Eric Lieberman became president of Firstlogic, a privately held company, in 1998, but his connection to the organization dates back to the mid-eighties. "I started out as a journalist in Chicago," states Lieberman. After two years with City News, Lieberman returned to school for a law degree. "In 1984 I bought my first IBM computer and got a lot of criticism from those who thought lawyers shouldn't be doing computing shouldn't even have computers on their desks but I am a gadget guy and I enjoy technology. In 1986, I joined a firm where, because I knew how to use computers, I was suddenly the intellectual property expert," he remarks with a smile. "Firstlogic then known as Postalsoft was one of that firm's clients, and I worked as the company's outside counsel for many years. In 1996, I came inside as general counsel. In January of 1998, Firstlogic initiated a period of internal reengineering to refine its focus, including some changes in the way it was structured and managed. A lawyer in an intellectual property-based company is naturally at the center of everything, so I was a logical candidate. I became president of Firstlogic in May of 1998."
The company was founded in 1984 by Douglas Schmidt. Schmidt's wife ran a small mailing operation and needed PC-based tools to compete with larger mailers who had mainframe tools. Her success with the PC-platform tools Schmidt developed for sorting and bar coding mail was the impetus for the company's formation. Today Firstlogic solutions including the original Postalsoft brand of document and mail automation tools, the i.d.Centric brand of data quality tools and a professional service organization enable businesses to improve the speed and efficiency of mail operations as well as cleanse and enhance critical customer information so that its value can be fully realized.
"One of the exciting things about Firstlogic is seeing the progression from bar codes back in the early eighties to e-commerce and e-business today," says Lieberman. "Every e-data or data quality book that I read and I try to read every one begins by indicating that none of the software for business intelligence is worth anything unless people have clean data. Our i.d.Centric data quality suite helps build data quality into data warehouses, customer registry, front office, CRM, e-business and database marketing applications."
The son of a famous photojournalist, Lieberman is understandably a very visually oriented individual. "I was searching for a unique way to depict the tremendous deluge of data that companies, especially e- business and e-commerce companies, have to deal with every day," he says. With the help of his photographer brother, Lieberman is developing a Firstlogic video presentation, which employs water droplets, rapidly flowing streams and massive waterfalls to metaphorically convey the growing data flow that can potentially drown unprepared organizations. "All across the typical enterprise, data is flowing in from a variety of sources. People are collecting it in the call center, collecting it from their legacy systems or collecting it online from e-commerce and e-business Web sites." For many organizations, the inability to properly handle the rush of data can threaten their competitive ability. Lieberman uses his water/data analogy to visually represent the biggest challenge facing today's enterprises harnessing the power of data to keep the wheels of commerce turning. "With customer information becoming the most critical asset of a company, the quality of that information ultimately determines its usefulness and value," states Lieberman, "Firstlogic's expertise is in providing solutions to improve the quality of customer information anywhere that data is touched, stored, processed or moved within the enterprise."
To gauge the extent of data quality problems in the expanding e-business marketplace, Lieberman elected to conduct an experiment. "Customer-entered orders are prone to error because a representative isn't there to scrutinize the Web order for spelling errors or missing address information. We demonstrated this by having interns visit e- commerce sites that were collecting customer information. We instructed them to enter garbage in the data fields. The number of sites that would confirm shipments to addresses like 'NoSuch Place, NoSuch City, 12345' was unbelievable. Even some of the big name sites would accept the information and confirm the orders. Using our products, those sites could be verifying and cleansing the customer- entered data online in real time. This whole e-commerce phenomenon is new. Everybody concentrated on building the systems and forgot it is the knowledge and information that the systems can deliver which is what's really important. Obviously, we have a lot of evangelism to do," states Lieberman. "Our eDataQuality suite enables organizations to cleanse customer data in real time, at the point of data capture or anywhere in the enterprise, to ensure that customer information is reliable and accurate before it enters a database," he adds. The Firstlogic eDataQuality suite is also accessible through an application service provider (ASP).
