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The History of the Fornax company group from 1989
Facts, interesting trivia, turning points
Fornax celebrated her 30th anniversary in 2019. The IT company group with full Hungarian ownership is known and acknowledged in the domestic and international markets.
Foundations, the beginnings
The founding of the company happened around 1989-1990, when a small group of Hungarian IT experts decided to develop their innovative ideas into IT solutions despite the dated IT environment in Hungary right after the shift in political power. Fornax Kft. began its operations in the office space in Táltos street that is now the HQ of a company group 5 members strong.
The young firm that was named after a constellation of the southern skies initially financed itself by selling PCs.
Entry into the finance IT world
Fornax’s first success was a foreign currency reconciliation software system developed for the Hungarian National Bank. This development was an admission ticket into the world of finance IT. In the first phase of Fornax’s history this sector was fundamental in the development of the enterprise.
The Budapest Stock Exchange was opened in 1990 following a 42 year long pause. The statutes of the Stock Exchange maintained that the goal of the new stock exchange is to help along public and accountable market operations, and Fornax contributed with a transparent stock exchange content and data service software system.
In the beginning of its modern history, the stock exchange worked with the system of open outcry, meaning trades happened orally, resulting in an effervescent, intense and hard to follow trading system. Even fines for swearing had to be introduced to mitigate the passionate arguments on the floor of the exchange.
The task of Fornax employees was therefore to make trading transparent, meaning that the announced changes in stock price and the announced transactions were fed into the software and displayed in the room. From here it was a logical, although in those times by no means obvious step to forward the data to the centre of Fornax, from where crucial information could be made available for a wider audience. This was the birth of what was to become the Fornax Monitor, a stock exchange monitor providing real time data to traders and stock brokers and free, delayed data to anyone interested.
The reliable and cost effective solutions and the European norms of the company helped to beat competitors such as Reuters and Bloomberg. Later on Fornax Monitor became a packaged software for home use distributed on large floppy disks. To the present day, this is the best known product of the company group.
As a next step Fornax elaborated a solution with which trade data were even more likely to leave the confines of the stock exchange. With the participation of the developers of the company the first stock exchange café was opened in the city centre. The experts placed several video cards into a single PC, after which they implemented the necessary software for a single PC to control several monitors. This solution was really unique at the time. Immediately after the opening curious crowds gathered to watch the real time trade data on the displays in the café. The first café was followed by further 11 establishments.
Another important step in the world of finance IT was the project of the Budapest Commodity Exchange to implement a software system supporting its own open outcry trade, and later to develop a clearing house and electronic trading system, handling both futures contracts and option trading.
By 1993 the increase in exchange trades made it necessary for both exchanges to outsource their reconciliation systems. In 1993 the Central Clearing House and Depository (KELER) was founded for this very purpose, and Fornax was an obvious choice for a partner with whom to develop the software solutions. The continuous orders by KELER starting from 1994 were followed by further contracts with banks and insurance companies, which secured Fornax’s position in the financial IT arena. At that time the company headcount was approaching 80.
Financial services are still among the competencies of the Fornax company group. The requirements of the sector had been expanding since 1989 and continue to expand according to the rapidly changing characteristics of the domestic and the foreign markets. Fornax’s experts are therefore prepared for anything from strategic consulting through IT project management to software maintenance.
The development of telecommunications following 1989
In the beginning the young enterprise’s growth was ensured by the sales of telecommunications equipment as well as the work done in finance.
Following the political changes of 1989 and a four year interval the privatization of Hungarian telecommunications was started, making it the largest scale privatization in the Central and Eastern European region and the hugest foreign investment in Hungary at the same time. Due to the volume of the transaction, it was executed in several phases.
According to the contracts signed on the 22nd of December, 1993 the consortium MagyarCom consisting of Deutsche Telekom and Ameritech International became the owner of 30,1% of Matáv’s capital, raising its share to 67,3 in 1995. In February 1994 local companies won concessions as a result of a tender. Deutsche Telekom became the majority owner following another grand transaction in 2000.
Following the transient and the privatization periods the new owners had to sort out a chaotic situation encumbered by dated technology compared to western countries. The quickest way to reduce the handicap was by adapting foreign technology, so MATÁV launched a wide range of import activities. Fornax participated in the project as a vendor building on its network of contacts in international trade.
