Today, Montreal-based company Abilis Solutions specializes in software for prisons, but it first earned its reputation offering recovery services for faltering IT projects. At that time, the company’s clientele was primarily made up of European financial institutions and telecommunications companies that were frequently running up against budget problems or delays in implementing major IT projects.
In order to stand out from its competitors, Abilis Solutions adopted a different approach. Rather than offering services at an hourly rate, wherein the consultant has an obligation of means, but not necessarily of results, the company chose to make a commitment and offer delivery and budget guarantees. “Our approach is results-oriented, which we believe corresponds better to clients’ interests,” explained Éric Le Goff, President of Abilis Solutions.
It was in 2013 that the company decided to focus on the correctional industry. After buying back the intellectual property rights of software developed in 2007 for the State of Virginia, in the United States, Abilis Solutions began marketing it to other clients. By approaching different countries, the company was able to see that its solution was well adapted to the needs of many jurisdictions.
The integrated management system it developed allows a state to take charge of a prisoner from their sentencing to their release. The state can therefore ensure monitoring of the prisoner’s classification, their living environment and the work or programs they participate in, as well as keep track of the care they require and their eligibility for probation.
“The software is used by clients like the states of Virginia, Tennessee, Maine and New Hampshire in the United States, as well as the federal government of Australia. It records the data of nearly 220,000 prisoners,” said Mr. Le Goff.
As the company’s potential clients form a small community, with approximately 250 clients around the world, it prefers to directly market its flagship product. “We provide real expertise to our clients. We’ve also developed value-added solutions, like a tool for identifying people who are potentially being radicalized,” he explained. “It’s important that we present our products to clients ourselves, so that they get a good understanding of what the advantages are for them.”
This approach also allows the company to develop and maintain a relation of trust with its clients. Given the importance of the information handled by Abilis Solutions’s software, and the serious consequences that might be caused by a system error, it is crucial that the company ensures fail‑safe services. “In a client community as small as ours, building a reputation requires time and effort, and it can be destroyed with just one mistake,” said Mr. Le Goff.
The company, which makes 75% of its sales in exports, also has offices in the United States—its preferred market—and in Europe. It plans to expand its presence to Australia next. Despite this, three quarters of the company’s production still takes place in Montreal. “We have access to a pool of educated workers here, which allows us to be very competitive all while basing our production right here,” explained Mr. Goff. “Attacking international markets requires preparation, but we have the talent and skills to create world leaders!”
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