What is our primary use case?
I integrate Windward in software solutions and have done so for customers that work in the financial industry.
In general, I don't deal with the customer regarding commercial issues related to Windward. The idea is that Windward handles financial contact with the customer and they tell the customer that for training, for integration, or for questions about Windward for their particular application, there is a company available in Europe that can assist them with service training and onsite service. This is what I have been doing for the last five months for a customer in the Netherlands. My company acts as an independent after-sales consulting company. If the customer wants to have training on Windward or the customer wants to have somebody make templates, that's where I come in.
An example of one of my customers' use cases for Windward is that if you go to the bank and ask for a loan, they will ask you questions like your name, your birth date, your address, what kind of job you have, how long you worked there, how much money you make a year, etc. At some point, my customer — the bank — will want to print a document for you of five, 10, or 15 pages where everything is written, including all the terms of the loan, so you will have it all on paper. What we do with Windward is we create all these pages and, depending on the input parameters we get from the bank's software, we create a Word or a PDF document which the bank can give to you.
Any document that is, in principle, standardized, but each version needs to be a little bit different, can be created with Windward.
How has it helped my organization?
My current project, for a company in the Netherlands, is a large one. I expect it will take six months. The project includes producing an 80-page book for each of their customers, a book with 24 tables and 35 charts and all kinds of different options. But there are also some very simple pages in it. To create this book we are creating a .txt file with almost 12,000 lines.
The cost to the client is about €10,000 a month. They have said if they had to do this by themselves, it would cost them two or three months of training to get them to the level to be able to do what they need done. They have said that employing me, with my experience, to do the job for them, is a cheaper solution than if they were to do it by themselves. It may be that they don't have the right personnel available or they don't have the time, but they want to move on with their project.
There is no maintenance for the solution, except if the client wants to make a change. All the tables and all the charts that we have created for this big book change dynamically, depending on the data based in Excel. That makes Windward is a great solution.
And for such a short project, a project of six months, it doesn't make sense to move it to China or to India because you always have a language problem. These documents have to be generated in Dutch and other ones have to be generated in English or French.
Another benefit for my customers is the savings. My customer could, for example, be a company that sells electricity to one million people or 10 million people and its customers have to receive an invoice every month. No such company will employ typists to type the invoices with the customer's name and the amount due and how much electricity the customer has used. That is all done automatically with Windward. These documents are nearly the same for each of the 10 million customers, but the name, address, and amount owing are different. All the rest — the "Thank you very much" and other standard text — is the same. The more invoices the company has to print out, the more it saves. There is a certain moment where such a company, because of its size, has to do everything automatically.
What is most valuable?
It's difficult to say which of Windward's features are most valuable. It has several functions, and all of them work well.
Windward is software for automatic document generation. That means you can have a standard letter with a lot of parameters or information in it that can vary. Each time you need to produce this letter you can read the parameters in and, depending on their values, produce what you need. The result can include pictures, tables, charts, etc.
The solution is very flexible, so you can create anything you want. Think of the possibilities you have in Excel or in Word, because these are the two document generators that are used the most. I only use Word, but I can use nearly every feature in Word, including making charts and tables, and produce those features in Windward, parametrically.
One of the nice parts of Windward is that you can design your document in Word by yourself. Everybody can work with Microsoft Word or with Microsoft Excel. The integration that Windward has with these applications is the big advantage when compared with others. With other approaches, a document is designed but then you need a software programmer to create a template from it. But if you can work with Word very well, you can work with Windward, after a training period of one week or two weeks.
For how long have I used the solution?
I have some 35 years' experience in software writing. I ended a big project two years ago and, just about one-and-a-half years ago, I started to work with Windward.
The back story is that I was working at a software company with about 50 or 60 people. That company tried for five or 10 years to create its own document generator, but they never succeeded in making it 100 percent okay for the customer. In the summer of 2018, I got in contact with Windward. The company I was working for saw what Windward could do for them and in October of 2018 they made me responsible for Windward. They told me to work with Windward to get it working and to create the templates for our customers. That's what I did for the next nine months; I learned how to work with Windward.
After nine months the job was done and the company said, "We don't need you anymore." But I had knowledge of Windward and I got in contact with them to see if we could do something together. What I saw was that providing consulting services for Windward could add value to their sales in Europe. Windward could say to customers and potential customers, "We have a company in Europe that can answer your questions." We are able to communicate in four languages: German, English, French and Dutch. That doesn't cover all of Europe but it does cover a lot.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I'm still working in Office 2016, and we have had some issues, but Windward is very quick to react when there is a problem. We are also going to switch over to Office 365 and that will solve a few of the problems.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
I haven't seen any potential limitations with Windward.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup of Windward is very simple. The advantage of Windward is that you don't have to be a programmer to work with it. With most other solutions you already have to be a programmer to work with them. The installation is very quick.
The most important part is that we create documentation about how things are built up. If a certain chart is being produced on three or four different pages, documenting it properly will enable us to service it more easily.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Windward is very expensive when the volume of documents being generated is low and it is cheap when the volume is high.
What other advice do I have?
Windward is very simple if the letters or documents you have to generate are very simple. If they're very complicated, Windward is also more complicated. I'm sure, for example, that the company in the Netherlands, the one I mentioned near the top, will need some after-sales support in a year to make small modifications here or there, because if you don't use Windward for five or six months, you won't know how to do these kinds of things.
The niche that I fill is that working with Windward requires programming, but it's not "real" programming. A real programmer would not want to put time into such simple things. It's like there are books for children and books for adults. A real programmer only wants to work with the books for adults. He doesn't want to work on a book for children. Windward is that "book for children." But on the other hand, if you cannot read and you don't know the letters, then the books for children are also difficult. That's where I come in.
Windward has been able to produce a solution to every question or need that any customer has asked it to do. We have never encountered a situation where it was not possible to do the kind of things we need to do with it.