JMR Software: celebrating 30 years of pioneering IT service excellence in South Africa
How do you become one of South Africa's most successful, influential and established IT companies?
This year, JMR Software celebrated 30 years in business, within an industry that's seen its fair share of companies come and go. JMR has grown significantly since its 1987 inception. Today, it is globally recognised as a leading data migration solutions provider, employing over 100 consultants, plus support staff, and is now a significant multi-million rand a year operation.
From small beginnings...
Unlike today's venture capital-backed tech start-ups, JMR's inception was a little less traditional.
"In the beginning, there was just me," says Mike Richards, JMR's founder and CEO. "Our first office was a spare room in my house." But, the start was anything but plain sailing. Mike explains: "I landed a big contract early on and needed a contractor, so I asked Virgilio Peneda to work for me. He was working full time for another company at that time, but I persuaded him to join me. He resigned from his job and officially became my first full-time employee - and then the contract fell through. I had no contract, no money and no way to pay Virgilio's salary! But I said to him, 'Don't worry, I'll find the money to pay your salary. And I did. Luckily I found another contract and JMR - all two of us - were solvent once again."
However, looking at JMR's track record over the past 30 years, it's clear that luck had very little to do with it.
Never staying still
Right out of the gate, back in 1987, JMR began as a mainframe focused labour broker. But then another technology came along - open systems. It split the IT industry at the time, and JMR, like other organisations, had a choice to make: stay with mainframes or diversify. In 1991 it extended its recruiting division to include open systems. This proved to be an insightful move, as many of those companies who exclusively backed mainframes are no longer in business.
Then, in 1995, South Africa gained more attention from the international business community, and that's when JMR acquired the rights to distribute a variety of international software products. Now, on an international stage, the next step seemed pretty obvious: why sell other people's products when you can develop and sell your own? So, in 1998, the company established their application development division. Since then the model has been refined and improved, but the basic approach remains the same: grow new markets, and increase service offerings.
Today, JMR Software is internationally recognised as a data migration specialist, with established products and services sold globally, such as BITSHIFT and eezi-Sign. Its reputation for delivering on its commitments is widespread throughout the financial software community: "We view JMR Software as part of our team. Every data migration project has been handled professionally, delivered on time and within an agreed budget," says Kali Bagary, Sapiens VP of Professional Services for the UK, Nordics and South Africa.
Yet, JMR's success is not based on ruthless tactics and aggression. It has its own way of doing business.
No compromise on integrity
JMR Software is genuinely a 'people business'. When dealing with clients, it focuses on personal delivery and commitment. And when it comes to its staff, people come first. It is a black empowered business, Level 3 BBBEE accredited, that rewards forward thinking, and genuine hard work.
Its ethos: 'our people are our most precious asset' and its commitment to contributing to the well-being of fellow South Africans extends to outside the organisation too. It supports graduates by providing experience of working on real projects, and are actively involved with local charity events.
Seeing all the staff together at their JMR 30th birthday celebration, one gets a real sense of the JMR ethos in action. Everyone is relaxed, included, and as Mike cuts the celebratory cake, there is a shared sense of achievement among all the staff. And that includes Virgilio - Mike's first employee - who is still part of JMR, only today he's also an owner of the company; as well as Ramona and Jenny, shareholders in the company now for over 25 years.
With new developments, and a watchful eye on new opportunities, JMR is going to continue to do what it has always done - deliver a personal service, keep its promises, respect its employees and clients, and be prepared for the next wave of technology within IT.