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Enlighten

Brightening the development world

One glance at the site of Ann Arbor-based Enlighten, and you’ll know that the company isn’t one of those stodgy consulting firms that seem to dot the office landscape. After all, how many companies have created a parody of themselves just to entertain clients and staff? President Steve Glauberman chats about bright ideas, development, and the value of satire.

How did Enlighten get started?

In 1983, I had an idea to create an interactive floppy disk containing marketing information along with a simulation of the actual product. Prospective customers could then interact with the product’s new features and functions while also witnessing them in action. I called the concept “electronic brochures” and Enlighten was born.

How was your idea received at the time?

Back then, the idea resonated with many of the new technology companies even though terms like “multimedia” and “interactivity” weren’t even blips on the popular radar, and the Internet was still more than 10 years away from widespread acceptance.

The value of “electronic brochures” was immediately recognized by many of Silicon Valley’s leading high-tech companies. After landing Software Publishing Corporation, Enlighten quickly added other software giants such as Borland, Word Perfect, Lotus, Microsoft, and Computer Associates to the client roster.

Development firms seem to be having a tough time right now; how is your company faring?

Enlighten is actually doing quite well. I always told our employees that all boats rise in good times, but when the tide recedes only the strong paddlers can stay alive. People really took this to heart and, I think, knew that we would have to step up efforts on all fronts if we wanted to continue being successful. Our goal was not really to just survive in a down market. We wanted to thrive. As a testament to the people at Enlighten, we maintained profitability for over 18 years and sales and profits were up in 2002.

In general, what kinds of difficulties are Internet development and consulting firms facing right now?

In this economic climate, there are many challenges facing Internet development firms. First, the number of opportunities has diminished. Internet development firms must be able to articulate the value they’ll provide to a new client and have substantive case studies to back it up. Second, firms today really need to have and retain exceptional and experienced people. Third, Internet development firms must be able to differentiate themselves from others. And finally, it is important to mange the financial aspects of the business prudently. Many Internet development firms that started in the mid to late ’90s have no real experience managing a business in down cycles.

Why did you decide to create a satire about the company on your Web site?

When we created the satire, on our site as “History of Enlighten,” we wanted to ensure that people still recognized the pure creative capabilities we offer. Enlighten thrives on a diversity of clients and we create digital solutions, from entertaining eMarketing initiatives to sophisticated back-end applications. Because of our wide range of capabilities, some clients see Enlighten as a great strategy company, others as an innovative and creative front-end developer, while many companies see us as creators of sophisticated Web applications. With the satire, we wanted to remind them of our adapability.

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