Dashboard Insight recently spoke with Ken Bero about his business model, his products - and why it can be tough to explain Datawatch's place on the "BI stack."
Dashboard Insight: Can you tell us the history of Datawatch?
Ken Bero: Datawatch was founded in 1985 and was originally a computer hardware company. At that time, Datawatch produced IBM-compatible computer workstations and peripherals that conformed to the government's TEMPEST security standard for securing electronic communications equipment from potential eavesdroppers.
The end of the Cold War significantly reduced that market and Datawatch shifted its strategy to software in 1991. The company made a number of acquisitions throughout the nineties as part of this transition. Our Monarch technology was introduced in 1991 and has been the foundation of Datawatch’s BI strategy ever since.
Today, Datawatch is a leader in business intelligence. Our goal is to help companies make better decisions and solve business problems by simplifying access to and analysis of information. More than 40,000 organizations worldwide rely on Datawatch products including our market-leading Monarch™ report and data mining solutions.
DI: Where does Datawatch sit on the BI Stack?
KB: There’s a simple answer and a not-so-simple answer to that question. The simple answer is that Forrester puts report mining, which is at the core of Datawatch’s products, in the “Discovery and Integration Layer” category. Our Datawatch Dashboards™ product fits squarely into the “Reporting” category.
The not-so-simple answer is that Datawatch customers use our products in all different ways that cross these predefined segments. For example, some customers use Datawatch solutions as their only BI tool, so to them, it is the BI stack. On the other hand, Datawatch solutions can also integrate with other systems in full-scale BI implementations for large enterprises.
DI: Can you tell us about Datawatch's business model and how the company is "doing BI differently?"
KB: Our business model is to make it possible for every organization, large or small, to cost-effectively take advantage of the power of business intelligence as well as make it easy enough for everyone in that organization to use, not just a limited number of power users. We do this by eliminating the need for programming and integration issues on the implementation side and by providing self-service BI with limited or no training needed on the end-user side.
We can easily do this because most companies already have all the data they need to make effective business decisions in their existing reports and business documents. The problem with reports is that the data is “locked” on the page. Our Monarch report mining solutions turns this “static” information into live data - such as Excel – providing cost-effective, easy-to-implement-and-use solutions that generate an immediate ROI.
Compared to complex and costly BI tools that recreate the same information that already exists within these reports (or require manually re-keying report information into tools like Excel), it’s no wonder our implementation times are measured in hours or days rather than the typical months or years. By using reports and business documents as a source of quality information, companies can quickly realize the benefits of BI with minimal upfront investment, while fully leveraging all of the time and effort they have already put into their existing system output.
DI: In September 2009 you announced the release of Datawatch Dashboards, can you tell us about the product?
KB: Datawatch Dashboards™ is a fully interactive dashboard solution that gives all levels of users, from C-level executives to operational staff, a visual overview of operational performance with drill-down capabilities. The solution is unique because it provides stunning data visualization and easy implementation, while also empowering end users to customize information and format it to their requirements, even with limited or no technical knowledge.
Combined with Datawatch Monarch report mining technology, Datawatch Dashboards helps customers quickly overcome two of the primary challenges associated with dashboards. First, companies often have trouble determining what key performance indicators (KPIs) a dashboard should display. Usually, reports have already identified KPIs, so the combination of Monarch and Datawatch Dashboards ensures clear goals, which are critical to dashboard success.
Second, the combination eliminates the pain of accessing, aggregating, transforming and delivering data to a dashboard from multiple sources. A survey of our installed base showed that, on average, 70 percent of people were accessing five or more sources of data to get the information they need. And, for many organizations, a large percentage of the information they need resides not only in databases but also in documents such as reports, statements, invoices and other unstructured data sources. Many companies don’t have the resources to handle this complexity. Datawatch Dashboards solves this problem by allowing organizations access to information they wouldn’t otherwise have. The information in reports has been cleansed, transformed and de-normalized and contains business rules, creating a fast ramp for data acquisition that requires no programming. In addition, reports are often the only logical way to get needed historical or current information from third-party providers, such as clearing houses or outsourced transaction processing.
As a result, we’re able to offer a dashboard solution that can create an immediate and sustained impact on an organization
DI: How does Datawatch's BI Suite compare with competitor offerings, what is unique about yours?
KB: Many companies turn to BI vendors to build a data warehouse or buy hard-to-use database access tools because they can’t unlock the data in reports and need to go back to the source of the data.
Our approach to BI solves this problem. By using Datawatch’s Monarch report mining technology, organizations of any size can unlock the vast amounts of critical data buried in reports and documents and turn it into actionable business intelligence. Unlike other solutions that access and analyze business data, Monarch requires no programming skills or assistance from the IT department.
This means that anyone in the organization can access information “hidden in plain sight” and transform it into live, actionable data for sorting, filtering, summarizing and exporting to other applications. Traditional BI solutions are too complicated for business users to see and work with data in the way they want, and many companies don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with these offerings. Datawatch’s technology provides 80 percent of the functionality of traditional BI at 20 percent of the cost with 5 percent of the effort, which is really appealing to our customers.
DI: Tell us about your customers, who uses your solutions?
KB: More than 40,000 organizations worldwide rely on Datawatch products. Datawatch offers a range of BI solutions to help companies make better business decisions and streamline business processes. The types of organizations that typically use our products are companies in industries that rely heavily on reports, such as finance, healthcare, government, manufacturing and retail, which benefit most from our solutions.
A few names you might recognize include Ford, GE, Toys “R” Us, Deloitte & Touche, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Georgia Air National Guard.
DI: Can you give us some examples of how your customers are using your dashboard solution?
KB: A large government agency is implementing Datawatch Dashboards to ensure they meet federally mandated human resource employee process metrics (i.e., how quickly managers respond to employee leave requests or if annual reviews are done in a timely manner). Eventually Datawatch Dashboards will be rolled out to all 5,000 managers in this agency.
A medical billing service is using Datawatch Dashboards to provide physician practice groups insight into outstanding claims by payer group as well as other relevant billing issues.
DI: What is the process if someone wants to evaluate your solutions?
KB: If someone would like to evaluate our solutions, we recommend calling 978-441-2200 or emailing our sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prospective customers may also want to check out a demo of Datawatch Dashboards on our Web site at http://www.datawatch.com/_products/datawatch_dashboards.php.
DI: What can we expect to see from Datawatch in the coming months?
KB: As our strategy is to provide our customers with solutions that are easy to use and implement, we plan to introduce a number of Datawatch Dashboards over the coming months with pre-built KPIs for specific vertical markets. Add this to our Monarch technology and you can see our customers will have an even faster ramp to getting the BI solutions they need in place with minimum effort and maximum results.
Ken Bero was appointed president and CEO of Datawatch on January 1, 2008. Previously Ken was COO and senior vice president of sales and business operations. Ken has more than 25 years of sales, commercial operations and management experience. Prior to Datawatch, he served as vice president, North American Channel Sales at Business Objects. He also served as COO and executive vice president of sales and marketing at NAVIDEC, a NASDAQ-listed software development and services company.