Data Conversion Customers to Benefit … Maybe

March 14, 2000
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The recent announcement of yet another data conversion company acquiring one of its competitors is a two-edged sword, for both the industry and the customers it serves. Over the past several years, the number of major players in the AM/FM & GIS data conversion industry has dwindled considerably, mostly by acquisition. The proverbial "1000 lb gorilla" has been Analytical Surveys, Inc. which went on a multi-year buying spree, including Intelligraphics, MSE, MSI, & Cartotech among others. This has led to one of the largest data conversion companies ever, with impressive sales numbers for several years running. However, for the general customer base, this has meant a considerable loss in the competitive pool of vendors.

The remaining major data conversion vendors, QC Data, Apex, AGRA Baymont, Rolta & Geonex have all continued to struggle, rather independently, against ASI in the market place for the limited amount of "white whale" opportunities. With such a presence, and the elimination of competitors, it seemed for quite a while that ASI was unstoppable. This may not have translated into "best-price, best-product" for many customers over the past few years, and certainly resulted in some unexpected costs for ASI, as indicated in recent press releases. This industry, as are many others, is very cyclical, and it was not so long ago that two Florida data conversion firms, Baymont & Geonex, were "giants" in their own right. Perhaps the pendulum has swung back again.

With the announcement that Geonex will fold into the AGRA Baymont operation, yet another customer choice is eliminated. With QC Data, Apex and Rolta playing less-than major roles, this clears the way for a "clash of the titans" battle among two industry veterans. Although customers are faced with fewer choices today than five years ago, they can also expect technology and economies of scale to drive down cost per unit conversion projects. Now, with additional resources, coupled with an ISO9002 facility, AGRA Baymont poses a serious threat to ASI as "king of the hill" for data conversion services.

This year's GITA conference in Denver is a must for customers, industry partners and ISVs to take a look at all the options available, and to get the best solutions from the best people. Just remember, higher quality product should cost less in the end. Grab your bag of popcorn, sit back, and watch the show.

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