Brio is not just a name for this Silicon Valley provider of business intelligence solutions for data warehouse environments. It's an incorporation of the attitudes and enthusiasm of the founders--Katherine L. Glassey and Yorgen H. Edholm--and it permeates every facet of the organization.
Established in 1984, Brio Technology originally began as a consulting company. They entered the business intelligence software market with Data Prism which was released in 1990. Edholm, president and chief executive officer, says, "It was one of the first query tools, and then in 1991 we came out with the industry's first OLAP tool--Data Pivot." Glassey, executive vice president, quickly adds, "I actually think our friends at Cognos would argue about the 'first.' We didn't know about them, and they didn't know about us. So each of us can, I guess, legitimately claim to be the first that we knew of in the desktop OLAP space." Edholm continues, "Everybody was telling us in the early nineties that the query tool space would evaporate, so we also entered the RAD space in 1992 with a forms tool called Data Edit. But as the query tool business started to take off, we decided to make that our focus. And we have never looked back!" Glassey elaborates on that decision by adding, "People started buying query tools in larger and larger quantities. And then data warehousing developedwithin a year or two after that. And now it's a billion dollar market."
The Brio Enterprise family of products provides a complete solution for delivering business intelligence throughout the enterprise. Brio Enterprise is built with a user-centric approach to business intelligence which focuses on delivering ad hoc query and analysis functionality anytime, anywhere. Distributed OLAP functionality allows processing to be distributed in a multitier, open architecture. Brio Enterprise spans client/server and the Web to allow organizations to deploy exactly the right solution needed for their architecture. The Brio Enterprise suite consists of BrioQuery Designer, BrioQuery Navigator, BrioQuery Explorer, Brio.Insight, Brio.Quickview and BrioQuery.Server. Brio's products are based on a unique patent pending distributed OLAP engine that is open, scalable and requires no change to existing IT platforms.
Of the many talents possessed by this husband-wife team, it was their musical expertise that led them to choose "brio" for the name of the company they founded together. Recalling the process of name selection for their company, Edholm lightheartedly asks, "How is it that a Swede and an American living in California chose an Italian word?" He then explains, "Both of us play classical instruments, and all of the musical notations are in Italian--such as allegro con brio. In fact, Arturo Toscanini, the great conductor of the New York Philharmonics, was famous for his 'brio.' Katherine and I would actually talk about things needing more brio. And, at one point, suddenly Katherine said, 'That's a great company name.' So we named the company Brio."
Glassey explains, "Brio is an actual Italian word, and loosely translated into English it means energy, brilliance and oomph. The dictionary doesn't quite do oomph, but I think that's what makes Brio different. I think, as a company, the people that we hire, the products, the way they're built, the way they're designed--we do everything with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, a tremendous amount of vigor. And brilliance. The word brilliant is important, because I think there's a creative sparkle around Brio that customers feel and that employees feel and that our partners feel."
Just as Toscanini's brio was evident in performances of great musical masterpieces such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the "brio" of Brio Technology under the direction of Glassey and Edholm is evident throughout the company, from product direction to management styles to hiring practices.
A little querying of Edholm and Glassey reveals each individual's "brio" and an understanding of how they were able to meld their talents and personalities into a successful organization. Explaining their roles at Brio, Edholm explains, "In our initial years, we shared every role and responsibility. What has happened in the last two or three years is that Brio has grown so big that it would actually be a bottleneck if we continued sharing the work. So Katherine has taken charge of the company technology--she's the visionary. And, I'm more of the business end." Always wanting to ensure that the results of the query are complete, Glassey adds, "At first I wondered what it would feel like to give up things, but we knew it had to happen because we wanted to bring in top talent to run marketing, sales and finance. We've tried to make clear boundaries between what is my responsibility and what is Yorgen's responsibility. It has worked beautifully. We've gotten really excellent people, and I think they feel very comfortable working as our peers."
Commenting on their management team, Edholm explains, "One of the interesting things is that the consultants and experts say that if you have a family-owned company, you typically have problems attracting top talent." That has not been the case at Brio Technology. He proudly adds, "Pretty much everybody in the industry who comes to me compliments me on the management team we have built because it is really top notch." Glassey adds, "We've gone out to try to get the very best we could find. One of the things that characterizes Brio is that we tend to not do things by half measures. If we're going to do something, we're going to do it all out--fast hearted, better than anyone else." Edholm concurs saying, "What I've seen is that great people attract other great people. We have very little turnover. Everybody wants to stay here and take this rocket to the stratosphere."
