Automation software company is diversifying to provide governments with wider array of products and services
Accela Inc., an automation software company whose offerings include permitting,
land management and building applications, is diversifying to provide local
governments with a wider array of products and services.
The company's new offerings include an emergency response system and
a soon-to-be released disease surveillance software, top corporate officials
During the past three years, San Francisco-based Accela has been involved
in several mergers and acquisitions of similar companies, including Kiva
and Tidemark Solutions. It also has put more resources and personnel into
research and development (R&D) and support services, said Robert P.
Lee, Accela's president and chief executive officer.
Already, company officials
said they are the market leaders in what has been a fragmented sector with
little investment in developing better and more scalable products, whether
integrated into a city's system or hosted elsewhere.
"We think of the top 200 cities out there, roughly 60 percent of those
have purchased an off-the-shelf system like what we offer," said Maury Blackman,
Accela's marketing and business development vice president. "The other 40
percent have some system that we classify as a legacy system or custom written
on their own. Of those cities that have purchased an off-the-shelf system,
75 percent of those are from one of the products that are now under the
In the company's most recent fiscal year, Lee said sales grew by 50
percent, which he characterized as "organic growth only," not merger growth.
"We're plowing every dollar of sales increased back into R&D and
support services and growing the company very quickly. We hope to grow more
than 50 percent this year," he sa
Such growth has enabled the company
to provide a new business model that would look toward integrating disparate
systems within a municipality, not just offering software for a particular
application. But growth also has helped diversify its product line.
One example is an emergency response system, currently operational in
Glendale, Calif., that building inspectors can use following a disaster.
Lee said inspectors could input information about building conditions and
cost estimates. The software would tabulate results, integrate the data
into a geographic information system and display a color-coded map of streets,
lots and buildings, he said.
"This is working off of our normal building inspection database because
the same wireless device ... that an inspector would use to do an emergency
assessment are the ones you take out there and do a regular building inspection,"
Lee said. "So therefore the systems are very nicely integrated together."
Accela also plans to unveil an early warning health alert system that
would use software to analyze data — from various health organizations,
including hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and public health groups
— to determine whether a disease outbreak has occurred. Lee said the company's
working with a major customer on implementing the system, but declined to
identify the city.
The company is also looking toward developing interoperable standards.
"What we want to do is create a standard where systems can talk to each
other," Lee said. "What we're doing is defining a version of [Extensible
Markup Language) we call GovXML, and in addition to using it ourselves and
implementing it ourselves, we are going to offer this as a standard to the
With Accela having more than a three-quarters market share in off-the-shelf
automation software, Lee said developing and implementing such standards
would go "a long way to that being a predominant standard in the industry."
"Right now there are no serious standards being considered. The market
is so fragmented it's very difficult to get a standard going," he said.
"Yet we all know that in any industry segment, standards play a key role
in expanding the market opportunity within a sector."
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