Telecommunication equipment deployed in Hungary obviously necessitated the harmonization of the expertise in Hungary and the technological results abroad – this was a task for the experts of Fornax. This new circumstance made possible the fostering of a capability in the area of telecommunications that laid the foundation of the company’s future success.
One of the most important challenges of the day was the poor capacity of MATÁV that was unable to cater for the growing needs of the population. Therefore Fornax offered line multiplicators for the companies making it possible to have up to 30 lines on a pair of wires instead of one. This mitigated the problem that had been deemed the most serious one up to that point, namely the need to deploy a vast number of surface cables within a very short timeframe.
After introducing the solution proposed by Fornax 500 000 digital subscriber lines were established with record speed, multiplying the capacity of MATÁV telecommunication equipment manifold.
Also in 1996 the company was the first in Hungary to deliver 128 kbps bandwidth end devices to almost 100 000 internet subscribers.
The telecommunication devices developed and installed by Fornax are still being used by 60-80 thousand subscribers on a daily basis.
Professional workshop in FORNAX – The 1990s
Having established financial security Fornax acquired a taste for experimentation.
In the second half of the 90s Hungarian IT experts started to get a hunch about the opportunities that were later offered by digital communication in the new millennium. During this period Fornax became a workshop, where developers from various fields were able to tinker with their own projects, to follow their own ideas, and management supported the ones with promise.
For instance, one of the future-oriented ventures was playing with virtual reality, initiated by Fornax experts who had worked in the video game industry earlier. In 1997 VRML on the international level was in a state where 3D modelling of spheres was celebrated at the greatest professional forums. In contrast, the workshop of the young Hungarian company created realistic 3D models that could be viewed online, such as Moonwalk, Virtual Model Rail or Water World. The remnants of the page is still accessible at vrml.fornax.hu.
For the virtual moonwalk or train driving the developers had to create a totally new programming language, and a separate plugin was made for every single browser then in existence.
Fornax’s results stirred some attention in America as well, English articles were written, interviews made. The greatest acknowledgement, however, was when the VRML team was able to design its Logitech virtual 3D booth for the 1998 CeBit.
Regarding media coverage at home, one of the leading commercial TV networks, TV2 made an interview with the project leads of the VRML team, as 3D modelling was able to make web development more understandable for viewers. “It was as if we were playing and getting paid for it”, remembered one of the senior developers later on.
During this „playing” the VRML team amassed an unparalleled knowhow in the area of web development. This caught the eye of companies that wished to have a high quality company home page, for example, Porsche Hungária, Siemens, Napi Gazdaság or Totalcar in the foundation of which Bulcsú Balásy, the head of Fornax also participated.
“In those days I believed that life only made sense if one was into cars “, reminisces Bulcsú Balásy. This dedication came very handy to founders Gábor Bazsó and Róbert Winkler, who spoke of the beginnings as a “state of grace” in a recent interview given to Kreatív Magazin. The attitude of Index and the co-owner Fornax to the site was that they are willing to pay the bills, and are aware it takes a lot of investment in the beginning. They believed this to have only one good outcome: to become big before starvation. Free experimentation combined with loads of work bore its fruit.
Meanwhile the web design team of Fornax created the online image of Siemens and Porsche, which was real handiwork in those days. Every creative visual solution had to be crafted or modified bit by bit as modern website managers commonplace today did not exist back then.
At the same time Fornax itself profited from the web knowledge base, as the firm’s own pages showing stock exchange data and its other online interfaces became more and more cutting edge. Which was all for the best, as the department dealing with financial services approached a new, higher level of operation.
1999 saw the launch of the Electronic Trading System developed for the Budapest Commodity Exchange for futures and options in both the currency and the grain section.
In the meantime within the KELER 2000 project Fornax was commissioned to modernize the futures clearing house of the organization. At this time the system was given a totally new foundation by implementing real time clearing and using MQSeries.
Introduction of EVENTUS
The modernization of Hungarian telecommunications reached a level by 1999, where MATÁV was able to focus on the fine tuning of its operation instead of eliminating urgent issues. In this vein it announced an international tender to fully modernize its workflow management IT system and to improve the efficiency of the Hungarian phone network. The contract was won by an American company.
By 1999-2000 Fornax sold several million dollars’ worth of telecommunication equipment annually, becoming a prominent player in the telecommunications market. The company was able to continuously increase its sales by ensuring technical solutions and expertise accompanying the equipment.
