PLATINUM's mission, as stated in their corporate literature, is to provide software products and consulting services that help Global 10,000 companies manage and improve their IT infrastructure which supports an organization's key processes and consists of data, systems and applications. At PLATINUM, this mission statement is not merely a collection of words crafted by a talented public relations guru to project a positive image for the company. At PLATINUM, it is the driving force of the confederation led by Filipowski.
Filipowski has assembled this confederation through a series of strategic acquisitions--acquisitions that Filipowski has engineered to obtain technology as well as talent. Throughout the IT industry, acquisitions have been the hot news as evidenced by recent major acquisitions and mergers such as Compaq/Tandem, Arbor/Hyperion, Hummingbird/Andyne, Sybase/Intellidex, PeopleSoft/Intrepid and, of course, PLATINUM's acquisition of Logic Works.
Commenting on these consolidations in the IT industry, Filipowski says, "On an ongoing basis, we have to be alert to opportunities to make sure that we raise the bar on the kind of solutions that we offer to our customers so that we can be one of the surviving group."
PLATINUM was founded in 1987 as a DB2 tool and services company, and today PLATINUM has nearly 200 products spanning every area of IT infrastructure management. The data, systems and applications that make up the IT infrastructure are all interdependent; and, according to Filipowski, PLATINUM spans all three of these areas and is building suites to address each of them. As Filipowski stated at PLATforum '98, PLATINUM's annual user conference, "We've reinvented ourselves, again and again, in anticipation of changing customer needs." It is precisely this attention to customers' needs that defines Filipowski's modus operandi--from strategic acquisitions to product development to management style.
"The value of a software company is principally in its ability to do business with its customers, and success hinges on whether or not as a company you can bring a steady stream of good solutions and good products to your customers to solve the problems that they are currently facing," Filipowski explains. "And if you're going to do that these days, you have to thoroughly understand the problem set that's going to materialize in a few years." Filipowski sees the window of opportunity for identifying and solving those problems as being only 18 to 24 months. And that is precisely why he favors acquisition as the avenue to enable PLATINUM to provide customers with the solutions they require.
Because waiting years for the solution to a current problem is not feasible, the rationale behind his acquisition strategy becomes obvious. Filipowski continues, "If you had to start from scratch to create the solutions, 18 to 24 months is not enough time. You are far better off harvesting those products from the companies that have been guessing five to six years in advance what the problem set is going to be. They are, of course, going to make a lot of errors, and the mortality rate is going to be pretty high among that group. The risk associated with guessing five to six years out, the risk of having an 80 percent mortality rate on those projects, is far too high for a publicly held company to tolerate. And," he states, "that's why you don't do it. You're far better off waiting until the mortality rate has culled out those that guessed wrong. You are then able to evaluate the products from those that guessed correctly and see how those products are being accepted in the marketplace."
Once the acquisition has been finalized, the real work begins. Filipowski sports a satisfied smile when relating his response to a question he is frequently asked: Isn't it almost impossible to integrate all of those products and aren't you destined to fail at attempting to integrate them?
"You couldn't be asking me a better question! If I am going to fail, think how hard it is for my customers to integrate products. And that's what they're confronted with when they're asked to buy a variety of products from a variety of vendors. If I can accomplish the integration," states Filipowski, "then I am more cherished by my customers than I would be any other way. The integration skills are difficult to perfect; and if we're able to weave together a variety of solutions into a successful suite, we're providing a tremendous value to our customers."
While Filipowski views integration as an important means to provide enhanced solutions for their customers, PLATINUM continues to successfully sell individual tools. For example, ProVision, PLATINUM's database and system management suite, consists of individual tools that are integration-ready. Customers buy only the tools they need, knowing that when they need additional functionality they can add another ProVision tool. Filipowski explains, "We are not aiming to build monolithic suites that force customers to buy more functionality than they need or want."
The customers are the true beneficiaries of Filipowski's strategies. In addition to providing integrated solutions that enable an enterprise to function more effectively, efficiently and competitively, customers also benefit from the PLATINUM business ethic--the commitment to be a good friend and partner to every customer. "PLATINUM customers can be very sure that PLATINUM will provide a set of tools and solutions for current and future business problems. We recognize, as do our customers, that good relationships are rare and they are precious. We truly value our excellent customer relationships," Filipowski says.
The acquisition is finalized. The integration is accomplished. The job is done. Not so, Filipowski stresses. Then begins another aspect of his acquisition strategy--the one that explains why news of a PLATINUM acquisition is usually welcomed not only by current and potential customers, but also by the acquired software company.
"The creation of a distribution mechanism for a software solution is key to a solution provider's success. The obstacle and barrier to entry for almost any start-up is the creation of a global sales capability," states Filipowski. "What really was expensive and difficult during our years of growth was not the acquisition and integration of products. It was building a global sales force, building the distribution mechanism in 50-60 countries, building the infrastructure to run a multi-million dollar software company and building the business systems to be deployed worldwide in order to support that effort."
According to Filipowski, success in acquisitions is more a factor dependent upon the acquirer's cultural flexibility than it is on the acquiree's cultural flexibility. He explains, "We have worked very hard to make sure that we have in place not only the processes but the culture that is adaptive. We don't treat the acquisition target as the vanquished. We treat them as part of the confederation. There is a very direct, very firm and very fair description of the way the confederation works and the leadership of the confederation. But, on the other hand, the culture is very adaptive to make sure that the responsibilities and authorities for various part of the business are fairly handed out. Because we have done such a volume of acquisitions, today we are more representative of the companies that we acquired than we are of the original PLATINUM," he states.
Filipowski's entrepreneurship, vision and creativity have shaped PLATINUM into one of the top software companies in the world. PLATINUM provides their customers with products and services to help manage business-critical areas of the IT infrastructure including database and systems management, application infrastructure management, data warehousing and decision support and Year 2000 reengineering. As the leader of this extremely successful organization, he has honed his management skills to perfection and created a corporate culture that capitalizes on the skills of each team member. In his own words, Filipowski feels he has been able to succeed because, "I believe that I truly can form confederations. I think any good leader has to be able to create a believable strategy. You have to have the ability to articulate it, present it and then transfer that strategy to the team. Then you must have the team-building skills to put together the individuals that can actually execute the strategy into a successful endeavor. If you put those three things together and build people up to take on more and more responsibility so they are able to contribute effectively to the strategy creation and execution, then you've got a great team and a great business." Then he adds, "Over the years we have developed a team that specializes. There is no way around it. When you get to be an organization of this size, it is impossible for everyone to be a generalist. But they are generalists enough so that, for example, in the upper management we still have enough residual technical skills to be cognizant of the requirements of our business. We have folks that are superb at marketing, superb at sales, superb at a technical level--and the best part is that they really want to do those things. I truly believe that the key is that we have a team that is infallibly close and has the ability to confront any situation on a shoulder-to-shoulder basis with no one daring to break ranks, no matter what. I am a true believer that if you never give up, you can't lose. And I am proud to say that is an exhibited trait of the folks here."
Listed on the periodic table of elements as Pt, platinum is a ductile metallic element, more valuable than gold, that is highly resistant to corrosion and electrochemical attack. Filipowski founded PLATINUM technology in 1987 and chose the name PLATINUM to connote high quality. If there was a periodic table of information technology, Af (Andrew Filipowski) would certainly be recorded as the human element that keeps PLATINUM technology resistant to corrosion and attack. And successful enterprises throughout the world that have chosen PLATINUM technology as their full- service provider of IT infrastructure management solutions would affirm that PLATINUM is a friend and partner and, like the element of the same name, more valuable than gold.
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