Cartesis has the bold ambition of becoming the leading global BPM software vendor within the next two years. Didier Benchimol, CEO Cartesis tells FSN's Managing Editor, Gary Simon, how he is internationalising the organisation and preparing it to compete on the global stage.
Not that long ago, Cartesis was a successful French software house with deep roots in the rather specialised area of financial reporting and a strong reputation for statutory consolidation. However, these early formative experiences were important in setting Cartesis' strategic direction and product design philosophy. "We realised that integration between management and financial reporting is absolutely key. This defined the bedrock of our design philosophy which is built around an integrated data model so that the key data elements are held only once in a unified database which can shared by all kinds of analytics, financial and operational reporting," says Benchimol.
The financial applications marketplace has become significantly more demanding since those early days. With investors paying more attention to management performance and with a steadily increasing burden of compliance issues, international accounting standards and reporting requirements Cartesis has had to grow its product offerings. "We see budgeting, planning and forecasting as well as consolidation and reporting as the pillars of a modern Business Performance Management solution," says Benchimol "but the BPM market is still in its infancy," he adds. It is this conviction that is driving Cartesis' bold strategy.
"If you look at the BPM sector and add up the total contribution of the other key players such as Hyperion, Cognos and SAP, that only amounts to around 32 percent overall market share," says Benchimol, "so no single player is dominant". Cartesis' strategy is designed to exploit this analysis head on.
The software provider has shaken off its parochial French image by expanding its operations in the US . and introducing a whole new raft of management talent. "Six of my nine direct reports are US citizens or have dual citizenship and even the middle management layer is much more international. Cartesis doesn't have a passport," says Benchimol.
Benchimol is no stranger to international working and recognises that the internationalisation of Cartesis is key to dominating its chosen market in the Global top 2000. Recruiting top talent is also vital in an encreasingly complex business environment. "We have doubled the sales force but have concentrated on people with real experience to offer around BPM. We have avoided people who have only sold to IT people," he says. The senior team have also spent effort in extensive training and practicing what they preach by putting better management processes in place. "We cannot afford to get diverted from our strategy," says Benchimol.
From a product point of view the company has made strides and has set out its product road map for the next two years so some market observers were surprised that Cartesis announced this week that it has agreed to acquire INEA, a Canadian supplier of budgeting and planning software.
Benchimol sees the acquisition as a means of accelerating the delivery of his strategy. "We were originally planning to deliver a fully fledged budgeting and planning application in March 2006 but with this acquisition we were able to advance our plans about nine months. The INEA product is mature and robust so we took the opportunity as it arose." He dismisses that notion that the decision to buy INEA undermines the integrated data model philosophy. "Yes we have to integrate the application but we have been surveying the market for a long time looking for a suitable product whilst developing our own software. Our top priority was to choose a product that is architected and uses technology in such a way that it would have been as good as our own in-house developed product. We are confident that we will integrate it in a very short time frame and it will add significant capability" From a technology point of view he explains that Cartesis is becoming more strongly aligned with Microsoft whilst continuing a supportive and complimentary approach to other technologies.
Having completed the restructuring and repositioning of the company and set the product pathway, Benchimol is concentrating on executing on the strategy. The challenges to delivery are mainly internal; focussing training on the breadth of products, expanding coverage in Europe, improving performance in Germany and integrating the INEA acquisition. External challenges from competitors and the ERP vendors is less of a problem. "I never underestimate our competitor but we are performing well in the US , the UK , the Benelux countries and Japan.We do not have the problems of legacy products or technologies and I don't see a major threat from the ERP vendors either. They have different domain expertise and management information problems are not going to be solved through transaction systems," he says. As if to prove the point Benchimol points out that the majority of his large customers are using SAP. "They don't have the functional answers" he says.
Benchimol is excited by Cartesis' prospects. "We've got a real shot at becoming a billion dollar company. We have the expertise, we're doing the right things and we have the chance to emerge as the dominant player. It's not often in one's career that you get this kind of opportunity," he says.