About / The History of Jeff-Net and Report Runner
Simplify Your Reporting
Jeff-Net, as a company, is about one thing: making it easy for you to share, use, and analyze your data . A lot of our customers have asked about the story of Jeff-Net, how it started, and “Who’s Jeff?”. This is our story, and you will be amazed at the number of full circle moments (life stories coming full circle) that have happened along the way. To get the full impact of how much hard work has gone into creating the Report Runner software, you really have to begin in Jeff’s college years.
DeVry and First Texas Computer Corporation
In 1985, Jeff Rodgers moved from West Monroe, LA (picture of home) to Dallas, TX to go to college at DeVry Institute of Technology (picture of ID). At school, Jeff was known for his casual style of t-shirts, flip-flops, and bermuda shorts (picture of Jeff with bodybuilder Lee Labrada). In 1987, while still at DeVry, Jeff got a 3rd shift overnight job at First Texas Computer Corporation (which later became Affiliated Computer Services, which was eventually acquired by XEROX, which eventually became a Jeff-Net customer — how’s that for coming full circle?).
You’ll never guess what Jeff’s 3rd shift job was… manual report distribution. No kidding. If you are a current Report Runner Batch customer, I’m sure you get a smile out of the irony of this (or maybe it’s not ironic?). Literally his job was to take large report printouts, “burst” them out, and manually deliver them to multiple offices on multiple floors. Jeff graduated from DeVry with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems in June 1988 (picture of degree).
Trivia: Since Jeff worked 3rd shift, he slept in a closet during the day.
Affiliated Computer Services, Bank of America, and Xerox
By 1988, Jeff had been promoted to working in “Production Control” at First Texas Computer Corporation. This involved monitoring batches of jobs that ran as part of a large production schedule (using a software product called CA-7 and CA-11). These jobs performed tasks like updating customer bank accounts, printing reports, printing bank statements, etc (everything you would imagine a bank would need to do to handle customer accounts). During this time, Jeff learned a lot about scheduling, batches, and jobs, and he became a bit of an expert at this position and did it for a number of years. During that time, First Texas Computer Corporation became Affiliated Computer Services (ACS). ACS does processing for many organizations, including Bank of America and Southland Corporation (7-11). Oh, by the way, Bank of America is a current Jeff-Net customer now, too (life full circle).
Trivia: While at ACS, Jeff automated a production status report for management. Shift workers were previously manually logging end times of certain critical jobs. Jeff automated this so it could be scheduled to run at the end of the night and spit out the report without manual intervention.
AWARE!, AT&T, and Sprint
Starting around 1992, while still at ACS, Jeff started working on a helpdesk software package called AWARE!. A few licenses were sold for DOS, and Windows was becoming the next big platform. So, Jeff began creating a Windows version of AWARE! (screenshots from AWARE! brochure). Lots and lots of hours were put into this in his off hours.
Trivia: During this 1992-1993 period, Jeff worked 3rd shift, and he also had a small office where he worked during the day. Jeff slept in a tiny closet in the office just so he could answer the phone if someone called. The gaming company, id Software (creators of Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Quake) was one of the few companies that called and purchased the DOS version of AWARE! way back then.
Jump to 1994, Jeff has spent two to three years of his extra time developing a AWARE! (picture of installation diskette). He has left ACS and is now doing contractor work for AT&T utilizing his knowledge of mainframe batch processing, and he also worked at Sprint.
Trivia: To make extra income, Jeff actually worked at both ACS and AT&T for an overlapping period of about 3 months. Both jobs were 12 hours shifts, 3 days a week. His first work day at AT&T started immediately after getting off the last day at ACS, so once a week he was basically working 24 hours. He would sleep in his car for an hour after getting off from AT&T just so he could stay awake long enough to drive home.
Around 1995, Jeff has been working at Sprint (work badges picture) for a little while. He creates an automation utility (utilizing JCL and REXX) to replace the work of about 6 people, that were doing everything manually. These 6 people were cloning testing environments manually. They were literally replacing words like “prod” with “dev1” and “dev2” in thousands of lines of code. Jeff came up with the (seemingly obvious) idea to use variables for the word “prod”. Then you could simply change the variable to “dev1” and “dev2” and generate these environments automatically. As you can see, Jeff has always been driven to automate manual tasks.
