An Interview with David Huffman, Managing Director, ESRI Business Information Solutions

By Joe Francica

Directions Magazine editor Joe Francica interviewed David Huffman, ESRI's Business Information Solutions Managing Director. Mr.Huffman has been in the demographic data business for many years and come over to ESRI when the company acquired the marketing information division from CACI.

Joe Francica (JF): There seems to be a war on in the Demographic Data business.Companies are wrestling with their identity.Is ESRI BIS a data company or a solutions company?

David Huffman (DH): I do not believe that there is a war in the industry.At ESRI Business Information Solutions (BIS), we are not struggling with who we are. As a division of ESRI, we are a corporate team with a legacy of producing quality demographic estimates, projections and segmentation data (ACORNTM) for over 35 years as CACI Marketing Systems and now as ESRI Business Information Solutions.ESRI BIS demographers and statisticians spend 100% of their time on validating the quality and integrity of our data.Since the acquisition in early 2002, ESRI BIS has been infused with technology from ESRI and their business partners (1,500 worldwide). This is just the beginning.With these alliances, we can focus on providing the best solutions in the industry.As a result, you have ESRI BIS data, combined with ESRI technology and years of application experience.ESRI BIS is in a unique and enviable position in the industry.We can provide meaningful, business-oriented solutions that provide an immediate return on investment for our customers with products and services found under one roof.

JF: As such, how will ESRI BIS look to deliver products to meet customer demand? Will you look for online delivery of data products to expedite customer needs or will you look to develop more personal relationships to deliver customer data solutions?

DH: Relationships are key.No business can survive long without strong, lasting relationships.ESRI BIS is focused on building relationships. Thus, our technology plan involves developing scalable solutions for our clients/prospects.We have the technology and data to work with an enterprise of any size.Smaller businesses that are not quite ready to make significant investments can grow with us, and us with them, into broader ranges of services.We believe that a successful technology vision includes developing in multiple formats on multiple platforms.As a result, our products will expand in several areas.Here are just some of the ways that clients can access our data and use our technology.

  • Sourcebooks and Sourcebook•AmericaTM with ArcReaderTM- hard copy books and a CD version for viewing and analyzing demographic, consumer expenditure and business data.
  • Call-in reports, data, mapping and analytical services - customers can buy "over-the-counter" from ESRI BIS.
  • Online - with the redesign and re-launch of, clients can find a host of reporting, mapping and analytical services on our Web site with industry application services coming soon. Clients can use these services on a "pay-as-you-go" basis or with flexible subscription plans.
  • Desktop systems - whether it's site analysis, simple mapping, geocoding and customer profiling, modeling, media planning or merchandising, we have systems that answer our clients' needs.
  • Enterprise Solutions - by combining our data with desktop and Web applications, we can serve the needs of the entire enterprise.
We pride ourselves on our ability to meet our clients' needs and expectations. ESRI allocated significant resources to the redesign of our online offerings last year.Watch for many significant enhancements in the near future. The bottom line is our relationship with our customers and business partners drives our business from our Web services to our custom applications.

JF: How will ESRI BIS look to compete for market share? Will you be developing a reseller channel or a direct sales force?

DH: Our business plan reflects both the need for an indirect channel and a direct sales force.The ESRI Business Partner Program has over 1,500 partners worldwide.This channel can sell our products and will continue to grow.Potential partners approach us almost daily to resell our technology and/or our data.We also have a very strong sales team that will also continue to grow.We are focused on solutions selling, customer support and customer service.

JF: How do you position ESRI BIS with respect to Claritas or AGS? What strengths do you see that you have either with products or with international reach?

DH: ESRI BIS provides the total package.We own (acquire, develop and build) our data and we own most of our technology.We are competitive in the marketplace on price and on service.Unlike the companies you have mentioned, we are the only one of the three with the backing of an exceptionally profitable, customer-focused technology company that will lend its vast resources to the development of business solutions. With this significant technology investment from ESRI, ESRI BIS can take our data and wrap them in solutions that let our clients make better, more profitable decisions. No other company in the industry has the data and the backing of a world leader in spatial technology.ESRI spends a significant amount of its revenue on R&D and ESRI BIS is well positioned to take advantage of this investment.

JF: I understand that you will now manage the ArcView Business Analyst product line.What do you look to do with this product? What functions/features can we expect to see in the future?

DH: You've heard the real estate catch phrase "location, location, location." ArcView Business Analyst will be about "innovation, innovation, innovation." This product is already one of the most powerful and analytic tools on the market.It not only provides the world's best mapping, but it has many wizard-driven applications built right into the solution.These applications go far beyond simple report and map generation into sophisticated tools for demographic analysis, customer and area profiling, modeling and list selection and generation.ArcView Business Analyst serves an entire enterprise by providing out-of-the-box real estate, marketing, advertising and merchandising tools and data.Some functions and features to anticipate in the coming months include:

