Business Strategy

Our Deep History With Developers

Post by
John Snyder

We're proud of our deep history at Net Friends. One part of that history is our significant experience with custom software, both applications and databases, and the developers that are responsible for them. While we stopped developing custom applications and databases ourselves back in 2009, we did so deliberately and as part of a core strategy to focus on providing best-in-class IT support services to our customers.

Flash back 20 years to our earliest days, Net Friends worked directly with hundreds of basic and clinical researchers, closely supporting their labs and technology resources. We had seen a great deal of interest within our clinical and research customers for application and database development. Without much consideration for whether or not developing software was really within our mandate, we helped many researchers build a small database and then host it for them within their lab. Typically, we needed to design an interface for the database to help grad students enter data, and sometimes create an integration or means of importing data from another system or lab equipment.  

After a series of software development projects like this went well, we started to see incredible interest along these lines. Within a year’s time we performed over a dozen little projects to build out software tools for individual labs to keep track of their research. Armed with this confidence, we were so bold as to take on significant projects like working with a high-volume Cardiac Diagnostic Unit to organize all their work flows and implement a secure electronic medical record (EMR) system.

By the end of 2002, we knew we were onto something big here with this software development work. We came up with the name SciMed Solutions and registered the domain in early January 2003. For the next few years, whenever anyone asked our founder how Net Friends was doing, he invariably rattled off a few exciting projects that the software development team was working on. There were several noteworthy initiatives, such as a research procurement management system called “Acquire”, a system we called “Colony” for tracking all the animals used for research, a database for organizing promotional activities at a local publisher, and more than one EMR system.

As exciting as all these projects were, all this software development activity started to create some real challenges within Net Friends. The core roots of Net Friends are in IT support and IT managed services. We continued to grow and develop our support services, but we were seeing that the core vision and mission of the company was becoming increasingly hard to define. A software development team needs specific resources, decisions about their application stack, and other choices that take up a lot of discussion that is irrelevant to the IT support team. Conversely, determining the optimal remote support tools, discussions about formalizing support requests, and working out the procedures and playbooks for responding to malware aren’t all that central to software developers’ interests. We discovered that the company was naturally gravitating into two factions, and vision confusion was beginning to develop.

Ultimately at the end of 2008, when the company had 33 employees and nearly half were developers and half were support technicians, we decided to have SciMed Solutions spin off as a dedicated software development company. Starting on January 1, 2009, Net Friends returned to it’s core roots and focus: providing exceptional customer support experiences with a focus on IT Security and IT Strategy.

While there were some real challenges with us all sharing the same roof and trying to fit within a single vision for the company, there were multiple reasons why Net Friends became stronger and more capable thanks to having to “share our room and our toys” with our sister SciMed Solutions. We have a deep understanding of the needs of software development companies due to our years of parallel growth with SciMed.

SciMed was a leader it leveraging cloud-centric tools and Software-as-a-Service models, and for over 20 years at Net Friends we were regularly learning the benefits and exploring the unique challenges that come with building your business with dependencies on someone else’s infrastructure and platform.

- Q&A with Rachel, Services Manager (from our Women at Net Friends Blog Series)
- How Your IT Partner Contributes to Your Operational Maturity
- How We Became HIPAA Experts (from our Net Friends History Blog Series)

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