Towards the middle of 1995, Jeff completed his AWARE! for Windows, created a company called Integritech (picture of business card), and found an investor that agreed to put in $150,000. Integritech stood for “Integrity Integrated Into Technology”. Jeff gave a two week notice, left Sprint, and began what he thought would be his great entreprenurial success story. This story had a very quick and painful ending. Long-story-short, the investor required Jeff to spend the money buying expensive phone systems, getting a nice office, and doing a big trade show. The investor wanted to go big and sell the product fast. Unfortunately, the sales cycle for this type of software was around 3-6 months at that time, and Integritech ran out of money fast. Within 4 months, this dream was over, and Jeff no longer even owned the rights to sell the software. Integritech was began and closed within 4 months. The product releases did get a mention in both Infoworld and PC Magazine.
Trivia: Jeff programmed the DOS and Windows versions of AWARE! using dBASE III+, dBASE IV, and dBASE for Windows. Jeff was considered an expert at the time with dBASE and was a published author in the first edition of dBASE Advisor Magazine and helped co-write Killer dBASE for Windows (you can still find this book on Amazon and eBay). He was even interviewed and quoted in Infoworld.
Failure and Crystal Reports
Jeff had to go back to corporate work. He went back to Sprint (work badges picture). This was a very depressing time. The last 3-4 years of Jeff’s life had been spent working countless hours to fund the development of AWARE!, he found an investor, and it was all over in the blink of an eye. There was one interesting point to this total failure of Integritech and AWARE!, though… the AWARE! application utilized Crystal Reports to do the reports. Jeff had become exposed to the tool Crystal Reports (version 5 at that time)… and so began another direction in Jeff’s life.
Back at Sprint, Jeff is working 3rd shift again (3 day work weeks – 12 hours), and to make extra money, Jeff picked up a Crystal Reports consulting project in downtown Dallas. He got really good with Crystal Reports during this project, and he got sparked to an entreprenurial idea, too, by his co-workers on the project. Jeff was working with three other (Visual Basic) programmers, and talking with them about reporting, he noticed their extreme distain in doing anything reporting related. It was as if it was beneath them to create reports… by golly, they were programmers, not low level report writers! Jeff immediately thought, wow, if programmers hate doing reporting, then there’s a market for really good report developers. Around that same time, the Internet was starting to become THE INTERNET. Jeff registered the domain Crystal-Reports.Com. This decision would eventually change Jeff’s life forever.
Around 1997, while still at Sprint, Jeff got an opportunity to work at Fidelity Investments (work badges picture). Jeff was able to test the waters working both jobs for a while (again because of 3-on-4-off 12 hours shifts at each job), but Jeff left Sprint pretty quickly and joined Fidelity Investments. Working three days a week at Fidelity (Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night) meant Jeff had all day Monday through Thursday to pursue other things. This allowed him to focus on his new Crystal Reports domain and website, and see what he could do with it. With nothing to lose, Jeff posted an inquiry form on the website for companies looking for Crystal Reports consultants. Jeff immediately started getting work. Since he had a job, he decided to test the waters of asking (for that time) a ridiculous daily rate to do Crystal Reports consulting. By the way, just for comparison sake, Jeff was being paid $30/hour to do the downtown Dallas Crystal consulting project ($360 for 8 hours). The ridiculous rate that Jeff started asking for was $1200/day. He would cover all travel costs with that rate, too, and he offered a 100% money back guarantee if a company didn’t like his work (of course he knew they would).
