Formed in 1981, Sterling Software has grown to become one of the largest independent software companies in the world with 1999 revenues of $807 million. Carole Morton, senior VP and president of Sterling Software's Business Intelligence Group, explains that the company's goal has always been to expand through careful planning and management, including the acquisition of companies that fit into Sterling Software's overall strategy.
"It isn't that we just acquire companies. We look for products, technology and companies that fit into our areas of interest. Once we have the technology, we build upon it and, where appropriate, marry the technology to our existing product lines. Our recent acquisition of Information Advantage was our 35th acquisition since 1983," says Morton.
With this acquisition, Sterling Software has catapulted into a leadership position in business intelligence. Morton states, "There is no shortage of business intelligence tools on the market. What has been lacking is the ability to integrate the disparate capabilities into a common platform and personalize the environment for every user. We can now provide that."
According to Morton, one of the reasons that the Information Advantage acquisition was strategic to Sterling Software's plans relates to a product that Sterling Software had announced but not yet delivered. "That product was a Web-integrated query, analysis and reporting tool," Morton explains. "In fact, we coined the term 'WIQAR' to describe the tool's capabilities. We felt we had something that others didn't have a truly 100 percent Java, Web-oriented tool set. When we first met with Information Advantage, we shared our vision and they shared their vision. There was virtually no conflict. They had built the first business intelligence portal, and they had robust ROLAP and enterprise reporting. We had our 'WIQAR' product, and they wanted a Java query, analysis and reporting tool. We were going down our individual paths. As it turns out, we met at an intersection that enabled Sterling Software to bring to market a bigger and better suite offering."
Morton oversees Sterling Software's Business Intelligence Group (BIG) which consists of the newly formed Business Intelligence Division, based in Minneapolis with Rick Parker, former vice president of marketing for Information Advantage, as president; the International Business Intelligence Division, headquartered in London with Mary Trick as president; and the Information Management Division, based in Los Angeles with Rick Jackson as president. Formerly known as the Information Management Group, Morton explains that the new designation as the Business Intelligence Group was adopted primarily because of the acquisition of Information Advantage. The renaming of the group also reflects Sterling Software's intention to be a significant player in business intelligence products and services.
Sterling Software's new EUREKA: Suite is comprised of five products that offer a full range of business intelligence solutions. EUREKA: Intelligence enables users to "slice and dice" and drill into live data via graphical, interactive views including charts, reports and tables. The product also lets users create multidimensional OLAP reports. EUREKA:Strategy delivers high volumes of calculation-intensive, interactive reports from very large databases. An advanced calculation engine, EUREKA: Strategy enables users to evaluate attributes for trend analysis, customer segmentation and inventory management. Financial forecasting and business modeling capabilities are provided by EUREKA:Analyst, an advanced, high-speed multidimensional analysis tool. EUREKA: Reporter generates sophisticated, interactive report documents in multiple formats through multiple publishing media, and EUREKA: Portal serves as the single point of entry to these business intelligence tools. Serving as the common platform for the entire suite, EUREKA: Portal gives users at all levels personalized, secure access to business information.
Sterling Software's Information Management Division (IMD) is responsible for all research and development of VISION products and for marketing, sales and support of the VISION products in North America. This division's data warehousing products make it possible for organizations to manage the information supply chain and the structure of business-critical data resources. The two newest products in the VISION family are VISION:Pursuit and VISION: Renaissance. VISION:Pursuit allows organizations to be operational and begin building data warehouses in under an hour. This new extract, transform and load (ETL) tool enhances IMD's already extensive data warehousing product offering and provides its users with a complete set of tools to manage their information supply chains. VISION:Pursuit covers the complete range of data movement capabilities and can be used for ETL, ERP reporting, data migration and business-to-business data integration tasks. VISION:Renaissance is a PC-based tool that automates the assessment, restructuring and enhancement of legacy mainframe code. By moving code maintenance projects from MVS to Windows, it provides organizations with a cost-effective means of quickly renovating COBOL applications so they can be effectively integrated into e-commerce and e-business solutions.
