Founded in 1974, ASK Computers made software for business and manufacturing applications. It was best known for its Manman enterprise resource planning software and for the firm’s founder Sandra Kurtzig, one of the early pioneers in the computer industry. At its peak, the company had 91 offices in 15 countries. ASK was acquired in 1994 by Computer Associates.
In the mid-1980s, ASK began to experience problems in its business. The main problem was that small businesses did not have enough money to pay for full-time IT professionals, so they often had only one person with the most knowledge of computer programs and technology. This person became the office “computer guru” but soon found that he or she spent most of his or her time figuring out problems rather than doing work. This caused the company to lose customers and profits.
ASK also suffered from an overall caution that caused it to spend more and more time upgrading and improving existing products, rather than working on new ones. The result was that ASK lost its primary position in the market and it had to make major changes to remain competitive.
When Kurtzig regained the presidentship https://askcomputers.ca/ of ASK in 1989, she set about revamping the way the company was run and focusing its attention on new products. Among other things, she led the acquisition of Data 3 Systems for $18.7 million, a competitor that made manufacturing software for IBM hardware. The purchase was a natural complement to ASK’s own line of programs. Kurtzig also attended many meetings at all levels of the company in an effort to reconnect with her employees and alter the pervasive culture of a corporation that had become more and more removed from its entrepreneurial roots.
Kurtzig also took the lead in retooling Manman so that it would work with smaller computers, and in 1989 ASK launched a version of the program called ManMan/X. Unlike the original product, which required a very expensive minicomputer to use, ManMan/X was designed to allow companies to use the software on a time-sharing basis for a lower cost.
ASK was still a very profitable company in the late 1980s, but it had lost its primary position in the market and it was facing strong competition from other software manufacturers that were producing similar products in less cumbersome formats. ASK reorganized itself in 1992 to reflect its changing operations and was renamed the ASK Group, consisting of three separate business units — ASK Computer Systems, Data 3, and Ingres. Kurtzig stepped down as CEO but remained chairman of the board until 1995. She died in 1996.