Eric Lieberman, president of Firstlogic
Lieberman is especially intrigued by the wireless frontier. His Palm VII is one of his favorite gadgets. "You find yourself in places where you want information, so even though it's not as easy to read as printed material, the convenience makes up for that fact. Wireless devices like the Palm VII are the future," he says. "In fact, Firstlogic has already prototyped what we call wireless data quality, which enables wireless access to our ASP site. I'm able to enter an address on my Palm. The device contacts our hosted site in Dallas, and the address comes back cleansed and in the right format with the ZIP+4 code. While we are just in the trial stages now, it's incredibly exciting to look ahead to our next wave of innovations for the wireless frontier. Another of our other challenges involves expanding our B2B portfolio to meet the demand in this rapidly growing area," states Lieberman.
"One of my jobs as president is to focus company efforts on strategic elements that will yield success," says Lieberman. In a collaborative effort, the Firstlogic management team developed a motivational success algorithm for the company: Success=1L+I6. "This formula illustrates our strategic vision that success for this company equals everything that Firstlogic (1L) provides for our customers plus six areas of focus (I6) that will enable us to continue to meet our customers' present and future needs," explains Lieberman. The six focus areas are innovation, interface, interoperability, Internet, international and investment.
"The first focus point is innovation, reminding us that we cannot just sit back and be satisfied. The second is interface with our customers, which is key for any business. For example, we recently completed a customer survey, and we received the highest customer survey grades we've ever had. The high marks received are no accident," says Lieberman. "All of our employees are very, very focused on the customer, and our renewal rates are extremely high for this industry. As a management group, we also think about the interface we have with our employees. We are fortunate to have a very high employee retention rate much higher than the industry average."
"Interoperability refers to the links that we build which make it easy for our software to integrate with other software. We have pre-built links with Informatica, Informix, Oracle, Siebel, Onyx, PeopleSoft and Torrent which drastically reduce the time and cost for customers to integrate our data quality solutions with these applications. A big part of our strategy involves interoperability building wise partnering relationships," explains Lieberman.
"The Internet speaks for itself. We're like the purveyors of the shovels for the gold rush. We've got the infrastructure tools to enable e-commerce sites to get clean customer information so that purchases are not misdirected or delayed," states Lieberman.
"Our niche is knowing customer information," says Lieberman, "and we're moving aggressively into the international marketplace. That's where our experience comes to bear. We work with international postal authorities who are playing catch up with the United States in automating their processes. It's very exciting. At the same time, we're also looking at real channel opportunities. We're taking our domestic products and expanding their global capabilities because now, thanks to the Internet, you've got people shipping jam from Tennessee to Timbuktu and they need quality customer data. The international marketplace creates a tremendous opportunity," emphasizes Lieberman. Firstlogic recently announced the addition of international data quality capabilities to the eDataQuality suite. The software accurately standardizes, corrects, assigns and enhances customer data for the U.S., Canada, Australia and 14 European countries including France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. "By adding the international solution, our customers have the ability to more effectively manage customer relationships worldwide," says Lieberman. In addition to the country-specific capabilities, Firstlogic's comprehensive international offering includes "all world" coverage that supports address validation for an additional 176 countries.
"Our success formula is proving to be an effective tool for focusing our efforts, and I frequently receive enthusiastic e-mail from employees explaining how their investment of time or talent is compatible with at least one of the other success factors innovation, interface, interoperability, Internet or international. It is really working, and I think that's wonderful," Lieberman states.
"One of the things that distinguishes Firstlogic from our competitors is our people. Our company culture serves as a magnet to attract some of the best and brightest in the industry. We're known for the ease of working with our people and the knowledge that we bring to the table. In the software industry, 16 years of experience is a whole lot of years. From the technology side, we're equally well-known for speed and accuracy on our platforms. So it is great to be able to go out to our customers and apply that collective knowledge and expertise," states Lieberman. "I love being on the frontier and that's right where we are now. The twenty- first century will belong to those who are able to exploit information as a strategic enterprise resource. Firstlogic is in the right place at the right time with customer data quality, and I'm looking forward to driving this organization to become all that it can be in a world where we play a very important role," concludes Lieberman.
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