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Clarity, Simplicity & Usability

  Executive Interview published in DM Review Magazine
April 2005 Issue
  By Jean Schauer

Robert Koolen, President and CEO of arcplan, Inc., joined the company approximately three years ago as vice president of marketing. "When our founder and former CEO returned to Germany to take up the executive management role there, I became CEO because - as the Philadelphia Business Journal reported at the time - I had the most gray hair," jokes Koolen. The reality is that Koolen's enthusiasm for the company's unique approach to analytic applications made him the perfect choice. Under his leadership, the company experienced 40 percent growth in the U.S. during the past year, lending to the overall health of arcplan worldwide which is an extremely healthy organization financially, boasting a rapidly expanding customer base.

"I'm originally Dutch," says Koolen, "and I lived in South Africa for about seven years. For the last 12 years, I have been in the United States. I've somehow gravitated toward European technology companies, and I've worked for about 20 years on three continents. What I think I've learned in the process is to never be pre-set on what a solution should be and to always have a willingness and flexibility to consider people's input."

"Cool" Vendor

With headquarters in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arcplan occupies a unique space in the world of business intelligence. In a strategic analysis report, analyst firm Gartner identified arcplan as one of seven "cool vendors in BI, BAM and data warehousing." According to the report, "arcplan's most important differentiation is that it offers a middle ground between buying packaged applications at a lower cost and developing custom applications by writing code at a higher cost."1

"The company was founded in Germany approximately 10 years ago by a group of technologists," Koolen explains. "They had a great idea, and over the last years, we have added other components that we believe are important for maintaining our position as a visionary software provider. We also significantly strengthened the solution's delivery ­ the services and the support ­ in order to assist customers, and we have started to build repositories of templated components that add additional value to the platform. As our customer base has grown, we have become more international, and our customers use dynaSight, our analytic application development platform, for a very broad range of analytic applications from sales, manufacturing, finance, marketing and HR to dashboards and scorecards for executives. Essentially, with a single investment in one business intelligence platform, our customers deliver one version of the truth across their organization to ensure everyone is on the same page. Our customer base, which is currently approximately 1,800 customers worldwide and 230,000 users by our latest count, goes right across all industries and draws from several different data sources, including IBM, Hyperion, SAP, Microsoft, Applix and Oracle. We provide a versatile platform for the rapid development of tailor-made analytic applications across all major databases, applications and systems. With dynaSight, our customers can easily create custom analytic applications that meet the unique business requirements of their users."

Maximizing the Value of Information

"Our mission states that we are here to maximize the value of information. What makes us different," says Koolen, "is how we do that."

According to recent research conducted by The Data Warehousing Institute, analytic applications typically take about 7.5 months to develop.2 Customers using arcplan's dynaSight analytic development platform - a platform that is independent of database, OLAP engine or ERP system - have much more rapid results. "According to our 2004 year-end survey, our customers are able to develop analytic applications in 3.75 months. That is exactly half the time it takes the rest of the industry, but that's only half of the story. Equally important to us and our customers," Koolen emphasizes, "is how rapidly these applications can be maintained in accordance with the evolving information needs of the business users. Analytic applications, by their very nature, are volatile because business users need to respond to and anticipate changes in the market as well as changes in their own environment. We also help our customers maintain their applications in half the time it takes the rest of the industry."

"I believe the value proposition we offer for analytic applications of being able to develop fast, maintain fast and use what you've got has a universal appeal with our customer base throughout the world," says Koolen. IBM Corporation, Southwest Airlines, Petco, Gillette, Office Depot and Merrill Lynch are just a few of the customers that have successfully developed analytic applications with arcplan's dynaSight.

The reasons these companies rely on arcplan include real-time access to their heterogeneous data sources, thus leveraging their investment in existing systems and applications; the drag-and-drop development approach that enables IT professionals and even non-technical business users to develop custom analytic applications formatted and designed to their own specifications; and the ability to capitalize on arcplan's dynaSight foundation to rapidly align their operations and processes with corporate goals and objectives.

Simplicity is key in dynaSight's deployment, as the software offers native connection to a wide range of data sources, so there is no additional layer of complexity. "One common characteristic of BI vendors is that they seem to want to own the data, which adds another layer into the customer's IT infrastructure. We think that the position of data ownership is already taken," says Koolen. "The data is already owned by the customer."

More Than Technology

"We have a very strong core of excellent people," says Koolen, "and it is inspiring to work with them. Our customers acknowledge that our people make a difference. At the end of the day, I believe it's not so much about the technology, but what our customers do with it and our ability to help customers turn software into a real solution. We have a great reference base to speak to what we have been able to accomplish, and that's the best compliment that anybody can give us about our industry and our technical expertise, as well as our approach to helping customers create value and solutions. It is encouraging for us to see that once potential customers see our product and apply it within their own environment in a proof of concept, a very high percentage of those turn into orders. Our challenge is to make sure that we get that message out so that more people have the opportunity to benefit from dynaSight," states Koolen.

To meet that challenge, Koolen reinforces the strong company culture that he describes as being built on three key components. "The first is teamwork - as solutions are rarely the result of someone's individual brilliance, but rather come together because people on our sales, service and support sides work together with partners and customers. This is not a luxury. Rather, it's a necessity to have this approach where everybody contributes and works toward a common end. The second component is integrity, and that's as simple as treating other people as you would like to be treated, whether they are colleagues, customers or partners. We believe that is the honorable and sustainable path. The third is an individual value - responsibility. That means being accountable to the people that rely on you for the tasks that you are empowered to perform. This company has tremendous potential, and I find that inspiring," says Koolen. "Working together with a core group of people for whom I have a tremendous respect - both personally and professionally - is exciting. Knowing how much more can be accomplished is even more exciting, and if we can have fun in the process, what else could I want? I know I'm not unique in this sense, but what you want to do is make a difference. When you get acknowledged that you are making a difference by customers and colleagues who have noticed that arcplan has changed as a result of some of the ideas that I was privileged to articulate, that's cool," he enthusiastically adds.

With obvious clarity of purpose, simplicity of development, and usability that is unmatched, arcplan provides customized business intelligence for companies that have wisely selected dynaSight as their analytic application development platform. As Koolen proudly states, "For more than 10 years, dynaSight has been helping our customers dramatically improve profitability and achieve multiple returns on one software investment through the simple, user-friendly and highly visual analysis of all of their vital information."


  1. "Cool Vendors in BI, BAM and Data Warehousing." Gartner Research, 2004. R-22-2695.
  2. "Development Techniques for Creating Analytic Applications." Wayne Eckerson, TDWI Director of Research. March 22, 2005.

For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Business Intelligence.

Jean Schauer is editor in chief of DM Review magazine. She can be contacted at jean.schauer@sourcemedia.com.

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