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SPOTLIGHT: Tony Fisher, CEO of DataFlux, Answers Questions about Baseline Consulting Acquisition

Originally published June 20, 2011

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as a Q&A-style article, these interviews with leading voices in the industry including software vendors, end users and independent consultants are conducted by the BeyeNETWORK and present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.


This BeyeNetwork spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Tony Fisher, CEO of DataFlux. Ron and Tony discuss the trends in the data management industry and DataFlux's recent acquisition of Baseline Consulting.

BeyeNetwork spotlights look at what we consider game-changing news in the information management industry, and obviously you’ve had some recent news that we feel is game changing for DataFlux and for our industry in general. Let’s get right to it. In March, DataFlux announced the acquisition of Baseline Consulting. What’s going on in the industry today that made it a good move for DataFlux to acquire Baseline?

Tony Fisher: There are many good reasons why DataFlux acquired Baseline, but specifically, Ron, you asked what’s going on in the industry. I’ll answer that first, and we can talk about some of the other reasons as well.

The thing that we have seen over the last two years is a real move by our customers and our potential customers to look to DataFlux for complete solutions. And by complete solutions, I mean not only the technology to help them solve their problems, but also the know-how and the expertise to help them understand how to best apply some of that technology and how to make the appropriate changes within their business processes to effect those changes. So, if you look at what’s going on in the industry, there’s an increasing trend for organizations to look at a complete solution to help solve business problems.

And you know DataFlux well enough to know that historically we have been a technology company. We’ve concentrated on providing the best technology to organizations. Baseline has historically been a consulting company that provided customers with the know-how, the expertise, the business process improvement, the personnel improvement, and the planning that they need in order to solve their business problems. What’s happening in the industry is a recognition from organizations that they need both of these things and, even more than that, that they prefer to go to a single vendor to get both the consulting solutions as well as technology solutions.

How do you see the Baseline acquisition being integrated into DataFlux? Obviously, it was a standalone consulting organization. How do you plan to integrate it?

Fisher: 
Baseline has a number of different areas of expertise. Historically, they have had expertise in the areas of thought leadership and evangelism in the areas of data management, data integration, business intelligence, data warehousing, and master data management. They’ve also provided very robust services both from a management consulting perspective as well as from an implementation consulting perspective, and we want to take advantage of all of those different aspects of the former Baseline expertise.

We’re going to create what really is an education arm to provide thought leadership and education to organizations that want to figure out how to do things better – how to better manage their data, how to better organize their organization in order to utilize their data better. Jill Dyché, one of the partners and founders of Baseline is going to head up this thought leadership and education initiative.

We also are going to take advantage of the management consulting services and the industry expertise that Baseline has historically brought to organizations. This allows us to provide consulting and leadership to organizations prior to any technology purchase to help them maximize not only their technology investment but also their people and processes. We’re also going to take advantage of the implementation expertise for organizations that want to implement a technology solution. We’re going to grow the consulting organization of DataFlux to have both a consulting services branch to it as well as an implementation branch. All of these things allow us to preserve the expertise that Baseline has historically brought to organizations and also provide our customers with a complete data management lifecycle solution.

Obviously, Tony, when you acquire an organization like Baseline, your customers give you feedback about the acquisition. What kind of feedback are you getting from your customer base?

Fisher: Well, I think that goes back to a bit of what we’ve already talked about. The real move we see from customers – both our existing customers as well as our prospective customers  – is that organizations have a need for both the expertise of how to do something and for the technology that’s going to solve a problem. So we’re hearing from our existing customers, Baseline’s customers, and our prospects that this acquisition is fantastic because now they have a single organization that they can go to that has the expertise both in the areas of data management as well as industry-specific expertise, and the technology that can be applied to the problems they have. Across the board we’re getting really positive feedback.
 
Some of your customers may be using another consultancy to support them. Have some of them asked you if they’re going to be required to use Baseline or are you not getting any questions along those lines?

Fisher:
 Sure, we get some questions along those lines and it goes both ways. Historically, Baseline has been technology vendor agnostic, and so they’ve had some services and service engagements where they were recommending various technology vendors. We’ll see that some organizations probably aren’t going to utilize Baseline in that capacity. By the same token, we have customers who have consulting via other organizations and, to the extent that we can convince them that our consulting organization is better and that they’ll be more successful with us, that’s great. We’ll explain to them the benefits of utilizing the added expertise that we now have. In the event that they’re comfortable with their existing relationships with consultants and integrators, then more power to them. I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact. There’s no real negative feedback from customers – just inquiries about what the acquisition means to them.

That makes sense. How do you see this impacting DataFlux’s growth as a company now that this acquisition has been completed?

Fisher: Well, over the past two years, we've seen increases in consulting services revenue and that will continue to increase. We will continue to concentrate on the technology and on our leadership position in the technology market in areas of data quality, data integration, and master data management. What this also allows us to do is to grow our relationships with our customers from an early stage and have the ability to provide them with true management consulting in the areas of planning and preparedness. We can help organizations – our current customers and prospective customers – establish process changes and best practices. We have the ability to grow the relationships with our customers into more solid, broader, long-term relationships. So one of the impacts on DataFlux is that it’s going to help us build stronger relationships, and that's a fantastic reason to have acquired Baseline.

Great. Well, one last question. Gartner recently held their business intelligence conference in LA, and I know that DataFlux is obviously in the number one position in the Magic Quadrant for data quality. What kind of feedback are you getting from Gartner and also from the conference attendees?

Fisher: 
Well, I think if you look at the relationship and the feedback that we get from Gartner, it tends to be fairly consistent. We continue to hear from Gartner that we’re very much in alignment with some of the things that Gartner sees with the market moving forward. We continue to get really good feedback from them about the importance of data management, about the importance of data quality, and about how we view data as a fundamental asset for organizations.

We’ve done a lot, both from a technology perspective as well as from an evangelism perspective, to help organizations understand how critical data is to their future and how they need to make sure that they fund and resource it appropriately. So I think from the perspective of Gartner, we're in agreement about both the importance of data management as well as the future direction of the data management market.

Now from the attendees of the conference, what we heard was a little bit unexpected. I guess that would be the best way to say it. The MDM Summit was co-located with the BI Summit, and we were there primarily at the MDM Summit. One of the things that was clear is that organizations are still in the knowledge-gathering stage with respect to master data management (MDM). There are many organizations that are still trying to figure out what exactly MDM is. The attendees were asking how MDM is going to help their organizations, how they can use MDM to solve some of the business problems in their organizations, what things they need to start thinking about with respect to governance and stewardship, with respect to organizations, and with respect to business processes. So there's really a lot of early information gathering and planning in MDM. There's far more of that and far less of the actual implementations than we might’ve expected. 

That is very interesting. I will tell you that from my perspective, I see a lot of acquisitions happening in the marketplace today and obviously this one seems very synergistic and a very good move. Congratulations on the acquisition, and thank you so much for taking time to speak with me about it.

Fisher: 
Well, thank you Ron. It was a pleasure.



  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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