Carole Morton, Senior VP and president of Sterling Software's Business Intelligence Group; Robin Escott, Sterling Software's IMD Employee of the Year (1998); and Geno Tolari, COO of Sterling Software
Calling herself an information management veteran, Morton is amused at the buzzword phenomenon so prevalent in this industry. "Business intelligence is one of those buzzwords. Everybody thinks business intelligence or BI, not information management, but in reality they are the same. The medium has changed, but the concept is the same, and it's been kind of fun to ride the waves. Business intelligence was called report writing, report generation, data management and information management. It has had all these names at various times, but BI seems to be the one that will prevail. It didn't really catch on until IBM announced their Business Intelligence Program Initiative. Everybody wanted to be part of that market structure or marketecture and it included everything under the sun except the Internet," says Morton.
"Portal is the latest buzzword. You see that word everywhere now; unfortunately, there is no universal definition. There are business information portals and enterprise information portals. You need to read between the lines, because there are also portals that are application specific. Then there is our EUREKA: Portal, which is universal, makes a lot more sense and is a lot more useful. EUREKA:Portal is not application specific. It is unique because you can put whatever you want within it. It doesn't just encompass business intelligence. An enterprise information portal, to me, is not just day-to-day business. It is the business and the business can be viewed by different users depending on what you allow them to access. Users can be employees, vendors, customers or even consumers anybody who wants to get information," emphasizes Morton.
Prior to joining Sterling Software, Morton was president of Dylakor, Inc. where she developed several best-selling software products. Sterling Software acquired Dylakor in 1983, and Morton has been a division or group president ever since. Even though she has spent more than 30 years in the same field, her enthusiasm has not dimmed. "I like the excitement of technology. I especially like that every day is an education day and that you don't really have an opportunity to become stagnant," says Morton. "When I started, you could be an expert in a lot of different things. It has gotten so broad now that if you're a sliver of an expert, you're doing pretty darn good."
Morton admits that the technological changes are exciting, but she contends the basic underlying concepts have remained the same. "We all know there are many different accounts receivable systems, but the basic structure of an accounts receivable system is identical to what it was 20 years ago. It's just how it is fed to us the look and feel has changed. Instead of greenbar page output, we can access reports through a URL on the Internet, and the output is pretty in color with company logos and everything. Now we can play with the output a bit and modify it, without going to the IT department with a special request. With all of the tools now available, I can take the output and get it into the form that I want. I can do it graphically, in textual form or embedded in a different form. I have a lot of things now available to me that I didn't have before, but it is still the same basic concept," states Morton.
Carole Morton and Richard Gibson, Sterling Software Account Executive
"Even the Internet is not new," continues Morton. "The Internet has been around for over 25 years. It is just in the last few years that we've realized it as a vehicle. In fact, it has been around longer than that as a vehicle, but people just never picked up on it. Now it's the buzz everyone wants it. But I remember when they were trying to kill TCP/IP at one time, and now that's the protocol foundation of the Internet today. It is interesting to see how so many of the ideas and concepts have evolved since computers became a commercial reality. For example, e-business is really taking the applications that make up an organization's mission-critical systems and delivering the output to the consumers or users or whomever you do business with and using the Internet as part of the vehicle to do that. What we're seeing now is vendors are providing the ability to take the investment that organizations have made in products and move that forward with new technology so the investment isn't lost."
"The biggest challenge," states Morton, "is keeping a visionary perspective on how information is going to be handled in the future. Now that unstructured data has been identified in the sense that it's being used as a true cache of data that can be used to make business decisions, we have to find ways to make all of that data accessible through the Internet. It even goes beyond that into areas that aren't commonly thought of as being part of business video and audio information. It's important for us to be able to continue to evolve our marketecture to stay ahead of market demands."
The new millennium will bring exciting developments from Morton's Business Intelligence Group. "In the acquisition process and subsequent strategy building meetings, we have identified opportunities for building other products and taking those products to other platforms. The whole idea is for our Business Intelligence Group to have a synergy between its divisions. We want to be able to offer our customers, no matter which door they enter, a solution set that they can buy as a set or buy a piece at a time," states Morton. To accomplish that objective, Morton explains her role. "I think of myself as a mentor. I like to be involved with what my people do, but I want them to have the responsibility of carrying it through," she says.
As Sterling Software's Business Intelligence Group focuses on solutions for global access to information, Morton is confident that the group she leads will be a dominant force in the business intelligence space. The group's dedicated focus on providing quality solutions and the strong support structure of the entire Sterling Software organization mean customers can turn to Sterling with confidence. Morton emphasizes, "I want our current and future customers to know that Sterling Software is a great company. The employees that make up the organization are A+ folks, and they do a great job of supporting the customers and building the right tools."
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