This is where the story gets crazy unbelieveable, but I promise it’s all true! Around late 1998, early 1999, Jeff got his first, high paying consulting gig doing Crystal Reports. A company submitted an inquiry through Crystal-Reports.Com looking for a Crystal Reports consultant. They were doing a huge Y2K conversion project, and they needed some custom reports created off their Oracle database. Jeff pitched them the $1200/day, and what-do-you-know, they accepted! Remember Jeff was working for Fidelity Investments still, Thurday night through Saturday night, so he could only work Monday through Thursday (he couldn’t just jump and leave Fidelity, because he had no idea how long the project would last). So the plan was to fly out on Sundays to work at Riverwood (picture #1) Monday through Thursday, fly back on Thursday and go to work (sometimes straight from the airport) at Fidelity Investments. When he got off from Fidelity on Sunday mornings, he would fly back out to Riverwood (picture #2). He ended up doing this for about four months and banking/saving all of the consulting money. Pretty crazy, huh??? Well, that’s actually not the craziest part of this whole story. You should insert the late Paul Harvey’s voice at this point… Riverwood, the company that randomly found him… over the Internet… was located in West Monroe, LA… the small country city he grew up in! How is that for the ultimate, life-full-circle story?! This is where the late Paul Harvey would have said “and now you know… the rest of the story”… but there’s still much more of the Jeff-Net story to tell!
Trivia: Jeff left Fidelity Investments in May of 2000, and has not been employed by any company other than Jeff-Net since that time.
Report Runner Viewer
Since that time, Jeff-Net has grown and done A LOT of Crystal Reports consulting and training. There were some downtimes, too (around 2001), but the rest of this story isn’t going to be about Crystal Reports consulting and training. It’s going to be about the Report Runner software you’ve come to know and love.
Around 2002, an ex-employee of a Crystal Reports training and consulting competitor contacted Jeff-Net about working for them. While Jeff was talking with this person about this, the ex-employee mentioned the competitor was having some success selling a Crystal Reports viewer. Jeff thought… wow, I can program software… I’ll create a viewer myself. That’s when the first Report Runner product was created… Report Runner Viewer.
Below are some pictures and screenshots of the evolution of Report Runner Viewer over the years. The early stuff is quite embarrassing now, especially considering how beautiful the 2013 product is now, but we hope you enjoy seeing the evolution of the product and our company logo.
Trivia: Jeff never intended “Jeff-Net” to be the company name long term. Jeff-Net was initially a “meaningless” DBA used to do consulting, but as Crystal-Reports.Com grew and Report Runner grew, people from around the world now know “Jeff-Net” as a leading provider of Crystal Reports tools and services. All over the world, people were using search terms like “jeffnet viewer” or “jeffnet crystal” or “jeff viewer” (I think you get the picture) to find Jeff-Net products. These search phrases are still quite common today.
Here is the evolution of the Jeff-Net logo and icon:
Here is the evolution of the Report Runner logo and icon:
Trivia: The “Jeff-Net” name itself was inspired by c|net (cnet.com). “Jeff-Net” is now a registered trademark of Jeff-Net, LLC.
Report Runner Batch
Also around 2002, Jeff was contacted by a gentleman who had created a way to run groups (batches) of Crystal Reports and automatically print, email, or export Crystal Reports to file. The product was called “rptBatch”. Jeff initially did some reselling of rptBatch, but eventually purchased the product outright from the individual. It was renamed to Report Runner Batch, and the rest, as they say, is history. Jeff-Net has advanced the look and functionality of the product since acquiring it, utilizing much of the experience he attained while doing production mainframe work. Below are some pictures of the evolution of Report Runner Batch (and Event Server) over the years, too.
Report Runner Unified
In 2009, Jeff-Net began what ended up being a 2.5 year rewrite of Report Runner Viewer and Report Runner Batch (and Report Runner Event Server), utilizing the latest .Net technology. In February of 2011, Jeff-Net released Report Runner Unified. Each product runs as a separate application, but the codebase is “unified” into one executable. Sales have increased 300% since releasing this re-write, and we’re still experiencing double-digit growth!
Not Just Customers, But Fans… For Life!
Jeff-Net’s purpose, every single day, is to create fans of their company and software. It drives everything and everyone at Jeff-Net. We hope you enjoyed this journey that started in 1985. Thank you for your support and for joining our Report Runner tribe!
It’s yet another life-full-circle story that Jeff, the guy who did manual report distribution in college, then went on the monitor batch jobs and schedules, created tools to automate this process, would eventually end up designing the Report Runner line of software that does the same thing for the #1 reporting software in the world, Crystal Reports.
Trivia: Long before Facebook existed and talked about having “fans”, Jeff-Net’s goal was to create such great software that customers would be “fans for life”. In fact, “Not Just Customers, But Fans For Life!” is a registered trademark of Jeff-Net, LLC.