Interview with Jean-Jacques Touya, CEO of Arma Plus
For Arma Plus, the worth of a customer is not measured in terms of turnover or number of machines
Thirty years ago, you created the reference software in your field of activity. What has changed since then in the world of computer science?
JJT : Thirty years ago, everything seemed possible. The opportunities were all there, right at our fingertips. Many IT companies experienced exponential growth and then collapsed. Gradually, it became necessary to manage these opportunities challenged by lower margins, the popularization of technologies, the availability of resources, and the explosion of the telecommunications sector. Today, 30 years on, we are much more experienced in the realities of our technological world. We must develop a wealth of adaptable resources if we are to retain our competitive edge in a world where prices have been eroded, customer requirements are greater than ever, and where a recent study shows that two thirds of IT services are sold at a loss.
You obviously have a secret…
JJT : It was necessary to establish the search for added value, not volumes, as our main priority and to focus our activities on the areas in which Arma Plus excels. These include expertise (in technologies, our IT platform, and the building and public works sector), creativity applied to the building and public works sector, research and development, and a sense of customer service.
How has the computer industry changed, 30 years on?
JJT : The sector is booming. Today, the Arma Plus development team would require less than a month to develop the first version of our software package. Our fifth version, “A+ Software”, which we brought out to mark our 20th anniversary, represents 10 man years of development: the equivalent of 20 times our first software launched in 1984! To sum up, technology is a gruelling race for innovation. The major players define the standards, for example with regard to product ergonomics. We must do no less than the likes of Microsoft if we want to stay in the race, even though we sell our products on only a few hundred sites, not thousands. Users will eventually tire of the relentless technological advances in both hardware and software. In practical terms, some of our customers are still more than satisfied with their 15-year-old A+ Software. But logic dictates that we constantly develop new products and versions that take into account market requirements. This includes Internet, mobility, the dematerialization of information, and the compatibility of the tool with all of the requirements of the profession.
So it’s all about flexibility?
JJT : We have to be acrobats. It’s a continual balancing act because we are required to innovate, but not just any old how. We must be able to work with groups having 40 factories online, 600 users and grossing $3 billion in turnover, as well as with small businesses with a turnover of €500,000. Our products must be 100% culturally compatible worldwide. So yes, we have to be really flexible.
What are your plans for the next 20 years?
JJT : Without going that far, we will, of course, be boosting our new “A+ Software” solution and developing our presence in Asia and South America. I also know that market share can be won on the world Top 10. Today, these groups either have their own in-house software, or use ours. Our goal is to convert all of them to Arma Plus software. Our solutions are compatible with all sizes of customers. For Arma Plus, the worth of a customer is not measured in terms of turnover or number of machines.
Inset Portrait summary of Jean Jacques Touya
At 55, father of four daughters, Jean-Jacques Touya is originally from the Béarn province of South-West France. He studied civil engineering at the Ecole Centrale graduate school in Lyon, before creating the company Arma Plus in Nantes to provide the reinforcing steel industry with a range of software solutions, bringing information technology into the organization of steel construction factories and workshops. Under his direction, the Arma Plus software package A+ Software quickly became a standard across the global rebar industry. Customer satisfaction, innovation, and presence on international markets constituted the starting point for Jean-Jacques Touya. The goal for Arma Plus is to contribute to the development of all of its customers, from the 10 largest reinforcement manufacturers worldwide to the smallest regional operators.