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Bill Hewitt, CEO, Kalido

Jeff HawkinsBill Hewitt is busy these days.

As the CEO of data management startup Kalido, he's on a circuit tour that took him to Florida for the Gartner Symposium ITxpo show earlier this month.

Two weeks later, he keynoted a breakfast discussion about enterprise information management for the Kalido User Group Conference.

Kalido has come out of stealth after three years with more of a bang than a whimper, offering profitability management, performance management, enterprise data management and master data management software to customers struggling to gain more insight into the data that keeps the business spinning on its axis.

Hewitt, who cut his teeth at Novell, PeopleSoft and IBM, recently took time to chat with internetnews.com about the information management market, its players and its future.

Q: Kalido isn't your typical startup. Where did it come from?

Kalido was formed as a project within Shell Oil 10 years ago. The project was started because Shell was having difficulty determining at the end of the year, which products they thought they sold and which products they actually sold.

Fundamentally, they had a naming problem. They could call the same product in five different regions five different things. So they built the project as a master reference data project to rationalize their global product catalog.

Over the years, they found that they could use it for any number of different things.

Five years after they built it, the team that was running the project and had deployed it across Shell convinced Shell to create the team as a subsidiary so they could sell the technology commercially.

In 2003, the company was taken private by Atlas Ventures and Benchmark Partners. They actually bought the company from Shell and put more money into it. In 2004, Matrix Partners joined, as well. Since 2003, the company's grown to 250 implementations for 47 customers.

Q: What problems does Kalido's software solve?

At Gartner [IT symposium in Orlando] we announced a new set of packaged solutions around the concept of active information management. With active information management, we now bridge the gap between IT and the business organization when it comes to delivering information.

We work with the business side of the house to determine how they want to look at their business, and then we create that in a business model that drives into the data and delivers a view based on that business model.

If a business wants to change their view, combine three units into two, or expand product lines from four to six, all they have to do is change the business model, not the underlying data structure, and an automatic new view is generated.

Q: How do you deploy this in a customer environment?

For example, Owens Corning struggled to find out why they were losing margin in one of their product lines. They asked us if we solve this problem.

In a five-week period, we developed the business model I mentioned based on the user requirements. Over a second five-week period, we worked hand-in-hand with the IT and business folks to refine the business model until the user said, "That's the view we want."

At this point, it automatically generated the view. What they learned almost immediately is that their two fastest growing product lines were unprofitable and would never reach profitability.

They shut down those two lines and saved tens of millions of dollars instantly. They now also use that information every day to change the incentive compensation for their channels based on the margin performance of the product.

So they use the information to drive behavior versus at the end of the quarter going "Oh, how'd that happen?"

Q: IBM has just created an Information Server. How does what you're offering compare to that? Or are we talking about apples and oranges?

Information Server does a great job of integrating lots of different products that IBM has bought into one integrated system to pull data out of operational systems, and then basically present for use in a business.

We would sit right on top of the IBM Information Server. What a company would do traditionally is they'd take that integrated view and that delivers that information to a staging area.

That staging area would then get loaded into a data warehouse, and from that data warehouse, data marts would be created to serve different parts of the business.

And then business intelligence would be applied to allow different users to view the data in the way they want to see, whether it's in reports, graphs or charts.

We take everything from the data-warehouse component all the way up to the BI layer and automate that and use this business model-based approach.

So we eliminate all of the custom programming the typically exists in that environment and we allow the business to play a role in what information they see when.

That's all driven by an underlying subject-independent data store, which allows us to map any piece of data to any semantic definition that the business has.

We also time-stamp every single piece of data so the company gets a bulletproof audit trail. We allow businesses to basically recreate any view of the business at any time.

Q: Sounds like your product would be complementary to Information Server.

Highly complementary. They've done a good job of getting the information out of the operational systems. Now we take it and get it more efficiently into the hands of the business users.

Q: How is your relationship with IBM?

Our partnership was with Ascential, which was acquired by IBM. We have a product called MDM -- master data management.

IBM has a product called Master Data Management from a company they acquired called Trigo. What Trigo does for master data management and what we do for master data management are two different things.

However, what the product actually does and what the PowerPoint says are often in conflict. So there's a group of people within the IBM information management division who believe we are a direct competitor because of our MDM functionality, and we are working with the Ascential team and the MDM team at IBM to help them understand the differences and the synergies.

And we believe there's a little overlap but not much and we're having conversations about how we can work together to make both offerings better. We're not doing anything with IBM right now, but I think that will change over the next several quarters.

Q: Aside from the complicated, cooperative competition relationship with IBM, what other competitors do you see out there?

On the data-management side, we still see a lot of custom data warehouses being built. We see more hardware-based data management, like TeraData and the upcoming players in the data warehouse appliance business.

The fundamental difference in the traditional data warehouse, even if it's hardware-based, is still just a [static] snapshot of the data, where ours is active because it can change as the business changes. You literally can look at that information instantaneously.

Q: Where do you see this data-management space going in five to 10 years?

I think there's going to be significant continued competition for the middleware stack, which has moved from just application integration into data integration and information, as well.

The market will drive to an independence for information management that includes not only the data management components but master data management, data quality, operational data management, all of the different pieces of the puzzle.

What you'll basically end up with is information-as-a-service much like people are thinking about delivering IT-as-a-service. You'll have producers of data, consumers of data and managers of data.

Each one of those constituents will have a different set of tools or interfaces to access or manage that data more effectively.

Q: Sounds like your classic service-oriented architecture.

It is indeed.