Bill Hewitt brings 20-plus years of management experience to his new post as president and CEO of Kalido.
From his busy office in Burlington, Massachusetts, Bill Hewitt seldom has time to reflect on all the events that led up to his recent installment as the president and CEO of Kalido. To an outsider, though, Hewitt's 20 year-plus management career looks like the technology equivalent of a Broadway trouper's, the product of an environment that started with a long line of "IBMers." "At one point, we had 11 people in the direct and extended family at IBM - my father, my brother, his wife, my sister, her husband," Hewitt says. "It was a little incestuous but a great foundation for my business career." Hewitt spent 10 years at IBM, ending with a position in the services division where he looked at likely software partners and soon became enamored with the industry's growth and fast pace. That led to a chief marketing role at Hyperion and Hewitt's first taste of business intelligence. A couple of switches later, Hewitt was at PeopleSoft running industry solutions and, later, the global field marketing team. His last stop before Kalido was running Novell's Asia-Pacific operations. "It was all very positive, but I decided I wanted to see more of my family and wanted to be in a smaller company," Hewitt says. When the Kalido opportunity crossed his desk, Hewitt says the market, technology, investors and customers made the decision a "no-brainer." Jim Ericson spoke with Bill Hewitt about Kalido's positioning less than a year into his latest job.
DMR: You market the term "active information management." What's the typical environment for that?
Bill Hewitt: Active information management applies to any company that deals with information coming from multiple different places. They may have a very active data environment from a change standpoint - they go through mergers and acquisitions, spin off businesses or change their distribution or product development strategy. In all those areas, Kalido plays a specific role. Our focus is mostly from the operational system up to the BI layer, where we help transform operational data into the context of the business so people can use information to make better decisions.
DMR: There are a lot of arguments today about how operational data needs to merge with traditional data warehousing. Where do you see the high ground?
BH: The argument over how you want to look at a specific set of data is an IT-versus-business argument for the ages. The business guys will say they never get what they want, and everything takes forever. The IT guys will say the business can never tell us what it wants or it's not what they want, it's what they need - and by the time we deliver it, they don't need it anymore. We address that problem by eliminating that back- and-forth process of design, build, operate; new requirements, new design, rebuild. You need to have good transaction systems, but transaction systems are not built to deliver information to someone seeking a contextual view of product, customer and territory information. It is context that helps them make decisions about how to build a market, with which products, aimed at which customer sets. I would say the traditional methods have delivered the "what." What is my margin, what is my revenue, what customers do I have? What Kalido delivers is the "why." Why did my margin go down? Why did my customers stop buying?
DMR: Does near real-time operational information and historical information merge interactively, as experts like Bill Inmon suggest?
BH: I think it makes sense in some cases. A number of our implementations follow the traditional method where transaction data goes to a staging area and then a warehouse. Now we're seeing implementations with a kind of "fast lane" of data that goes from the operational system directly into the warehouse. We're also seeing the need for operational reporting; you might want to look at a particular customer across five transactions. You don't need to go through a complete warehouse to look at that information, but when you want to bring information together, manipulate it and present it in the context of the business, you absolutely have to do that. As it applies to DW 2.0, you gave me an easy question. Bill [Inmon] recently announced that Kalido is the first DW 2.0-certified product in the market.
DMR: We'll try to be tougher. How do you sell traditionalists on the idea of a database that doesn't conform to what they are used to?
BH: The first thing we hear from traditionalists is, "We don't believe you can do that." They point out that our database doesn't require any structure, that it's one big table. What we do in this generic store is like placing a RFID tag on every piece of data. We have a unique identifier for every piece of data down to the lowest level we can go, and then we use a business model-based approach to map the data. That allows the business to change the business model as they want, and the data automatically follows. More importantly, we're the only BI "engine" that keeps a full history of that data. Because we timestamp everything, we can tell you what that data was at any point in time, recreate a view at any point in time, and you can use it for scenario planning going forward. People like Bill Inmon are real visionaries in their realm, but as we see it, the robustness and structure and discipline of a transaction system needs to be brought into the information management environment.
DMR: Are your predefined models and solutions your foot in the door with customers?
BH: I was just talking to a fellow at one of the large BI vendors who's responsible for their entire corporate performance management [CPM] business, and he said, "If I don't come up with a robust, agile repository for CPM, I'm dead." Most of those projects tend to look really good on the first day, but when they try to refresh the data, it doesn't work. Profitability management is a great example. We did a project at Owens Corning where at one point we were literally in the CIO's office when the CFO came in and said, "I just got the preliminary results for the quarter; we lost a point of operating margin, and we can't figure out where." Owens Corning is a $6.5 billion company, and a point of operating margin is a lot of money. So he turned to the CIO and said, "You have all the data, you figure it out." The CIO smartly said, "You [Kalido] guys are a smart software company, you figure it out." In 10 weeks, we were able to show them that two of their fastest-growing product lines were unprofitable. They did something product companies typically don't do - they killed off the product lines, saved tens of millions that quarter, and they now have profitability information down to the product level, refreshed daily. They use that information to set compensation schemes for the sales force based on margin instead of revenue. That's powerful insight into the way a business is actually running.
DMR: I've heard you say, "ERP equals DOA." I'm talking to a mid-sized company right now that is using a BI platform to get a grip on reporting, but they're also in phase two of their four-phase ERP rollout. What do you say to them?
BH: Give them my phone number. All the ERP vendors are saying it's about SOA. SAP says we can provide everything: middleware, information management, transaction systems. Oracle says the same thing. What customer in their right mind wants to go back to buying every piece of their stack from one vendor? If you want to deliver your applications with a database flavor, then Oracle is a great place to go. If you want to deliver your middleware with a manufacturing flavor, SAP is a great place to go. But SAP has rolled out their second try at MDM [master data management], and it's failing because while they understand applications, they don't understand data. Oracle understands data but they don't understand applications. What we promote is maintaining separation between the five layers of your IT environment that move at different speeds: your infrastructure, your security, your information management, your applications and your user interface. Eventually, SOA is going to be the technology that brings all that together, but I don't think you should need to have your information management come out of your transaction systems or vice versa. What customers want is interoperability between the layers of the IT stack so they can make changes that suit their environment as they grow or shrink or change in other ways.
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