Lacy Edwards is president and CEO of Evoke Software Corporation, formerly DBStar, Inc., a company that has solved many of the problems inherent in data warehousing and data migration projects. Edwards states that without Evoke Software's Migration Architect, the majority of these projects typically culminate in one of three scenarios: expensive runaway projects; completed projects with data quality problems (which affect future applications that rely on the data); or canceled projects due to cost and time overruns. "Evoke Software's Migration Architect does something that no other product can do--perform a computational analysis on data and extract critical information based on the analysis," says Edwards. "If there are relationships between the attributes in the data, we will find them." Migration Architect operates directly on the data, first profiling and then building a precise data model of the existing system. This model then becomes the basis for planning an accurate and efficient migration or data conversion. It also provides a road map from source system to target.
Identifying a Winner
Edwards joined Evoke before the company had a commercially available product. With broad experience in the software industry, Edwards is well qualified to lead Evoke through its initial growth phase. Prior to Evoke, he was president and COO of Unison Software (recently acquired by Tivoli/IBM) and is credited with Unison's successful IPO. After Unison Software, Edwards formed a technology research and consulting company. With a mission to assist start-up software companies, the firm specialized in evaluating business fundamentals and implementing effective economic, marketing and distribution models. Investors also retained the firm to evaluate the viability of older companies that had failed to meet expectations. At a potential investor's request, Edwards and his team evaluated Evoke's technology and quickly recognized that the company had far more potential than most other software companies.
"Evoke provided a solution to real business problems," says Edwards, "and its technology offered a foundation for success." The opportunity was so compelling that Edwards and his associates decided to direct their full attention to building Evoke, making a substantial investment in the company and assuming management control. All the technological underpinnings were in place. However, the technology could only be used by Evoke technologists--a drawback to widespread product adoption and use. "The technology was developed and used by people with IQs in the 200 range," states Edwards. "The average IQ of this company dropped 50 points the day I started working here!" The first customer-friendly, commercial-grade product came to market in September 1997. Now, database analysts and administrators only require one three-day training class to use all product features.
Growing Business Productivity and Success
What does it take to grow a successful software company? Edwards answers, "At this stage of our development, I have two very important jobs. The first is to ensure that the company is adequately financed and the second is to recruit a team of software industry professionals who can execute our plan. We're not your typical software company at this stage, mainly because there's a lot of gray hair here. Our team has a tremendous amount of collective experience, we have aggressive goals and we control the company carefully. It is very satisfying to see the progress we have made in such a short time."
Another critical element of success is having a truly unique product. One of Evoke's corporate objectives is to deliver products that improve customers' productivity by more than 1,000 percent. Migration Architect is the first product to provide automated assistance for recovering undocumented business rules embodied in legacy data. While manual data analysis requires three to five hours per attribute, Migration Architect slashes that to 10 minutes per attribute while delivering far more reliable and meaningful results.
One of Evoke's biggest challenges is educating the market. Many organizations don't have a line item budget for a product like Migration Architect because they do not realize that an automated software solution exists. Instead, companies spend massively to perform manual data analysis or they do nothing and risk project failure. As competition drives companies to significantly improve business processes, legacy systems are being replaced by new technology. In the drive to create data warehouses and make relevant data more accessible for decision support, vast amounts of data must be extracted from operational systems and mapped to new models. However, the barriers are enormous--outdated systems, lack of documentation, the addition of disparate databases due to mergers and acquisitions and complex problems caused by Year 2000 conversions.
"To meet these time-sensitive needs, we beefed up engineering with experts who understand the intricacies of business-critical commercial software and the importance of user interfaces," says Edwards. "Then, we built a distribution system with our sales organization and channel partners. Today, Evoke's market positioning and awareness campaign is key. We are a small company trying to do some very big things. The professionalism and skill of our people will enable us to succeed. Every member of the senior management team has been with a software company from early development stage through an IPO," says Edwards.
Evoke customers are spreading the word--using Migration Architect significantly reduces project risks and costs and enables projects to be completed much faster, with higher quality. Partnering is another strategy that Evoke is employing to build awareness. "Today, Oracle is our best partner," says Edwards. "When Migration Architect is used on the front end of a project, an Oracle migration is faster and easier. In Oracle's present Enterprise Data Management Service (EDMS), we fit like a glove. We are gaining recognition as other vendors realize the value of Migration Architect."
"It's much harder to build a software company today than it was ten years ago, but the rewards are much greater," states Edwards. "I feel good about what we're doing at Evoke, and about the substantial impact that we are having on our customers."
Edwards says that he cannot take credit for everything. But he will take the credit for recognizing the potential of the technology at Evoke and for bringing the financial resources and people together to position the company for rapid growth.
"The key to success," Edwards emphasizes, "is having the right people, the right knowledge and the right experience. These elements are all in place at Evoke."
Unlike conventional methods of database profiling, which rely on the manual analysis of meta data (e.g., Cobol copy books, source code, documentation, column headers, etc.), Migration Architect automatically analyzes actual data across all data sources. Its unique, discovery-based approach profiles data in three dimensions. It infers detailed characteristics about data attributes, relationships between attributes (e.g., functional dependencies) and relationships between tables (e.g., data redundancies). Migration Architect then automatically designs an optimal target database structure based on the profile information. Database designers and analysts can add constraints or edit the target database structure by casting rules on the data. When the design is complete, Migration Architect generates data definition language (DDL), which can be loaded directly into the target database or other design tools used for further refinement.
Implementing Evoke Software's Migration Architect at the beginning of a project ensures accurate, verifiable results--significantly reducing project risk. Projects doomed to fail because of poor data quality can be identified and eliminated quickly, freeing IT staff for more productive projects. Endless iterations between design, test and debug phases are also eliminated. Migration Architect enables project completion in a fraction of the time, at a much lower cost and with much greater accuracy and quality than is possible with traditional profiling and design methodologies.
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