Computer Firms Find

Supply Chain Call Center Software

Computer Start-ups

Expansions

Down-Sizings

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Barbara Fox were prepared for the February 26, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Virtual Proctors, Online Tests

It costs a testing company, an ETS for example, approximately

$30 to administer a test to each individual who signs up. This figure

comes from Koushik Roy, whose new company, Checkspert, has technology

that promises to drop that cost to 7 cents.

Checkspert, with offices at 650 College Road, has a patent pending

for eProctor, its virtual test system. In addition to testing large

groups sitting for a GMAT or an SAT, the technology can be used one-on-one

by tech recruiters, and also by job hunters sending multimedia resumes

over the Internet.

Roy, who received a degree in electrical engineering from Kurukshetra

University in India in 1992, partnered with Romi Raj Singh in founding

the new company. Roy’s background is in consulting on IT issues. He

has worked on projects for a number of companies, including AT&T,

Lucent, and Ernst & Young. Singh’s expertise, says his partner, is

in business and in marketing. Singh, who holds the title of president,

while Roy serves as vice president, worked in marketing for Unisys

before founding Sysnet Technologies, an IT staffing firm with offices

in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

Singh continues to work at his staffing company while Roy and his

team continue developing Checkspert’s technology. While the company

is operating with a small staff and with independent contractors now,

Roy emphasizes that it definitely is "open for business."

The partners have been funding operations from their own pockets,

but are due to receive a $250,000 check any day. After presenting

their technology to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority

(NJEDA), the partners secured a loan in that amount.

With one of his company’s products ready to go, Roy says he is no

hurry to solicit funds from venture capitalists. Doing so would involve

giving away part of his company and he is unwilling to do so until

it is further along.

Checkspert has had talks with ETS, Oracle, Juniper and other companies

that test hundreds of thousands of people a year. Response has been

good. "They’ve been waiting for something like this," says

Roy.

Meanwhile, the company’s product for recruiters is fully

ready. It is similar to the virtual test administration Checkspert

is working on for organizations that give tests to hundreds of people

at a time, but does not require quite the same level of security.

This is so, Roy explains, because the recruiter will meet his candidates

at some point, while the person taking a Realtor’s licensing exam

or a GRE will have no contact with any human involved in his test.

The virtual test for recruiters also differs from mass tests in that

Checkspert develops not only the technology, but also the content

of the test. The company now has tests on 11 subjects, including Oracle

DBA, C++ Basic Concepts, Active Server Pages, and SQL Server Development.

Recruiters register to give the tests at the company’s website, www.checkspert.com,

and pay $100 for each test. "If a recruiter is testing three candidates,

that is $300," says Roy. The recruiter then sends passwords to

each of the candidates, who log on to the website to take the test.

The candidates need a computer with a Pentium processor, 128 megabytes

of RAM, a microphone, and a web cam. Checkspert is happy to supply

a web cam to any test taker who does not have one. "They cost

just $10 now," he points out.

Sitting at home in front of a webcam, the candidate takes the test

in real time under the vigilant eye of a Checkspert monitor. "If

he talks to anyone or looks at a book, the monitor sees it," says

Roy. The test is stopped the moment cheating is detected.

In addition to helping a recruiter assess a candidate’s technical

skills, the virtual test gives him a look at the potential hire’s

communication skills. Each candidate is asked a series of questions

he must answer orally, giving insight, Roy says, into everything from

his body language to his accent.

Results are sent over to the recruiter the moment the test ends. In

addition, Checkspert archives each test taker’s tape so that it can

be referred to should any dispute about the test ever arise.

Advantages for the recruiter are the ability to test candidates no

matter where they live, doing away with any quandaries over whether

it is worthwhile to pay for transportation and a hotel room for a

potential hire. Expenses for such trips are also erased. In addition,

the recruiter saves time. He no longer has to buy or devise a test,

and he does not have to sit around while a candidate takes it.

For candidates, the advantages are similar. They do not need to spend

time or money traveling to take a test. Any place with an Internet

hook-up becomes a test site. The tool should gain more appeal when

overseas IT hiring picks up again. "Right now, there is a freeze,"

says Roy. But in the recent past any number of companies, large and

small, looked to India, Israel, and other equally distant lands for

IT professionals. Checkspert’s eProctor technology facilities the

long-distance evaluation.

Testing for the likes of ETS would be similar to testing for recruiters.