This was the time public payphones were being decommissioned, a symbolic event of the period. This made it clear for Fornax too that delivering equipment will not be able to provide growth for a long time. “How to move forward” was an ever more pressing question, as the firm accumulated its telecommunications know-how during years of meticulous work, which thus represented an immense value. And then a new opportunity came about.
As the end of the millennium was getting close it became clear that the winner of the MATÁV tender would not be able to overcome the problems arising from the incompatibility of the Hungarian outdated system and the modern solutions. The leadership lost patience just when Fornax volunteered for the task. As a final resort MATÁV contracted this domestic company which was substantially smaller than the winner of the tender.
Fornax offered to deliver a working pilot system in six weeks to prove its competence to deliver the project.
Besides the aggressive deadline the greatest problem was that MATÁV had a completely unique requirement towards the workflow management system to be developed, which the imported software already in place could not wholly fulfil. Trouble ticketing was working more or less, but the solution was unable to provide appropriate software support for provisioning tasks.
The Fornax team then decided that instead of chipping away at the existing system, they would develop their own solution starting from scratch. This coincided with the peaking of the Y2K panic at MATÁV, so the IT work affecting every department of the telecommunications company kicked off in a peculiar mood.
“Our take on the matter was that we may not know the answer to everything, but we usually do know the answer to IT issues”, remembers the senior developer. The pilot operation that was created in six weeks passed the test, so Fornax was able to start stabilizing the system for the long run. The real challenge ensued.
In the following period Fornax laid the foundation of EVENTUS, its own workflow and work force management system by employing 7 developers who worked hard 10-12 hours a day. „The first six months were the toughest”, says the senior developer. „After everyone had left around 7 pm, I was able to focus on my own job. I was there till dawn, had a little sleep, and then went to a public pool. I lay in the sun for two hours, and then it was back to work.”
After six months EVENTUS passed the test examining the solution of trouble ticket problems. The complete system was ready within less than a year, and it was already capable of fulfilling most of MATÁV’s unique requirements.
However, the software solutions making up the core of EVENTUS are so stable that with modifications and relatively quick enhancements the system can flexibly adapt to the work flows of other companies, not necessarily in the telecommunication business.
“Eventus is continuously being developed to this day. The foundations have not changed, but we had to keep up with the pace, most recently we solved work force management via mobile devices”, says the leader responsible for telco solutions within the company group.
Hrvatski Telekom began its operation under the flag of Deutsche Telekom in 1999. The owner had to face a situation similar to that in Hungary a few years back. As the Hungarian subsidiary was already ahead quite a few steps, a team of Hungarian experts were sent on site to come up with an „instant” solution.
The fact that the promising collaboration of MATÁV and Fornax was in its early stages came in handy for the group. In parallel with the work flow management in Hungary it was an obvious move to start installing Eventus in Croatia as well. To this end after the foundations had been laid Fornax handpicked a group of local engineers and built up its first foreign subsidiary, Fornax Informatika d.o.o.
The Croatian phone company then had a new request: it announced a tender for the design, implementation and operation of the telephone network monitoring system. Fornax competed with companies such as IBM, Compaq and HP, and came out first.
The victory is all the more interesting, because the proprietary solution in Fornax’s proposal was more expensive than that of the competitors, but it was better substantiated, so the management of Deutsche Telekom opted for the better price per value. This project was a turning point in the life of the company, as it brought reassurance that it deserves its position in the international market.
Fornax founded a subsidiary in 2006 in Slovakia, where there was chaos to be solved at Slovak Telekom, a chaos in work organization brought about by increasing competition, the unstoppable progress of mobile communication and the work force reorganization made necessary by all this. The task was tackled by Fornax-Informatika Slovensko s.r.o.
At Crnogorski Telekom, the Montenegrin subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom Eventus was introduced in 2011 with the involvement of Fornax Podgorica d.o.o.
With the help of the system the time needed for the execution of workflows decreased dramatically, at the same time financial indicators and customer satisfaction improved.
A certain world record was set in Montenegro, when a technician arrived to a customer site three minutes after a fault was reported. This was due to EVENTUS continuously monitoring the work of network maintainers, meaning that it knows where they are at the moment and how long it takes them to complete a task. In case of a fault report the system finds the available technician that is closest to the site and directs him there – hence the three minute record. The case became memorable, because the customer that reported the fault was a journalist, and he wrote an article about the experience.
