No Dinosaur: Integrator Thrives With Data Warehousing And ASP
These days, a technology company that's been around since the 1970s is considered prehistoric. Founded in 1974, integrator and software provider Decision Systems, Inc. is no dinosaur, though. Its recent evolution into the data warehousing and ASP (application service provider) markets ensures its survival.
Digging into business intelligence and data warehousing technologies has proven profitable for integrator and software provider Decision Systems, Inc. (Minneapolis). "We recorded a 35% revenue growth rate in 1999 alone," said Charles Lyles, CIO. It took Decision Systems 20 years to grow from just the founder, Richard Borchers, in 1974 to 100 employees in 1995. But, in the past five years, the company's personnel roster has grown to 350.
Integrator Finds Opportunity In Leasing Software
Decision Systems develops software for the majority of the country's 100 top leasing companies. These companies are identified by Molloy Associates (Philadelphia) in the Monitor 100, an annual ranking of the largest, fastest-growing finance/leasing companies in the United States (www.monitordaily.com). Lyles is one of the professionals hired at Decision Systems within the past five years. He was previously the CIO of Decision Systems' fifth largest customer.
Decision Systems' customers in commercial and vehicle leasing are looking for systems that handle their needs from credit application to contract disposal and everything else in between. Its customers include KDC Financial and Caterpillar Financial.
KDC is the financing unit of Komatsu America International, the North American subsidiary of one of the world's leading manufacturers of construction, excavation, and mining equipment. Caterpillar Financial was ranked seventh on the Monitor 100 in 1999. Komatsu and Caterpillar control the lion's share of the U.S. market for earth movers, hydraulic excavators, and other heavy equipment.
In Komatsu's case, the average retail leasing or financing contract for a single piece of equipment is approximately $130,000. Companies like Komatsu and Caterpillar often lease this equipment to their customers, rather than selling it outright. They need software to keep track of contracts and customer behavior.
Data Warehousing And Data Marts Fuel Company Growth
Decision Systems' software focuses on lease accounting, portfolio management, and asset tracking. It also provides sales and pricing software applications for equipment and vehicle leasing companies. Decision Systems now also helps equipment and vehicle leasing companies develop data warehouses and data marts.
A data warehouse is a database that contains a large amount of collected data for the purpose of analysis. Usually, it is an enterprise-wide application. Data marts are similar to data warehouses, but they are smaller and are usually employed for a company division, rather than for the entire enterprise.
InfoLease is Decision Systems' core software product. Its complementary product, InfoExtract, incorporates Informix (Menlo Park, CA) software called Ardent DataStage. InfoExtract allows users to extract data from a database into a data warehouse or data mart depending on what the customer needs.
Using Informix software in InfoExtract offers an open environment for data warehousing, data marts, and data migration. It also serves as a development environment and offers a choice of deployment approaches to match the user's needs.
Don't Be Extinct: Be An ASP
"The big push in the leasing industry, as with any other industry, is to get on the Web," said Lyles. "This will allow users to update databases with information like address changes. This way, you offload some of the work to the customer, but also give the customer more control." CustomerCare is Decision Systems' new Web-based product that enables lessees to access their account information over the Web 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
"Web products are going to be a key focus of our company," said Lyles. "We've been acting as an ASP (application service provider) through our "time share" program for about a dozen of our customers. Now we're taking it to the Web."
ASP Model Fulfills Aggressive Financial Goals
Decision Systems aims to become a billion-dollar lease software provider within the next 15 years. It plans to do this by finding new opportunities that are linked to business segments it is already in. Its ASP model should be up and running within the year.
Lyles explained, "The trend in the industry is toward those companies that do not want to pay large upfront costs. They can't afford to have an IT staff in place along with the infrastructure (hardware, etc.) to support a huge system. We believe the market is moving toward the ASP model. Some niche players are already there in the leasing industry. Adding InfoLease into this market would be moving to satisfy the overall market appetite for this type of service."
Decision Systems has recently developed a vehicle leasing product in addition to its equipment leasing product. It is exploring commercial loans and floor planning software. The core product that Decision Systems offers, InfoLease, is able to make the transition into other types of products in vertical markets, like vehicle leasing and commercial lending. "A loan and a lease are pretty similar," according to Lyles.
Finding A Place In The "Fast 50"
Decision Systems ranks as one of the 50 fastest-growing technology companies in Minnesota. The Deloitte & Touche Technology (San Jose, CA) "Fast 50" for Minnesota bases this designation on the percentage of growth in revenue from 1994 to 1998 (a five-year period). For the complete list, visit www.dttus.com. Decision Systems recorded a 172% growth rate during the recording period.
Perhaps if Decision Systems had remained a legal software provider and not ventured out into new territory, it wouldn't be the subject of a feature story in Business Solutions magazine today. Richard Borchers' decision 20 years ago to provide leasing software assured the company's survival. Its exploration into data warehousing and ASP services will ensure that Decision Systems won't be going the way of the dinosaur any time soon.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at AnnD@corrypub.com.