  • Complete integration with ESRI's ArcGIS 8.x and soon, 9.x technologies.
  • This core technology allows clients to access immense amounts of compressed data directly, analyze and examine their own information or access data remotely through a series of Web services.This blend of approaches is extremely exciting and unrivaled in our industry.
  • More robust customer profiling capabilities by embedding our ESRI BIS Coder technology and our soon-to-be-released redesigned ACORN segmentation system.
  • Integration with ESRI's ArcWeb Services that will allow a client to access thousands of partner organizations' data/applications available on the Web through a portal type of environment.
  • Seamless integration with our Web site - - to allow Web access to other data and data services.For example, clients can add aerial imagery, reports and additional data with direct links to our Web site.
  • Soon, we will introduce a new "object modeler" application that will allow clients to create sophisticated batch processes or models.These models can be created to predict store sales, optimize a network of bank locations, predict customer behavior - the possibilities are limitless.We are really excited about this new solution that will empower our clients with a new set of tools to analyze and examine their own data and it will also be a "delivery mechanism" for our new analytical services.
  • We will also add application-specific tools that will solve a specific department's need within an organization or solve a vertical industry's need.
  • Expanded Virtual Campus courses where users can learn feature/function plus applications online at their own pace.
  • We have also greatly improved the user experience with ArcView Business Analyst.We understand that not all who use this application are GIS professionals.
Therefore, we made a concerted effort to ensure that GIS users and more data-centric users can get the answers they need.

JF: Will you begin to offer services to help companies to more effectively utilize ArcView Business Analyst or offer consulting to companies in retail, banking, insurance, etc.

DH: We've done this since Day-Two after the acquisition! We focus on one-to-one communication and helping our clients with their business-related issues.We have a wide variety of clients in all industries. For example, during the past year, we worked with retail clients to develop new franchise territories, we assisted non-profits with member recruiting; and we worked with banks looking at acquisition targets.We also wrote site evaluation models, developed site-scoring programs, developed dealer networks and processed thousands of customer records.We recently created an Analytical Services Group that will focus on custom segmentation application and modeling.ESRI already has industry groups targeting the industries you mentioned and several others such as media, utilities and education. Each of these ESRI industry marketing and sales teams are integrating ESRI BIS services into their practices.

7.How do you look at Microsoft's position in the marketplace? They have both the money and staff to compete in the desktop GIS market.They have secured demographic data contracts from your competitors and look to impose a threat to ESRI BIS? How would you characterize this situation?

DH: We do not see Microsoft as a real threat to our business. They are and will be a player in the industry. Like ESRI and ESRI BIS, they provide business productivity tools and solutions.Microsoft is a strategic partner of ESRI's and we will work together to ensure that our tools can co-exist.

JF: In my interview with Jack Dangermond during last summer's User's Conference, he indicated that one of his reasons for purchasing CACI was to deliver data to ESRI's traditional customers in government.Have you seen an increase in sales in this market during the last six months?

DH: Boy, does time fly when you're having fun.In 2002, we worked to integrate the two companies.We spent the year getting acquainted and educating each other on our product and service offerings.Collaboration has been our theme and we have succeeded. I'm happy to say that we just released our latest data product targeted directly to ESRI and ESRI BIS' traditional markets.This product is called CommunityInfoTM, which is a specialized set of data bundles (census, demographic estimates, projections, consumer expenditure and business data) targeted to the following industries:

  • Retail
  • Restaurant
  • Financial
  • Insurance
  • Healthcare
  • Economic Development
  • Homeland Security
We also defined several other areas within ESRI's core market where our data and services can be leveraged.One area where we've seen a great impact since the acquisition is our business partner program.As I already mentioned, ESRI's partner program has become one of our greatest potentials for growth. We've already licensed many of ESRI's partners to resell our data and services.

JF: Do you believe that there will be a consolidation in the demographic data market and which companies do you think will remain?

DH: Past trends are not always the best map to the future.Competition is the best environment for the consumer and the industry.I expect industry leaders to be companies that produce the highest quality data with the best possible solution measured by real return on investment.ESRI BIS will be one of those companies.

JF: Where do you see ESRI BIS one year from now in terms of new products and position in the marketplace?

That's an easy question.I see us at the top.We have been and will continue to lead the industry with innovation.As a division of ESRI, we have access to a tremendous database of potential clients. More so now than ever before, ESRI BIS will continue to introduce new products based on revolutionary methodologies that will be incorporated into our scalable solutions.We'll focus on automating our clients' manual business processes to save them both time and money.We will also provide geographically intelligent tools that seamlessly integrate into other business applications such as accounting, ERP and CRM applications to provide a total solution. Specifically, ESRI BIS will answer our clients' needs with the following:

  • Two releases of ArcView Business Analyst - Version 2.0 will be released shortly with 03/08 updates, soon after, ArcView Business Analyst 8 will be released on the ArcGIS 8.3 platform
  • More robust, industry vertical offerings on the Web and on the desktop
  • Complete integration of our Web and desktop products
  • Release of our redesigned segmentation product ACORN
  • Much more focus on analytical services.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide information about ESRI Business Information Solutions to your readers!

Biography - David Huffman
David Huffman is the Managing Director for ESRI Business Information Solutions, a leading provider of geodemographic and target marketing information.Mr.Huffman has over 14 years of experience in the marketing information industry working for CACI International Inc, National Decision Systems, Urban Decision Systems and National Research Bureau.

Mr.Huffman has held positions in each of these organizations that include senior systems analyst, product manager, production manager, director of PC products and various sales positions.

Through his technical expertise and application knowledge, Mr.Huffman has provided database marketing solutions for companies that include AT&T, Ben & Jerry's, Hair Cuttery, Gerber, Ernst & Young, Kroger, TV Guide and The Association of Handicapped Artists.

Application areas of expertise include site selection, site success modeling, direct mail, response modeling, sales forecasting, market penetration and optimization, encroachment, category management and customer profiling and segmentation.

Published Wednesday, May 14th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica

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