A Short History of Nimblex

Stuart Murray

I started at eBMS in January 2007. I was an Industry Based Learning student from Latrobe University, and I was appointed to help in the development team at the old eBMS office in Heidelberg. The first task I was assigned was to convert a desktop-based form designer into a web-based one for the eBMS Platform version 2 (Now known as Nimblex).

eBMS

The application at this stage was developed in ASP.NET Web Forms for .NET Framework 1.5.

To put it bluntly: the application was a bit of a hodge-podge. It had been substantially built by developers who had already left, didn’t have any documentation, and was internally a mess. I was a student at the time, still studying in university, so I was hardly in a position to solve this (even if I understood it fully at the time), but I dug in anyway. Over the first few months, I created a drag-and-drop eForm designer in JavaScript.

Sorry about the poor quality of this picture – there are no systems running this application anymore – so this is a screenshot from an old video. This is the tool that I built:

Look at this beautiful triumph of form and function. 😊

Before this, systems were built using a forms application separate from the web application.

Over the next couple of years, we did some redevelopment and cosmetic work that resulted in the eBMS Platform version 3. This was an iterative improvement rather than a step change but did include a log of cleaning up of code to give more reliability and maintainability. I was employed as a part-time and then a full-time developer. Colleagues moved on and I moved up in seniority.

Then came the Global Financial Crisis. eBMS took a hit. We never came to the point of risking closing our doors, but we unfortunately did have to reduce staff down to skeleton levels. At this stage our dear Managing Director agreed to investing some time into a larger redevelopment effort – thus was spawned the eBMS Platform version 4.

For version 4, I rebuilt the application from the ground up. From day 1 there was no code reused.

Remember that I had only been a developer for a handful of years, not every decision was perfect or correct, but I was pretty good (if I do say so myself). Over the next 18 months I spent all of my time developing the eBMS Platform.

In late 2010, our Managing Director was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Cancer. The eBMS Platform was his baby, which he wanted to keep going as a legacy. He appointed Bert Myburgh as his successor for Managing Director, and myself as Technical Director to steer the company and the product into the future.

In the second half of 2011 we released the eBMS Platform 4.

It was very blue.

Looking back at this version: the software was so much better than past attempts, but it’s hard to get past the bright blue 😊.

I believe that this was released on the .NET Framework 3.

This version of the application served us well, and really launched us as a provider. During that first year we implemented at the City of Port Phillip, the City of Frankston and East Gippsland TAFE.

Over the next 11 minor versions, we added a huge amount of functionality. After 11 releases (4.11) we found we were running into the limits of what ASP.NET Web Forms could do in terms of our eForms. Release 4.12 was a major update to this function, converting it fulling into a jQuery UI based user interface.

I don’t have the exact dates, but around this time we decided that ‘the eBMS Platform’ needed a name.

There was an epic debate with many ideas thrown around. Some favourites from memory:

  • Pandora (this was the code name for v4 while in development)
  • No-Code
  • Processy
  • Nimblex

As you can imagine, when you are 10 staff members from different backgrounds trying to name something as unique as our software and trying to come to a consensus- the result is not so much the ‘consensus’ as ‘the one that everyone can live with’.

The name ‘Nimblex’ gives you the basic principle of nimble or agile, meaning that it is able to adapt to change, with connotations of flexibility. The ‘x’ could be used as a placeholder for when we, in future, packaged modules based on Nimblex.

Around this time, it was decided that we should look at updating the look and feel of the newly named ‘Nimblex’. This also gave us the opportunity to embed the new branding into the product.

In June 2015 we released Nimblex 5. This is our shiny new login screen:

And an example portal from our internal Nimblex system ‘EBMS Home’:

Goodbye bright blue, we’ll miss you.

Nimblex 5 has been selling and running with success for the last 5 years. Since then we have released 7 subsequent minor versions (5.1 to 5.7). Each of these has brought a raft of new features, that you can read about in:

Nimblex 5 is a good solid product. We want to do more.

We again have found that we have reached the limit of the technologies we are using, so we have decided to survey the market for replacements.

That’s all we have time for today, please keep an eye out for my next article: What is different in Nimblex 6.

In each post, I will try and share something positive I’ve seen in the media about community spirit and caring for each other. If you missed this on the project, have a look now at the #kindnesspandemic https://twitter.com/theprojecttv/status/1239832215531511808

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Stuart Murray
Technical Director
eBMS