Checkspert would recreate the test experience in cyberspace. Instead

of reporting to a high school auditorium to take a test, perhaps a

GRE, candidates would log on in their bedrooms. Checkspert would replicate

the monitor ratio of a typical testing facility, providing one monitor

for about 24 test takers. It would use tests prepared by an ETS or

by a college, professional licensing board, or similar organization.

The advantage to the testing organization would be a substantial monetary

saving. The need to rent auditoriums and computers and to hire proctors

would vanish, along with the administrative tasks involved in making

these arrangement. Security would also be boosted, because the tester

would gain reassurance that the person taking the test really was

who he said he was.

For test takers, the virtual arrangement would mean freedom from having

to report to a test site that might be some distance from home. It

would also mean that no site would ever be booked up.

Roy says such virtual testing has not taken place because of multimedia

streaming issues on the tester’s side of the computer. His company’s

technology has conquered this problem, and is, he says, unique.

Roy, a resident of Plainsboro who will soon move to East Windsor,

was married last year. He met his wife, Anuradha, through friends

in India. "It was a semi-arranged marriage," he says. Singh,

Roy’s partner, lives in South Brunswick with his wife, Vineet, and

their three young sons.

With start-up funds due to arrive in the mail any day, one product

available now, and others ready for roll-out, the partners are ready

to test their idea in the marketplace.

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

Checkspert Inc., 650 College Road East, Suite 1700,

Princeton 08540. Koushik Roy, vice president. 609-520-0564; fax, 609-520-8849.

Home page: www.checkspert.com

Top Of Page
Computer Firms Find

Survival Strategies

Sistematica, 80 Henderson Road, Box 5235, Kendall

Park 08824-5235. Debbie Aguiar-Velez, president. 732-398-1000; fax,

732-422-4676. Home page: www.sistematica.com

In January Sistematica closed its computer and Internet training center

in the center of the state government office complex. At an office

in Kendall Park the company still offers consulting, computer hardware

and software, systems support, maintenance, and bilingual training,

but the owner, Deborah Aguiar-Velez, now has a variety of far-flung

clients. "You go where the work is," she says. Her staff of

six people now offers computer training at client sites.

In the Kean administration Aguiar-Velez had been the director of the

Division of Small Businesses and Women and Minority-Owned Businesses

in the state commerce department. When she founded her company in

1983, training employees to work on PCs was the major focus. When

she opened her office in Trenton (U.S. 1, November 27, 1996) she focused

on training minorities and she also qualified for reduced sales tax

in the Urban Enterprise Zone.

"Now I am doing a lot of consulting work and getting into the

Latino market," she says, citing software clients in Virginia,

financial organizations in Puerto Rico, and the Latino community in

Miami. "The business is snowballing in an interesting way —

using our bilingual ability to do a lot of interesting things."

Princetec Inc., 196 Route 571, Windsor Office Park,

Princeton 08540. Mohan Reddy, president. 609-720-9800; fax, 609-720-9899.

Home page: www.princetec.com

The software development and consulting firm moved from 3,500 square

feet at 4365 Route 1 South to 2,000 square feet at Windsor Office

Park. It went from 65 to 50 employees globally, with six people instead

of 12 people at the home office. Earlier, the company had been located

at Jefferson Plaza. It was founded in 1998 by Mohan Reddy, Raj Sajankila,

and Srini Nemani to do client server software consulting and Year

2000 compliance.

"The downsizing is over," says Sajankila, the vice president.

" Our earlier strategy was based on providing people to work on

a project at the client site. We continue to do that but now we also

provide total solutions. We take on projects and handle everything

from the requirement stage through development, testing, and implementation.

"Soon we may be looking to hire more people. We have one new product,

software application for managing contracts, and we are going to develop

custom applications from other products."

Clients’ payment problems plague most software companies in this economy,

and Princetec is no exception. One client who failed to come through

with the funds was a Ramsey-based foundation. For this foundation,

Princetec was working on the Choice Game, an interactive video game

for teenagers that taught values and making the right choices in life.

Amtech Business Systems, 2667 Nottingham Way, Mercerville

08619. Maria Valente, president. 609-689-9919; fax, 609-689-9929.

Home page: www.amtechsvc.com

Amtech Business Systems’ offices had been on Broadway, within a block

of the World Trade Center. After the attacks of September 11, owner

Maria Valente moved her business’ main office closer to her home,

according to Sal Pennacchio, office manager of the computer company.

The new address, 14 Hilltop Place in Robbinsville, proved too far

off the beaten path, however, and so the company has moved to 2667

Nottingham Way.

