Here is the continuing story of the creation of Dexterity and Dynamics from Dave Gaboury.
Although our progress was slow, our work on graphical development platforms kept us in close partnership with both Microsoft and Apple. I think it was in 1990 that we started talking to Microsoft about the possibility of jointly producing a low-end accounting system. The work we were doing on EB was a big factor in attracting Microsoft to the project, and our initial proposal was that we would build this new accounting system with EB. We worked with Microsoft Program Managers to understand what kind of product they wanted to build, and we put together initial prototypes with EB. It was rough going for a while. EB was still under development and this was the largest proof-of-concept we had attempted to build. Problems were found and quickly fixed. The experience really helped shake out some problems with our new framework and made it better. As negotiations dragged on, Microsoft proposed the idea of building the accounting system with their new development platform called Visual Basic. VB 1.0 did not have the functionality needed to build the product but Microsoft really wanted to use it to prove the capabilities of the platform. The Microsoft Money project was launched and was built using Visual Basic. Many of the requirements driven by the Money project were implemented in VB 2.0, which was needed before Money could ship.
1999: Taking Apple’s Guy Kawasaki to the airport after he spoke at the Stampede partner conference. Note the Great Plains wheel cover.
[Ed: Ok, I know it is a little out of date order, but shows the relationship with Apple]
Despite the disappointment over the tools decision for the Microsoft Money project, we pushed on with EB for use with Great Plains’ flagship product. The name “Dexterity” was now in use for the new development environment. By the summer of 1991, we felt that Dexterity was ready for consumption and we started to allocate developers to the new Dynamics product. Brian Wilson, Eric Pegors and Scott McIntyre joined Great Plains that summer and were some of the first developers to work on Dynamics. The job for the application team was just as complex as the Dexterity work had been. They had to design a completely new business application, with a lot of new developers, building it with a new and unproven development tool. In the spring of 1992, I was managing the continued work of the Dexterity team as well helping the Dynamics team get up to speed on the new tools. Great Plains formally divided the development team into two distinct groups – one to continue work on the DOS-based accounting series, and one to push ahead with the new graphical-based Dynamics products. We had a team meeting in what was known as the GPU (Great Plains University) room and gave everyone “Make it Dextraordinary” t-shirts. The project was officially underway! In a brief moment of insanity, I promised to wear the shirt until we shipped. (I had seven of the shirts so I could wear a clean one every day.) It seemed like a good idea at the time. We wanted to ship by that fall and it was a good excuse to wear a t-shirt to work all summer. Unfortunately the scheduled slipped and I had a long, cold winter of wearing a t-shirt ahead of me.
Dexterity pushed the capacity of the available hardware at the time and the development team was constantly clamoring for new machines. Great Plains was also running out of office space as we ramped up more developers to make progress on both projects. In the summer of 1992, the Dynamics development team moved into another building that had previously been a factory outlet mall. Our space at the “FOM” was a single, large room with space for 80 people. There were no offices, no walls, and only one phone per group of four people. When a phone rang, everyone in the place looked up. I moved to the FOM to manage all of the application developers and Tim Brookins took over full responsibility for the Dexterity team. Cecil Bordages managed the Program Managers that defined the Dynamics features, Margaret Zeren managed the Test team and Tracy Faleide managed the technical writers. Eric Richman was the only UX designer on the project and helped design the look and behavior that would carry forward with Dynamics over many releases. We worked like dogs but it was exciting and we enjoyed it.
A huge effort was made that summer to get Dynamics ready to show at the 1992 Stampede conference, where we officially announced the new product. I had the opportunity to take the main stage at Stampede and unveil the Dexterity project. After that, the entire Dynamics R&D team poured onto the stage for the dramatic introduction of Dynamics. It was a milestone event, both for the development team and for the partners who would soon have the chance to sell it. Incentives were offered to early adopters and many partners jumped at the opportunity to be one of the first to sell Dynamics. Everyone left Stampede fired up, but there was still one thing left to do – finish the product! A lot of work remained on both the application and framework side of things, and the entire team put forward a huge effort that winter. Our goal was to ship in February of 1993 and I believe we came down to the very last day. The R&D team gathered to sign the first few boxes that were being shipped to partners and Mark Trosen had the honor of shipping them out. After years of planning and development, Dexterity and Dynamics were launched and I was finally able to retire the Dextraordinary shirts!
On a personal note, I sometimes think Dave was born in the wrong country, I mean …. an American who likes (and understands) the game of Cricket and drives a Land Rover (well at least until the last couple of years). He should be British or Australian.
Here he is with some of his favourite toys:
I look forward to catching up with you whenever I am in Fargo.
Thanks for your friendship and I am sure that your skills will be missed from Microsoft…. even if you did spend the last few years working for the DArX Side.
Good luck in the future and whatever you plan to do.
PS: A little bit of trivia for you: The Imperial BlasTech Industries E-11 Blaster Rifle used by the Stormtroopers in the Star Wars movies was modelled on the British Sterling Arms Mk4/L2A3 submachine gun. Have a read here and here.