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SCS – 15 Years of Technology Consulting By Brian Larson, VP of Technology

May 4, 2012

Superior Consulting Services is 15 years old. How did that happen? It seems like only yesterday I was walking into our little first-floor office suite over on the Highway 13 frontage road, shaking John’s hand, and finding out what FoxPro work he had lined up for me to do.

That’s right, FoxPro – Visual FoxPro 3.0 to be exact. That was our tool of choice when SCS began. Don’t laugh! We did a lot of FoxPro work in those early days. In fact, up until a few years ago, we were still doing some FoxPro work for an organization that was one of our initial, and ultimately, long-term clients.

FoxPro gave us our start and it was a staple on the development side for a number of years. In many ways, FoxPro was ahead of its time with features like object-oriented programming and imbedded SQL query code long before those things existed in products like Visual Basic. It was a good platform for learning solid object-oriented programming and database development techniques, but it did have its limitations.

From the very beginning, FoxPro was not the only database in our arsenal. John came back from one of his early sales calls for SCS saying there were no opportunities at this organization because they were looking for help with something called Microsoft SQL Server and we only knew FoxPro. I informed John that SQL Server projects were just the type of work we wanted. That was where our future lay. And I had recently passed the SQL Server 6.5 certification exam, so I was practically an expert.

Well, I wasn’t an expert and had a lot to learn about SQL Server, but we did get the gig and we did learn. In fact, this organization was assigned client number 1 in billing system. That initial SQL Server assignment turned into another long-term relationship and this organization is still an active client today.

Early on, we dabbled in a number of technology areas. On the network side, we did Novell, and UNIX support. However, we found our best opportunities and expertise in the area of Windows networking, so this eventually became our focus. On the development side, we did projects using C/C++, PowerBuilder, Access, Java, and Cold Fusion. Through all of this, however, we had the most success using Microsoft development tools – Visual Basic and ASP, then C#, VB.NET and ASPX.

For roughly the first half of our existence, SCS had these two major focus areas: networking and development. Our third major focus area, business intelligence, became an official practice in 2009, but was part of the SCS technology landscape long before that. Our entry into the world of business intelligence came by way of Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, a product we can truly say we were involved in from the very beginning.

During a slow period in 2002, an SCS consultant named Marty Voegele got tired of sitting on the bench and decided to call his past contacts to try and drum up some work. One of those contacts was on the SQL Server development team at Microsoft. It turned out that Microsoft was looking for help creating a new reporting tool code named Rosetta and eventually known as Reporting Services. Through this contact, SCS was contracted to develop major portions of the first report rendering engine and the first version of the PDF renderer for Reporting Services.

We liked Reporting Services as a reporting tool from the start – although we may have been biased given our involvement with its beginnings. We did a number of report authoring projects using Reporting Services. This quickly led to involvement in the wider area of business intelligence, using tools like SQL Server Analysis Services, SQL Server Integration Services, PowerPivot, and SharePoint. We were also able to turn our early involvement with Reporting Services into authorship. SCS now has four consultants who are or soon will be published book authors on the topic of Microsoft business intelligence.

Things certainly have changed over the years. The view from our high-rise office space serves to emphasize how far we have come as a company from that initial handshake 15 years ago. It is also amazing to think how far technology has advanced in those 15 years. We can now do things with a few mouse clicks that would have taken lines and lines of code along with hours of set up and configuration back in 1997 – or simply weren’t possible. Sharing information around the world. Managing databases that are now measured in terabytes. Analyzing and reporting on millions of rows of data in just a second or two.

As we look back over 15 years, we also want to look forward. Within the SCS areas of focus, there are a number of changes looming on the horizon or already upon us. Cloud computing is leading us from networking to the broader world of infrastructure. The proliferation of smart phones and tablets will take our development into the realm of mobile computing. Powerful and intuitive ad hoc analysis tools have brought us from business intelligence to the age of self-service insight.

Through it all, however, one thing has not changed. That is our approach to technology here at SCS. From the very beginning, our focus has been on using technology to solve business problems. Our goal has never been to utilize these wiz-bang tools for their own sake, but to harness their capabilities to help our clients meet their business objectives.

I can’t complete this reflection without thanking the SCS employees, clients, and partners who have made this possible. Across those 15 years, you have made SCS an exciting and extremely rewarding place to work, to learn, and to grow. As we move into the next 15 years at SCS, I look forward to working together to maintain SCS as a leader in our areas of technology focus and to continually help our clients achieve business success.