Amtech sells, installs, and services computer networks and software

programs. "Small and medium size companies can’t afford an IT

department," says Pennacchio. This work is the company’s bread

and butter, but it also counts larger organizations among its clients,

and at the other end of the spectrum welcomes walk-in traffic from

consumers toting frozen PCs and laptops. It also installs residential

networks. "You’d be surprised how many people have networks at

home," says Pennacchio.

The new location gives Amtech greater visibility with its small business

and residential clients.

Amtech, which was founded in 1996, also maintains an office in New

York City, at 236 West 26th Street, where it has four employees. Its

Nottingham Way office has seven employees. Pennacchio says the company’s

New Jersey business is growing. "There was a void," he says,

particularly in the area of troubleshooting. "Software programs

are so huge today," he comments. Lots can go wrong, and when it

is too expensive to maintain an on-site IT department, outsourcing

to firms like his can be the answer.

Top Of Page
Supply Chain Call Center Software

Among the most dreaded sentences in the English language,

circa 2003, is "Please hold for the next available customer service

representative." It is nigh on to impossible to order a sweater,

add HBO to cable service, correct a bank error, check a plane’s arrival

status, or find out why the computer refuses to boot up without being

asked to listen to elevator music or worse for an indeterminate amount

of time.

AC Squared Solutions, a start-up located in the Trenton Business and

Technology Incubator, has developed technology that cuts down the

wait by helping call centers to determine just how many reps need

to be manning the phones at any given hour of any given day. The appeal

for consumers is obvious. The appeal for companies which operate call

centers is cost savings. Staffing up enough to answer the phones quickly

during busy times maximizes profits by keeping discouraged customers

from hanging up, and keeping staffing low during slow times cuts personnel

costs, which make up a good 70 percent of a call center’s budget.

Call center scheduling is a growing part of AC Square’s business.

It joins the young company’s expertise in supply chain optimization.

The former specialty involves getting the proper number of people

into call center chairs. The latter involves getting the proper number

of nuts and bolts onto factory floors, and especially of contract

manufacturers working on complex projects for telecom equipment companies

such as Lucent and Nortel.

Turgut Aykin is president of AC Squared. He founded the company with

Sami Saminathan, chief technology officer, whom he met when the two

worked together at Bell Labs. Aykin received his bachelor’s degree

in industrial engineering from the Middle East Technical University

in 1979, went on to obtain a master’s degree from that institution,

and then immigrated to the United States, where he earned a Ph.D.

in industrial engineering from the State University of New York at

Buffalo.

He spent the better part of his early career in academe. In his last

position, he was an associate professor in the Rutgers graduate school

of management. His research was in the fields of supply chain optimization

and call center optimization.

He left Rutgers in 1997 and joined Bell Labs in Princeton, working

on supply chain optimization, and then did similar work for IBM. By

2001 he and Saminathan were talking about going out on their own.

He had knowledge of how to most efficiently manufacture complex machines,

and how to most efficiently answer of tens of thousands of ringing

phones. Saminathan, who holds an undergraduate degree from the Indian

Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from Wooster Polytechnic, had

knowledge of how to design software to accomplish these tasks.

Saminathan had worked for Bell Labs for 22 years, and was eager to

own his own business. A resident of Yardley, Pennsylvania, he is married

to Thamarai Saminathan, a pathologist at the Medical Center at Princeton.

The couple has a 12-year-old daughter. Aykin, a bachelor, lives in

Atlantic Highlands. They chose the Trenton incubator, says Saminathan,

because of the reasonable rent and the sales and marketing advice

available. AC Squared would like to find larger offices, preferably

within 15 miles of Princeton, but meanwhile the company, which has

two contract employees, is adding more functionality to its software.

The company has not received any funding but rather has sustained

itself on contracts. "We completed a project for a telecom and

invested the money in developing software," says Aykin. In a typical

supply chain management project, a contract manufacturer, working

on an order from a telecom equipment company, sends AC Squared a monthly

report detailing upcoming orders. "We analyze the data," says

Aykin, "and deliver them plans. What they should buy and stock."

These plans are comprehensive, he says, including everything required

to manufacture, for example, a complex, custom switch "right down

to the number of screws."

