Operations Meets Analytics at Pitney Bowes MapWorld ‘08

By Joe Francica

_To understand how MapInfo and Group 1 Software, both divisions of Pitney Bowes, will be positioned going forward, an attendee of MapWorld 2008 need only observe the trade show floor. Along one aisle were representatives demonstrating solutions for customer data quality, mailing efficiency, document management, geocoding and e-messaging ... solutions that are more operational in nature are most associated with tasks performed on a daily basis. On another aisle were representatives demonstrating geospatial data processing (read desktop mapping), geospatial data, and predictive analytics, with analytics being the operative word. Yet a third aisle provided vertical industry solutions in finance, insurance, and communications.

As an attendee and customer of either Group 1 or MapInfo you might at first be puzzled to look around the room and see technology that was unfamiliar. If you were an old MapInfo user or partner looking at the Group 1 products you probably talked to people who knew much more about the irregularities of customer database "cleansing" than just mere geocoding can solve. And you might be compelled to question how one solution relates to another, and maybe why the companies were being merged in the first place. But with an open mind, there was cohesion in what might seem chaotic. The approach Pitney Bowes is taking with customers is to present a way toward better decisions in a workflow from analytics to operations to answers that are industry specific. Put it all together and you have the new Pitney Bowes Business Insight (PBBI) division.
On the exhibit floor at MapWorld '08.
Doug Gordon, director of product management for PB MapInfo, delivered a message to the audience that focused on addressing the synergies between MapInfo and Group 1. He addressed how the combined entities will help them to better understand their own customer base. The reaction from the customer base, according to Gordon, was, "Oh, now I get it."

In the coming months the company will launch the Pitney Bowes Business Insight name. But Reid Hislop, vice president of marketing, emphasized that the name of the company's flagship product, MapInfo, will not change. So, while certain changes to the company's naming convention is inevitable, current customers of either MapInfo or Group 1 can take solace in the fact that the company is not immediately abandoning its years of investment in its brand. What it must do, however, is articulate its technology strategy and product integration workflow.

Mike Hickey, president of the new PBBI division, prefers to use the term "Customer and Operational Intelligence" to describe the suite of products he can now offer to corporations. His challenge is to show them working together, identify synergies, and recognize overlaps, especially those built on the same technology

Since Hickey took over the division, he says his unit is showing solid growth and he expects to demonstrate that the unit is on track to deliver revenues of one-half billion dollars by year-end. Last year when I interviewed Hickey, he anticipated that his unit could reach $1 billion within five years. He maintains that projection but with a slightly different mix than last year's 10% organic growth mixed with 10% from acquisition prediction. Hickey said that in this economic period, "acquisitions are tough" and so he's adjusted his mix to 15% organic growth and 5% acquisition.

Having said that, he commented that he is now looking to employees to provide a "big number of small suggestions" as well as a "small number of big ideas" that offer innovative thinking to support the organic growth prospects. Looking at just the customer base of Pitney Bowes, Hickey is excited at the prospect of helping those customers not currently familiar with location intelligent solutions by which he could generate much of the organic growth he seeks. One specific idea he is looking at is how to capitalize on the coming wave of software as a service.

On where the business partners fit into the new strategy, Gordon said, "I think it is a real exciting part of the business. MapInfo has a good channel and they help customers to implement MapInfo. We did not build a business with the systems integrators. Group 1 did a better job of working with the SI's." He also sees an opportunity to continue building on those SI relationships as well as an opportunity to build relationships with OEM's.

My Take
Where is PBBI now positioned and how might it differentiate itself from just another BI company? Hickey said he does not want to be confused with other BI solutions and certainly partnerships exist with Cognos, Business Objects, and Microstrategy to help define the workflow between location-based data and BI analytics. And yet, PBBI now represents what could be called a "pure play" in location intelligence. LI very much looks like a parallel to other business analytics and a potential competitor to BI. The question is not the value of LI; the question is how to sell it. That is a challenge now facing the new PBBI.

Published Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Written by Joe Francica

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