In January of this year, Host Analytics announced the arrival of its new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Ben Plummer. Ben has an extensive background in the IT industry, having started his career as a software engineer in the Navy, then moving into Sales, Operations, and Marketing roles in the IT industry.
Ben also has extensive experience in the enterprise performance management (EPM) and business intelligence (BI) markets, having worked at companies such as Cognos, Applix, OutlookSoft, and DataWatch. I recently had a chance to chat with Ben to get his views on the state of the BI and EPM markets and the opportunity for Host Analytics. Here’s what he had to say.
John: Ben, welcome to Host Analytics. Having been in the BI and EPM market for a number of years, what’s your current assessment of the market?
Ben: The EPM and BI markets have grown over the years, overcoming various challenges along the way. One of these barriers was the misconception that both EPM and BI are one and the same. EPM, of course, is much more of an application than a tool. Additionally, massive consolidation in both markets took place, which derailed innovation, especially around EPM, forcing it to a virtual halt.
In my view, EPM has since evolved in three major ways. Today, EPM offers the following:
- Integrated application-based approach to addressing key requirements in finance related to consolidation, planning, reporting, and analysis
- More enterprise modeling capabilities
- Cloud-based flexibility
These changes are fueling broader adoption of EPM and, more importantly, allowing it to fulfill its promise of empowering a more agile and integrated organization that is able to react to changes in its businesses and markets virtually in real-time.
John: What attracted you most to Host Analytics?
Ben: Over the course of my career, I have been fortunate enough to work at some very successful companies, and what I have learned is that there are some common characteristics:
- Customer base that is passionate and growing
- Product portfolio that delivers real value today and has a vision for tomorrow
- Management team that is up to the task of building an enduring business
- Market that is receptive to a new and disruptive approach
As I did my due diligence on Host Analytics, it became apparent to me that the company has all these pieces in place and that the next step is to scale the business while maintaining its core values. In my experience, that is a formula for success, so I was all in!
John: That’s great, Ben. We’re glad you joined. What do you see as the key market opportunities for Host Analytics?
Ben: There are several market opportunities that come to mind that place Host Analytics in an enviable position in the EPM market. First is the opportunity to evangelize and expand the use of EPM within our current customer base. With more than 600 customers using some part of Host Analytics’ EPM solution, there's a tremendous opportunity to extend the value we offer within those organizations.
The second area I see as an opportunity is in continuing to innovate with new pre-packaged applications in areas beyond finance. For example, the launch of Host Analytics Modeling enables us to deliver pre-packaged applications to additional areas in the organization, such as marketing and sales, effectively linking them together with finance as part of a holistic enterprise EPM strategy.
One of the promises of EPM is that it takes care of the financial functions of closing and budgeting, thereby allowing finance to spend more time on more strategic aspects of the role. With that in mind, the final opportunity I want to flag is in continuing to innovate in the areas of reporting and analysis to even better facilitate this.
There are other opportunities to speak of, but they are more operational in nature, such as international expansion and expanding through M&A into tangential areas associated with EPM.
John: Thanks, Ben. I agree that we have some great opportunities ahead of us. What would you say is the biggest challenge for Host Analytics?
Ben: In a word, “scaling.” I believe that, as the cloud becomes the standard in the EPM market, and people realize that what they are truly investing in is their own path to success, more and more organizations will look to Host Analytics. We need to be ready across the organization to continue to deliver as the demand increases.
John: Agreed. Switching gears for a minute Ben, early in your career you spent some time in the Navy. What skills do you leverage as a CMO based on your military experience?
Ben: Good question. I think I learned two major lessons that have stuck with me from my service in the military. First, be as inclusive as possible when you're solving a problem or planning a mission. A collective brain sees opportunities and issues from every perspective. Secondly, lead from the front. The further you are from the action, the harder it is to understand what is really going on tactically.
John: You’ve also had a good amount of experience in the BI and analytics market. What’s the opportunity for finance executives to leverage Big Data?
Ben: Ah, my favorite words: “Big Data.” If that sounded a bit cynical, it's because I have been in analytics and performance management for years, and it has always been BIG. My distaste for the term aside, I think that the big data opportunity for CFOs and C-level executives in general is operational agility.
Since data can be ingested, organized, and analyzed almost in real-time, operational plans can be evaluated and re-modeled faster than ever to adjust to changing conditions in variables such as transportation costs, weather conditions, supply chain dynamics, and even machine uptimes.
These IoT (Internet of Things) inputs offer an unprecedented window into what's happening in the business. CFOs who can incorporate this data into their analysis and planning processes can help set direction rather than just explain history. Frankly, I believe this will be the new gold standard for the office of the CFO in the future.
John: I agree. The possibilities are endless here. OK, last question – what do you like to do in your spare time?
Ben: I love what I do, but when I do get some free time, you can either find me on the golf course competing with my buddies or fishing somewhere around the world. I love both, and they are great excuses to travel – and I find that a good meal and a bottle of wine goes nicely with both.
John: Thanks, Ben. And best of luck in your new role at Host Analytics.
To hear more from Ben Plummer, join us for Host Analytics World 2016 in San Francisco. The conference is coming up May 9 – 12th. Visit our website for more information about the conference or to register.