Technologies and technology companies come and go and often at bewildering speed. In the midst of this rapid churn, Information Builders is a steadying influence. Located at the top of Silicon Alley, New York's booming high tech center, Information Builders is a pioneer in developing the field of business intelligence. For 25 years, Information Builders has been giving organizations the means to collect and analyze information in order to better manage their businesses. Information Builders does it by enabling organizations to nimbly adapt to major shifts in technology for accessing and delivering information. Today, that means enabling organizations to transform themselves into e-businesses with Internet and mobile technologies.
"We're proud of the fact that we have thrived for twenty-five years as an independent entity. We are the largest software company in New York City, and it was an honor to receive a special proclamation from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani acknowledging our 25th anniversary," states Gerry Cohen, president and CEO of Information Builders. "Our success is due to our ability to recognize major technology paradigm shifts, develop new capabilities for our products in response to those shifts and then enable our customers to use these new technologies quickly and easily to grow their businesses."
"We have gone through four paradigm shifts so far, creating a series of products for each while retaining our core focus, which has always been to enable organizations to easily access and deliver information that resides in their corporate computing environments. We have witnessed major technical changes during the last 25 years mainframe computers, PCs, client/server and now the Internet and wireless.
"While there were four technology shifts, there are really only two things that have changed over the years. One is obviously the source of information, and the second is how that information is accessed. We've delivered information to paper terminals, to 3270s, to desktop computers, to laptop computers and now to wireless devices. The delivery has changed, but there's a constant thread through what we do: delivering real-time information to managers who want to run their businesses effectively. That's an essential need, and it is not going to change," remarks Cohen. "Today, Infor-mation Builders is organized around our core competencies business intelligence and enterprise integration."
"Our products have a broad reach and a broad purpose. When we say we're going to deliver information to all kinds of users, we mean all kinds of people at all levels executives, production users, developers, power users and remote users," emphasizes Cohen. Our customers are well served because as their needs evolve over time, our products allow them to change their systems to address those needs. A good example of that today would be wireless. We have a wonderful set of wireless solutions. If a company wants to extend information to people on handheld devices, we'll enable that because the era of 'all information has to come from your PC' is over. With wireless, customers really will be able to get information anywhere. That's a really important, major paradigm shift that presents wonderful possibilities," he states.
"We're proud of the things people do with our software. We like the fact that we make an impact. Our products provide major corporations with much more than processing for elective or peripheral applications. We have more than 3,000 companies running very essential processes on some form of our software," states Cohen.
Information Builders' first business intelligence product, FOCUS, was introduced in 1976. Originally released to create data-intensive reports for the IBM mainframe, Information Builders subsequently released versions of the product for PCs, DEC VAX, UNIX, Wang, HP, Tandem and the AS/400. The FOCUS Six for Windows product suite was introduced in the mid-nineties. WebFOCUS Web-based business intelligence software was released in 1996.
"When client/server became popular in the early nineties, we invented EDA/SQL our family of enterprise integration products for data access. We have about 2,500 sites using EDA sites that are remarkably durable thanks to our middleware products. The front end might change, but our middleware enables enterprise integration," says Cohen.
Gerald Cohen and New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani
"The advent of the Internet presented a great opportunity for us. The Internet is all server-based software, and our products are very strong on the server. WebFOCUS is going gangbusters. I think that we're number one in terms of Web reporting regardless of whether you measure it in dollars or sites," says Cohen.
Recounting the successes of the past 25 years, Cohen shares some of the company's most notable accomplishments. "I am very proud of the fact that we were the inventors of the first fourth generation language. This is just one example of our ability to simplify the complex. In some sense, that ability permeates our business intelligence product offerings. WebFOCUS is based on this fourth generation language, which means you don't have to be a programmer to get into the system and produce meaningful results. Someone tasked with developing an information system or who works with a system developed by consultants will be able to understand how the system works and be able to make changes," says Cohen.
Of course, Information Builders' success would not be possible without satisfied customers. With more than 5,000 customers and over 9,000 actual sites where Information Builders software is installed, Cohen has a multitude of customer successes to recount. "I have customers who tell me that they have had FOCUS in house for 20 years," states Cohen. "Often they don't stop to think about why that is possible. Our products have been engineered so that customers can take over and manage them and adapt quickly to changes in technology or business demands. Our customers benefit from our broad software engineering experience that goes back to the mainframe days. When PCs arrived, we reworked our mainframe software and also generalized the product so it would run on any platform. That required great engineering skill. From that point on, we have been able to say that no matter what comes in the future, we'll be able to run it. Today we even run on Linux. We develop our technology internally we have a superb engineering shop, and we have had a lot of time to work on our engineering to insure that we run on everything. Things change over 20 years in a company, and our customers have been able to use our products to migrate their systems to address the new needs of their organizations."
"Enterprises throughout the world choose our products because our software has depth. We don't make a single product in a single, very narrow market. Our products are a good investment for our customers because we are probably the best technology enabler in the United States. To me, a technology enabler is a software company that takes something useful that appears on the horizon and puts it inside its products so it can be used productively," says Cohen.
"We also understand that companies want to be able to use the other software they have. If one of our customers has NT, Oracle or SAP, they want our products to work with that product. That's what a technology enabler does. We make a dedicated effort to continually address our customers' changing requirements with enabling technology. I don't think anybody does this as well as we do," emphasizes Cohen.
His enthusiasm for his company and its products keeps growing. "I get a kick out of technology. I like to see nice, good software work well. Some people like fine cars, some like fine wine. I like fine software, and I can see the elegance in certain kinds of software. I guess you could say I'm a software connoisseur," comments Cohen.
It is not just the software and technology that have occupied Cohen's last twenty- five years. "I am proud of the fact that Information Builders is a nice place to work. I think we do a very good job of creating a very warm cultural environment. We have turnover like everybody else, but there are lots of long- term employees here. That is good for our company and good for our customers too. We've been able to maintain more of a small company atmosphere despite our size. Information access any time is the theme for our products, but it's also reflective of my management style. We have open communication we practice what we preach," comments Cohen.
INFORMATION BUILDERS' STRATEGY
Information Builders works to simplify how organizations access, understand and share information. Our strategy has three key elements:
Information Builders' location is also critical to its continuing success. "A lot of people don't realize that New York City has one of the country's fastest growing populations of programmers. New York has become a huge technology and Internet center, and one out of five new jobs in the City is associated with software or new media. We are proud to have been a mainstay of the New York City community for the past 25 years," Cohen says.
"Our goal," states Cohen, "is to be a billion-dollar company within the next few years. We'll always have to be ahead of the curve when it comes to emerging technologies and continue our commitment to helping our customers embrace new technology and incorporate it into their day-to-day business operations. We expect to be a leader in maximizing the Web's potential as an information delivery vehicle and also in accessing data and delivering information via personal digital assistants, cellular phones and other wireless devices," emphasizes Cohen. Information Builders' dedicated focus has enabled the company to achieve a milestone their 25th anniversary that few software companies can claim. Cohen emphasizes, "What I'd like our customers to know is that there will be 25 more years of Information Builders!"
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