Glassey explains that, in general, they try to encourage a management structure that says everyone is an individual contributor. Explaining his management style, Edholm says, "The way I like to manage is to surround myself with the very best people who I trust and tell them which hills on the battlefield I want them to take. And then I only expect to hear back from them either when they have done that or when they know that somehow they can't or they're running into problems." Glassey's style is not a replication of his style. She has refined it to reflect her philosophy. She explains, "With my direct reports I tend to be involved a little bit more in making sure that I at least understand the approach that they're taking." Both styles have been successful as evidenced by the growth of Brio Technology. Concluding the discussion of management style, Edholm states, "I expect absolutely everybody to be able to do real work and to get their hands dirty." Glassey agrees saying, "The model that Yorgen has set by example is very much of a hands off, empowered management structure. And, it tends to be fun!"
The enthusiasm of Edholm and Glassey is contagious. It is reflected in their explanations of what drives them to accomplishment. Glassey describes her motivation by saying, "I like being part of an organization that's making products that do the things that I have in my head. I like to get the products into the hands of people who use them. Making it in the abstract isn't as much fun--it's actually getting it all the way out to where you have lots and lots of people using it." Edholm's answer is much more succinct. "I really want to win. I find it quite irresistible when somebody says, 'Can you do this?' And the fact is that we have actually managed to do everything we set out to do," he states.
Customer input has played a central role in enabling them to accomplish their mission. There are two avenues of customer input at Brio Technology. The first is the traditional customer advisory panel. Glassey explains, "We have an executive briefing program in which our large accounts or large prospects come out here to talk to the executive staff about products, features and direction. Edholm explains the second avenue. "We have a shipping-centered development organization." Glassey adds, "That means you continually improve your products in place and you ship repeatedly, rapidly and you keep people going. You don't reduce their targets, but you set the achievement of the target as a series of incremental steps. Change the world incrementally." These processes allow Brio Technology's products to be dynamic, always responsive to ever-changing customer requirements.
This team is eagerly anticipating and planning for the future. The energy they project is truly electrifying, and both exude an enthusiasm for the company's future products. Glassey elaborates, "What intrigues me about this industry is that there are fundamental problems that we're trying to solve for the end users who know that somewhere in the organization, buried inside some computer somewhere, there is a number that might be able to provide valuable insight. The opportunity, the promise, the challenge and the excitement of this industry is helping get that information that's been captured for all those years and free it and give it to the people who could gain value from it. We're just scratching the surface now of imagining what people can do with this once they've actually brought it to their desk. It's going to keep us interested in this--figuring out what to do with it. That's the fun!"
Edholm states his perspective as, "The Web is going to have a significant impact. It will tie all of us together in ways that we haven't even imagined yet. Right now we are still struggling with exploiting the intranet, but we think the extranet is going to be a wonderful opportunity for our software to reach out and be used by many, many more groups of people." Glassey adds, "The guided analysis that the end users are really going to need over the next few years is going to be the next step. The most interesting and most fundamental change for the end user is going to be the way in which they interact with and visualize the data and are helped to find the influencing factors that are driving this number up or that number down. The systems that they're working with, whether it's desktop tools, middleware, servers, back-end databases, are all going to conspire together to help the end user understand the significance of the information they're looking at on the screen. There's going to be some fun technology going on there."
With a well-defined mission, a highly competent management team, a dedicated group of employees and an emphasis on customer satisfaction, Brio Technology is destined to be around for a long time. Confident of that, Glassey provides another insight into how Brio Technology will face the future. She explains, "The biggest challenge is going to be to keeping the energy and the nimbleness and the feeling of a small, dedicated, passionate missionary band of merry men coming out, trying to change the world--to keep that feeling as we get to be a 500-1000 person organization. This is something that fascinates me the most, because I think organizations that people love to work for have some kind of missionary feeling about them. And the employees know that, the culture reflects it, as do work habits and ethics. Something intangible there turns into a very tangible difference in the organization." Edholm interjects the main tenets of his philosophy, "I tell people that it is possible for nice people to finish first. I don't ever want people to cut corners. We play straight and clean and win!" Glassey wraps it all up by saying, "If we can figure out a way to capture the spirit that I think we have right now and that we have had all the way through and just continue to structure the company so that spirit can continue to bubble and continue to feed on itself and grow, I think we'll do okay." Obviously, Edholm and Glassey have the "oomph" to keep Brio Technology in the forefront of enterprise business intelligence!
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