Tuesday, February 20

10 Questions for Chuck Sharp

Chuck Sharp is co-founder and CEO for Sharp Analytics, a company with a unique Business Intelligence offering. I came across this company when looking for innovative, entrepreneurial leaders within the BI industry (all you can eat bi).

The way Chuck sees BI is different than most; he is forward thinking and creating a path that could be the beginning of the next big wave of innovation for BI. So I talked with him to find out what this was all about.
  1. Question: Tell us why you started Sharp Analytics? Where did this business come from?

    Answer: I come from a marketing background. Christian Faulconer, the other co-founder, comes from an IT and datawarehouse background. As co-workers in another organization, we discussed the difficulty in bridging the natural gap between IT and business users, especially in the areas of marketing and customer relationship management. Those discussions led us to create our own company.

  2. Question: When you were a marketer, who were some of the more interesting companies or projects you worked with?

    Answer: I actually consider myself a marketer first and a technologist second. Our success to date at Sharp Analytics has been that we are domain experts in marketing and we understand what data and data sources are needed to create a valuable BI solution for marketers.

    When I worked for Hallmark I was asked to create the database marketing strategy for their online customers. During that time I learned how great data insight can create meaningful marketing programs. We found out that we had just a few thousand customers driving over 30 percent of our business. We decided to send them a customized holiday card that was hand signed by ever member of our department. This personal touch created great word of mouth advertising for Hallmark.com and increased more customer loyalty.

  3. Question: You obviously saw a need in the market for something different. So where do you see the BI industry going?

    Answer: Business Intelligence needs to break down the walls between organizations within a company, and the walls between a company and its suppliers, distributors and customers. SaaS can leverage the power of web services and SOA to bring together those parties.

  4. Question: What makes Sharp Analytics innovative and different from the typical arrangement of BI vendors with consultants?

    Answer: Traditional BI vendors and their consultants offer a solution that:

    1. requires significant licensing, human resources, and training costs to maintain

    2. is often stagnant, solving problems that existed at one point in time.

    As a result, unless there is extremely strong commitment on the side of the customer, the solution is either hard to support or hard to commit to in the first place.

    We allow customers to focus on their core business areas, while letting us deliver, support, and evolve a BI solution without any of the previously mentioned drawbacks. Because we have all of the tools and staff already in place, we can deliver that solution in a matter of weeks rather than months.

    Another differentiator is that we provide ongoing analysis and custom reporting for our customers as part of the deal. Each customer has a dedicated analyst to support the evolving business needs.

  5. Question: “Start with the end in mind.” When we spoke what did you mean by that?

    Answer: The first step in any BI project is to identify the business objectives and key performance metrics. Tools and technology should be out of the picture at that point. Once we understand those objectives and metrics, we can pick the right tools and reports to meet those needs.

  6. Question: Rob Ashe, Cognos CEO, says “only 20% of users actually access data through BI”. Is Sharp Analytics another BI company that only delivers to analyst-types that make up 20% of a company?

    Answer: One of my team members just wrote a blog entry on this exact topic:
    http://blog.sharpanalytics.com/?p=16. It is a constant challenge to make BI relevant to the other 80%. The key is to improve the ROI for a user – meaning the return on the investment of clicking on a link, typing a username and password, and navigating to a report. We are experimenting with push technology, as well as continually developing new content.

  7. Question: If you were to take sides, do you see yourselves as translators for the business or do you support internal IT departments?

    Answer: Our goal is to deliver for the business. Answer their key questions; respond within 24-hours to their questions. Of course, IT departments are our partner in delivering that solution since our solution depends on a dependable source of data from the customer. We find that most IT departments are anxious to build nice reports, but when you talk to them about the resource-intensive effort of integrating and cleansing data from multiple sources, they are happy to have our assistance.

  8. Question: What kind of benefits are clients gaining from using the SaaS model and specifically the way Sharp Analytics offers SaaS?

    Answer: BI requires a specialized set of employee skills and an expensive set of tools. Many companies aren’t ready to make that commitment in a serious way, and are unhappy with the results when they try to do it on the cheap. The SaaS model allows us to become very good at BI, hire great people and give them an endless supply of interesting projects.

  9. Question: Do you see the SaaS model growing within the Business Intelligence industry?

    Answer: There will probably always be some companies that are uncomfortable with dealing with external service providers. These may be the same companies that also decline to contract out their custodial or telecom services. But SaaS is going to appeal to an increasing portion of the market. And we are not just talking about the small and mid-size companies. Fortune 500 corporations often become so large that the IT and business organizations act as different companies, opening up a gap that we can help to fill.

  10. Question: If someone wanted to know more about Sharp Analytics, where should they go?

    Answer: www.SharpAnalytics.com and blog.SharpAnalytics.com

    An additional way people can learn about what we do is to look at some of our online demos at our website. These will really show you how we make complex data easy to understand for non technical business users.

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