Crnogorski Telekom reported a staggering 60% increase in efficiency in 2013. This result was presented by the representatives of Crnogorski Telekom and Fornax together at one of the greatest corporate IT conference in the world, Oracle OpenWorld.
Whenever Fornax founds a new company abroad, it builds on the cooperation of local experts and Hungarian developers. The headcount in the Croatian office is 8, project management and implementation happens locally, development is done in Hungary. Gradually, however, with the necessary knowledge transfer, Croatian experts will participate in the latter as well.
Professional workshop in FORNAX – The 1990s
Even though Fornax was already working on serious projects, the lust for experimentation never ceased. On the contrary, it was these “pet projects” that kept alive the willingness to initiate that is a great help when tackling unique issues in corporate IT.
In 2007 the developers of the company made digitally controlled airplane models equipped with cameras for their own enjoyment. The venture caught the attention of the Ministry of Defence, and it ordered drones for the Hungarian army.
The international expansion of the company was followed slowly but surely by international attention, which has brought with it several prestigious awards.
The great breakthrough came when EVENTUS received the Silver Prize of Global Excellence in Workflow Awards. On the 8th of April, 2003 in New York the representatives of Fornax accepted the prize offered by the most renowned organizations in the global workflow management business, Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC), Giga Information Group and Workflow and Reengineering International Association (WARIA).
By this time the workflow management system of Fornax was controlling all the internal technical processes and those involving subcontractors as well, so it was supporting the daily work of almost five thousand employees.
The international award was followed by a Hungarian acknowledgement, EVENTUS received the Business Leadership Award in 2008. In the list of the awarded in the prestigious Hungarian IT journal, IT Business, Fornax was in the company of enterprises such as HP, Microsoft and Ericsson.
In 2011 Fornax was mentioned in Time Magazine in an article about the economic and technological growth of Hungary. „After 20 years it is only too clear that our no-nonsense strategy worked”, said Bulcsú Balásy. „We have always been honest about our products, we never waved around multicolour leaflets, and our sales force never used three letter abbreviations lacking meaning. We just decided to do what needs to be done, and then did it.”
Fornax’s greatest success came recently, in 2012, when it finished first at one of the most prestigious competitions of European software developers, the European Software Excellence Awards in Berlin.
The company ended up among the best in Europe with its workflow support solution extended to mobile platforms in the Enterprise Mobility Solution category.
According to the judges the Native Client for Android developed for the Montenegrin Crnogorski Telekom owed its success to solutions such as bar code reading, photo and attachment handling and efficient handling of signatures. Using these features the Montenegrin company implemented the most cutting edge mobile work force management.
The fruitful partnership of Fornax and SAP Hungary Kft. and the success of Fornax’s SAP lines of business is substantiated by the several certificates and acknowledgements resulting from the cooperation. SAP Hungary Kft. bestowed upon Fornax the most innovative partner prize in 2012, a qualified partnership in the public sector in 2013 and the prize for the most effective partner in the medium size company category in 2014. In 2013 they installed a unified ERP system at the 20 most important members of the Hungarian Electricity group. The chief contractor of the project was Fornax in close collaboration with SAP Hungary Kft. The project fulfilled the highest quality standards, so it merited the prestigious SAP Quality Gold Award.
Among several other professional acknowledgments Fornax is the proud owner of awards related to environment protection and sustainability. For instance, it received the Dolphin Award of Hungarian Telekom in the area of sustainability. With the help of the acknowledged Eventus workflow and work force management system and its map-based fleet tracking module the employees of Telekom work not only more efficiently and quicker, they also pollute the environment a lot less during their activities.
The judges of the Dolphin Award of Hungarian Telekom gave yet another certificate to Fornax for its application in the category „Innovation for sustainability”. The certificate acknowledged the HUNOR project launched by the National Waste Management Directorate of the National Inspectorate for Environment and Nature, in which Fornax participated with an Eventus-based solution. The software development of the Waste Management Base System was done namely by Fornax. The system supports the daily operation of the National Waste Management Directorate and helps to achieve the goal to reuse the material of as much of the more than 10 million tons of waste per year as possible. Thanks to the Dolphin Award, Fornax was invited to the Sustainability Day 2015 of Hungarian Telekom, participating as an exhibitor in Millenáris Park.
