Skybot multi-platform scheduler, but our 1.0 release was like a double-digit version from a competitor and we are therefore gaining new success stories every week.

In addition, a number of timely acquisitions have catapulted us deeper into the multi-platform space. AutoMate, InterMapper, and RJS Software have expanded our repertoire as we begin delivering our customer-centric philosophy to accounts in new markets. Not to be left behind, PowerTech is readying to launch a multi-platform version of our popular Compliance Monitor auditing platform.

Drawing on a Broad Range of Expertise

One of my biggest challenges is that HelpSystems now represents such an incredible amount of diverse functionality that it can be overwhelming. The good news is each product brand has its own team of sales and technical experts who can work with customers to help determine the perfect solution. And each of those brand experts knows their counterparts in the other brands and can assist with cross-solution transitions.

Helping You Find the Right Solutions

With so much growth through acquisition, it was inevitable that we would eventually encounter overlapping functionality in different product lines. I am often asked why HelpSystems would acquire CCSS or Bytware when Robot was already such a tour de force. Or acquire ShowCase and RODIN when SEQUEL was so robust. 

The answer is remarkably simple: expanding our product offerings gives you options. Just as General Motors has brands that compete with one another, our customers ultimately benefit from being able to select the solution that best meets their requirements and their budgets.

Most of the time functional overlap is also accompanied by additional, non-competing functions, such as StandGuard Anti-Virus for IBM i, AIX, and Linux. Or it brings technology that can be harnessed for the benefit of all solutions.

Arguably, the most important factor is that HelpSystems is continuing to ensure longevity with development and support for valuable applications. A decade of acquisition history proves that we are not interested in simply “milking” maintenance revenues as some might initially fear, but rather breathing new life into these proven solutions.

A Passion for Value, Quality, and Support

My name is Robin Tatam and I am the Director of Security Technologies for HelpSystems, and I spend most of my daily time working with the PowerTech and Safestone security brands. I am incredibly proud of the value and creative talent our teams have access to as part of this amazing conglomeration of unified brands.

I’ve watched PowerTech grow from a few simple security solutions into an enviable portfolio. Our products are helping assure regulatory compliance and adherence to security mandates for organizations around the world. But we are not yet done; we have many more versions and solutions on the horizon. The PowerLock name might be dead, but the creativity and passion for creating the best security solutions on the planet most certainly is not.

Our dedication to world-class customer support will never change, but in the words of a great auto commercial: this is not your father’s HelpSystems.

 

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