Such a service is important, he explains, because the world has speeded

up. "Since 1997 telecom companies wanted equipment delivered in

three weeks, in two weeks." This means that the manufacturer to

which a telecom outsources projects must have every part on hand and

ready to go. "These are not things that can be over-nighted,"

says Aykin. Parts, often coming from overseas, can take six weeks

to arrive. Travel time and customs play a part in the lag time, and

so do the parts manufacturers’ supply issues. "They have to have

time to order raw materials."

One missing part can mean a delivery date will not be met. This makes

the customer, who has orders to fill and installers standing by, most

unhappy. But having too much inventory is a problem for contract manufacturers

too, because it cuts into profits.

"We tell them part by part what they need to stock," says

Aykin. "Each bolt, each screw. This controls costs and improves

efficiency." Just as the big telecom companies have sold their

factories and outsourced manufacturing, so too have the manufacturers

outsourced their production planning.

Providing detailed inventory plans for the manufacture of one-of-a-kind

pieces of telecom equipment accounts for the bulk of AC Squared’s

early business, but Aykin says the company can apply its methodology

to manufacturing of any kind, including less complex off-the-shelf

projects.

The company also is gearing up to provide its services to call centers.

Aykin says one of the world’s largest banks is now testing its software

against that of IEX, a Texas-based workforce management software company

that is a leader in the field.

AC Squared’s software uses historical data and weekly updates to arrive

at mathematical models predicting just how many "inbound"

calls a call center will log at any given time. It takes into account

"calendar" events as well as "spatial" events. An

example of the former would be Christmas, a day on which traffic at

a catalog call center might slow to a trickle while that at a telephone

company would soar. Events that change from year to year — cold

snaps, terrorist warnings, special sales, and the start of a new school

year — fall into the latter category.

After calculating expected calls, the software makes up a schedule.

It takes into account percentages of full-time and part-time employees

the call center uses and lets it know exactly how many people need

to be at work at what times to meet timely-phone-answering goals.

There need to be enough people on headsets, but not too many. Idle

operators lead to slim profit margins.

AC Squared offers call centers a number of ways to access its technology.

They can buy the system outright, an option very large customers prefer,

or they can use an Application Service Provider (ASP) model. Call

centers choosing that option pay a yearly subscription fee to log

on to AC Squared’s website (www.ac2solutions.com), enter their data,

and print out a work schedule. A third possibility is to send call

data to AC Squared and let the company do all the work. This service

appeals to small companies, says Aykin, because it means that they

do not need any special expertise and do not have to spend time inputting

data.

Call center scheduling facilitated by software could well be the "next

big thing," says Aykin, who points out that 7 to 8 million Americans

are now working for call centers, as are uncounted numbers of English-speaking

people in other countries, including India and Ireland. Research by

AMR, he says, indicates that software spending for this market could

reach $4 billion.

While AC Squared is preparing to reap its share, anyone connecting

with a human after a too-long stretch on hold might do well to ask:

"Hey, do you guys use workforce management software?"

— Kathleen McGinn Spring

AC Squared Solutions, 36 South Broad Street, Trenton

08608-2102. Turgut Aykin, president. 609-393-2600; fax, 609-396-8603.

Home page: www.ac2solutions.com

Top Of Page
Computer Start-ups

Strasz Computer Consulting Inc., 316 Commons Way,

Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540. Frank Strasz, president. 609-252-1711;

fax, 609-252-1751. E-mail: Jackie@strasz.com

In January the software development firm moved from temporary

space at 314 Commons Way to 2,000 square feet at 316 Commons Way.

It offers custom software for the telecommunications, financial, and

computer-based testing industry. Among the platforms used are Wintel,

Microsoft.net, and Java Solutions, and 14 of the 20 employees work

at this site.

A graduate of Rutgers College of Engineering, Class of 1990, Frank

Strasz worked for Educational Testing Service and Virginia-based Cysive

in programming, project management, and software architecture. He

and his wife, Jackie, started the business in 1995, they moved it

out of their home last year, occupying temporary space at Montgomery

Commons until the current space was ready. Jackie, a 1998 graduate

of Rutgers Douglass College, has a project management testing background,

most recently for EDS. The couple is has a two-year-old son.

Postdocme Corporation, 29 Emmons Drive, Suite F

40, Princeton 08540. Hussain Sheriff, director. 609-520-0100; fax,

609-520-0535. Home page: www.postdocme.com

The web development company expanded from a home office in Lawrenceville

to Emmons Drive (U.S. 1, December 8, 2002). It does custom web development

for small business, web-based marketing.