Fornax at the professional conferences of the world
In addition to founding subsidiaries abroad Fornax spreads the word about Hungarian IT expertise in Europe, America and Asia with continuous professional exchanges, and participating at several conferences and fairs.
In Shenzhen, a town in southern China almost completely fused with Hong-Kong, China High-Tech Fair 2012 was organized between the 16th and 21st of November. The CHTF is the science and technology exhibition and fair with the largest number of participants and the greatest effect in China. Shenzhen with its population of 16 million is the most advanced city in China, even though twenty years ago it was a tiny fishing village. Today it boasts 7 high-tech subway lines, RFID electronic tickets, giant skyscrapers, luxurious malls, exquisite business quarters and entertainment venues.
At the CHTF Fornax participated with its own workflow and work force management portfolio that caught the eye of several local enterprises. There were talks with a company building and maintaining oil pipelines, who planned to optimize the work and automatize the control of employees in the field (mobile workforce).
In September 2013 Fornax had the honour to be the first Hungarian company ever to present at the possibly largest IT conference in the world, Oracle OpenWorld. The company was picked from more than a thousand applicants.
Oracle Open World is one of the world’s largest IT conference organized every September in San Francisco with the participation of prominent companies, IT decision makers and business IT experts. The event in 2013 attracted 60 000 from about 145 countries to the more than 12 central sties in the city, both indoors and outdoors. The topics investigated by experts include such areas as the latest developments in IT solutions supporting enterprise management, the improvement and optimization of operational efficiency of companies. The “stars” of the conference were the latest Big Data solutions, with which computers are able to store, organize and analyse unprecedented volumes of data. The conference is organized by Oracle, the company possessing the broadest range of IT products and also the market leader in the database arena.
At the conference Zoltán Nagy presented the latest version of Fornax’s own product, Eventus through the Montenegrin success story. The invitation had special significance, as Oracle deemed Fornax’s solution worthy of a presentation, while possessing a product of their own offered for the same problems.
By 2012 it became clear that Fornax outgrew its organisational constraints.
The cooperation procedures of divisions and sister companies all with a wide range of activities became hard to follow, making communication with clients cumbersome, not to mention client acquisition and participation in competitive bids.
Besides the necessary financial rationalization the large scale reorganization in 2012-2013 was brought about by our company group’s continuous growth since 2008 in spite of the world economic crisis, and the need to fulfil ever increasing market demands.
The project with high administrative and legal complexity was successfully completed by the 31st of March, 2013. A company called Fornax SI and specializing in corporate solutions separated from Fornax Zrt. At the same time Fornax Zrt. handed over its telecommunication activities to iFlow Kft, which was then renamed Fornax ICT Kft. The mother company, Fornax Zrt. dedicated itself to innovation, research & development, and the financing of promising start-ups is among its goals. Additionally it offers complex solutions to various IT demands in the business world, and is still an expert in building country wide IT systems and other financial IT solutions.
Fornax Zrt. wishes to tap the Hungarian human resources and encourage the Hungarian experts to stay in the country, as it has been exactly these resources that have ensured the growth of the Fornax Group for more than two decades.
What is FORNAX today?
The reorganization in 2013 brought with it the rethinking of the Fornax brand as well. The small firm that set its sights on a new territory in Hungary after 1989 has become a prominent player in the Hungarian and Central European markets.
Consequently, the Fornax Group is obliged to represent Hungarian skills authentically in the world, and to encourage and support professionalism and initiative in Hungary.
It has also become self-evident that the strength of the group and the secret to its market success is not producing standard, so called packaged software. On the other hand, its custom developed software systems tailored to given needs provide an answer to the problems – and to those problems only – that arose for our clients.
It is also vital that these software systems integrate seamlessly into the overall IT architecture of our clients – therefore Fornax possesses great expertise in the area of application integration. This requires Fornax to participate as an IT consultant during the development process. This is what makes up the professionally unquestionable service-portfolio that it simple in its complexity, and is the key to our success.
Since 1991 FORNAX has become an unavoidable factor in the IT world due to the innovations and the extraordinary team of experts. This medium sized company is standing firmly on its feet, having acquired a worthy name in domestic and international markets, and celebrating its 30 anniversary in 2019.