City officials hope that software developed by three employees will turn out to be the "WordPerfect" of municipal government.
Alan L. Dixon, Thomas J. Phelps and Ernesto Lazalde are partners in InterBase, a company formed to commercially market software developed for city tasks. Dixon is manager of the city's Data Processing Center. Phelps and Lazalde are computer programmers.The trio has 30 years of computer programming experience between them - 25 years developing software for Orem City. Programs they have developed for Orem include: general ledger, accounts payable, utility billing, fleet maintenance, business licenses and building inspection.
"We feel the software is very good," Dixon said. "Other cities have looked at it and like what they see."
In fact, one city already purchased a portion of the software, Lazalde said.
"We know what's out there, and we know what the demands are," Lazalde said. "Orem City has a reputation for being on the cutting edge when it comes to software development."
The software operates on IBM AS400 systems, but InterBase is currently converting programs to operate on personal computers. The software will then be compatible with both mainframe and personal systems.
"That's our strategy and how we plan to market the product," Lazalde said.
A second selling point is the fact that the software operates under the "windows" environment - a graphically-oriented style of processing that operates with icons and command selection menus.
"Right now there is not any software directed toward city government that runs under windows environment," Lazalde said. "It (the windows environment) is very easy to use for someone that's never used computers or been trained on computers. It's very intuitive. Our product would be a little bit easier to use than others because of the environment it works under."
Dixon thinks there is "very good potential out there" for InterBase's software, particularly with smaller cities that keep manual records or want to improve their software.
The general ledger package will probably sell for under $400, while other software packages would be priced according to their complexity. InterBase hopes to have its first product on the market by the first quarter of next year.
The City Council is giving InterBase its blessing and keeping its fingers crossed. If the software is a seller, the city stands to benefit significantly.
"If our city employees can find a way while doing stuff for us to do something for themselves, I'm all in favor of it," said council member Keith Hunt.
An agreement between InterBase and the council approved this week stipulates that InterBase can use city computer equipment after normal working hours, on weekends and on holidays. In exchange, Orem will receive unrestricted license to use InterBase software.
More importantly, if InterBase sells software it designed for Orem, the city will receive 75 percent of the sales price of the product.
If InterBase develops new software or products, Orem will receive 5 percent of the products' gross sales. And if InterBase sells rights to any software program or product it creates, Orem will be entitled to 25 percent of the total gross sales price and a final version of the product or a 5 percent royalty charge for each program sold by the new owner.
The agreement requires InterBase to pay the city $1 and provide a final version of any products created in the event the company is unable to market new software products.
Orem officials have structured the agreement so as not to repeat what was a very costly mistake with the originators of WordPerfect, who developed their initial products on the city's computer system several years ago.