Hussain Sheriff and Asifa Nahad, a husband and wife team from Bangladesh,

founded the company last March. He majored in mechanical engineering

at the Indian Institute of Technology in Calcutta and has master’s

and PhD degrees from Clemson University. She majored in economics

in Australia and has an MBA in international business from Boston-based

Brandeis University.

Top Of Page
Expansions

Blue Star Infotech America Inc., 666 Plainsboro

Road, Suite 1116, Plainsboro 08536. Sanjeev Sethi, director (strategic

accounts & partnerships). 609-799-5454; fax, 212-412-9009. Home

page: www.bsil.com

The software consultancy and design and development services company

changed suites within Princeton Meadows Office Center. It is headquartered

in Mumbai, India.

Patni Computer Systems Ltd./Data Conversion Inc. ,

4390 Route One, Suite 2, Princeton 08540. Prasanna Satpathy, regional

director. 609-580-0011; fax, 609-580-0017. Home page: www.patni.com

Last fall the computer systems company expanded from 2,100 to 3,000

square feet at the same address and added staff for a total of 10

people. It does software consulting, services, off-shore development,

E-commerce, support and maintenance of applications, engineering data

conversion, CAD, CAM, and CAE services. It has offshore operations

as well.

Spire Systems Inc., 112 Commons Way, Princeton

08540. Jason Lee Harding, accounts manager. 609-252-9165; fax, 609-252-9121.

Home page: www.spireinc.com

An IT consulting office opened at Montgomery Commons last fall. Based

in Burlingame, California, it offers project management E-commerce

services, data base planning, system administrators, and network architects,

among other specialties.

SysFour Solutions LLC, 3086 Route 27, Suite 11,

Kendall Park 08824. Mike Zalepa, president. 732-940-8770; fax, 732-940-8780.

Home page: www.sysfoursolutions.com

In January the information technology consulting firm expanded from

3530 Route 27 to 1,200 feet at 3086 Route 27, Suite 11. Among its

telecommunications clients are AT&T, Lucent, Avaya, and Verizon Wireless.

It has seven workers at this headquarters and 200 people in the field,

doing everything from network support to application developers to

project management.

Top Of Page
Down-Sizings

Pro Commerce Technologies Inc., 8874 Commerce Loop

Drive, Columbus OH 43240. Siva Annaparedy, founder and president.

614-841-7501; fax, 614-573-7613. Home page: www.procti.com

The software consulting and development firm closed a 2,500-foot office

on 2525 Route 130 after two years here. The corporate headquarters

is now in Columbus, Ohio. The firm developed web tools and other software

products (U.S. 1, February 7, 2001).

Tavata LLC

Paul Butera closed Tavata, his software sales firm at 13 Roszel Road,

on December 31. The eight-person company set up sales appointments

for sales representatives of small to medium-sized firms. Clients

ranged from supply chain and customer relationship management solutions

to business process management and a live chat product (U.S. 1, August

21, 2002).

Aptech Worldwide Inc., Home page: www.aptech-usa.com

The 5 Independence Way office of the computer training and consulting

company has closed, but the web site lists the headquarters in Mumbai,

India, and other offices in Laos and Bangladesh. Aptech had also had

an office on Station Drive.

The Software Company, 14 Washington Road. John

Giampolo, president. 215-245-2291.

Peter Blood and John Giampolo closed this office and are working at

an office in Pennsylvania. They do custom software for PCs and the

AS400 environment.

GenLed.com LLC, Box 10314, Trenton 08650. Zahid

Rupani CPA. Home page: www.genled.com

Last year GenLed.com closed its office on Emmons Drive. It does accounting

and financial analysis tools and applications, plus traditional accounting

and bookkeeping services, also in Metuchen.

Velocient Technologies Inc., Upinder Zutshi, president

& COO. 609-919-1266. Home page: www.velocient.com

This software company, based in Mumbai, India, moved out of 5,000

feet at 214 Carnegie Center last year. Though it has a working phone

number, it has no listed Princeton address. It offers on site or offsite

software development in USA, Europe, and Asia.

Storage Networks (STOR), 225 Wyman Street, Waltham

MA 02451. Paul Flanagan, CEO. 781-622-6700; fax, 781-622-6799. Home

page: www.storagenetworks.com

The Massachusetts-based firm closed its Princeton technology center

at 5 Independence Way last fall. It offers a storage network operating

system with STORos software and had 18 people at this location. Now

it has just over 100 workers, most based in Waltham, with some in

California and New York.


Next Story


Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Facebook Comments