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One-on-One with Ric Ratkowski
VP of Product Strategy - Host Analytics

by Steve BogdonWednesday, November 10, 2010

Dashboard Insight: Can you tell us the history of Host Analytics?

Ric Ratkowski: Host Analytics founder, Jim Eberlin, launched the company in St. Louis in 2000, with the goal of helping financial and departmental executives get better insight into their budgeting, forecasting and reporting needs.  More than 10 years later, the company has transformed into the leading provider of on-demand corporate performance management solutions and captured the attention of marquee companies, including consumer goods manufacturing giant Proctor & Gamble, technology manufacturer Pitney Bowes, Inc. and many others.

At the time of the company’s launch, Jim Eberlin had the foresight and innovative vision to see the SaaS (Software as a Service) delivery model as the future.  He believed that the merging of software and services would deliver customer value well beyond what a traditional approach could offer.  However, this went against conventional wisdom of the time because it was an extremely novel concept and was viewed with considerable skepticism.  The skepticism started to shift when the company was one of only a handful of entities featured in a groundbreaking book on SaaS titled, “Netsourcing: Renting Business Applications and Services Over a Network,” which would help shape the opinion that SaaS was a viable delivery option for enterprise software solutions.

In June 2008, technology industry veteran Jon Kondo joined the team from Oracle and moved the company’s headquarters to Redwood City to outreach to investors and take advantage of the innovative atmosphere that Silicon Valley provided.  As a 10-year veteran of Hyperion Solutions and former head of Oracle’s North American enterprise performance management division, Jon was a perfect fit.

DI: Where does Host Analytics sit on the BI Stack?

RR: Host Analytics works in conjunction with BI software to give companies better insight into the inner workings of company operations.  Our technology provides an intelligence layer on top of the BI Stack and gives customers a high-level summary of information so they can make decisions in the context of corporate goals and make smarter decisions based on the supporting internal and external data available.

With Host Analytics Scorecard, customers can create a better “line of sight” of cause and effect by starting with high-level strategic imperatives and key performance indicators (KPIs).  With this information, they can create plans to achieve their strategic imperatives as well as set alternative plans and model business alternatives through Host Analytics Budget.  Customers can then consolidate these results with financial information with Host Analytics Consolidator.

Finally, with Host Analytics Executive Report Manager, customers can mash up all of the disparate and unstructured data with the financial and operational results to create both internal management reports (including management narratives) as well as SEC reports.
DI: Tell us about your customers, who uses your solutions?

RR: Host Analytics’ mission is to help organizations increase stakeholder value by driving improvements in the planning and performance management processes, delivered using the most innovative, efficient and effective methodologies.  We serve the enterprise, large/midsize and public sector markets, typically $100M to $1B size organizations.  Our target audience is finance, functional heads, operations and any decision maker across the organization.  Typically, the buyer is the top financial executive (VP of finance or CFO).

The benefit is the incremental and evolutionary process of continuous improvement to the financial-planning process facilitated by Software as a Service and our delivery and support methodologies.  Customers typically start with a burning problem like statutory financial consolidation or a broken and labor-intensive budget process.  Because our solution is delivered via the cloud, as they solve that first problem, customers can easily implement the rest of the corporate performance management suite into their business for better strategic management of their company as well.

One of our long-time services customers bought Host Analytics Budget to solve budgeting issues and once they were solved, they implemented Host Consolidator to streamline their financial close.  Once they had both planning and consolidation issues solved, they then implemented Host Analytics Scorecard for strategic management.  In this process, they evolved internal culture to become a performance-based, strategically managed company and experienced increased profitability in an extremely challenging economy.

Because of our mission, we serve customers in many different industries.  Those customers include Thule, Continental Commercial Products, AirBorn, Nations Petroleum Company, Birchwood Foods, Otis Spunkmeyer, Procter & Gamble, Baxa Corporation and Red Roof Inns, among others.

DI: With the drastic shift in the global economy last year, was Host Analytics affected and if so, how did you adjust?

RR: Last year was a record year for Host Analytics.  The challenges in the economy did lengthen some sales cycles, but because more companies have started to recognize the need to be more agile in their planning and execution, they have begun to look for a software solution with a track record of facilitating that agility.

A recent independent research report from the Aberdeen Group titled “Achieving Corporate Objectives: Benchmarking and Improving Your Business Performance” identified three key measures for identifying best in practice companies in improving business performance.  They include: year-over-year change in on-time objective achievement, year-over-year profitability and year-over-year change in budget accuracy.

While best-in-practice companies experienced a 23 percent positive change in profitability in a tough economy, the Host Analytics customers that participated in the research experienced a 33 percent positive change in profitability.  Companies have caught on to these trends and now realize that corporate performance management software is not about budgeting, it is about profitability.  In tough economic times, this is becoming a requirement to thrive.

DI: What makes Host Analytics unique?

RR: Three things separate Host Analytics from everyone else.

First, by offering software as a service, we create a customer intimacy that changes the dynamics of the customer/vendor relationship.  As a software vendor, we are no longer in the “driver’s seat” like a typical on-premise vendor.  We have to earn their business every day, otherwise there’s no incentive for them to stay with us.  With an emphasis on the “service” side of Software as a Service, we help our customers grow their internal processes to evolve into an agile planning environment and a performance-driven culture.   Our goal is to ensure that customers continue to receive benefits from our solution.  We and our partners become the trusted advisors as it relates to planning best practices.

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