Decision Lens CEO, John Kealey, started his career as an accountant at what was a Big Eight accounting firm. “It taught me to view opportunities through a disciplined model,” he says. That model has come in handy to maintain perspective on old patterns as new markets emerge and mature. John is on a mission to serve an emerging market for software tools that Decision Lens’ IT clients requested and research firms, Forrester and Gartner, published Research on in July 2015.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9
Decision Lens’ new software – Smart Portfolio – helps enterprises make smarter, top-down portfolio decisions for customized scenario planning, smart portfolio analytics, and dynamic resource balancing. Businesses already use software to measure existing operations and were outgrowing their Excel spreadsheets when studying future scenarios.
He told the crowd at his featured chat with Tien Wong at Connectpreneur’s winter meeting: “Now, Decision Lens has to remain patient long enough to capitalize on the market it is creating.”
John is confident the market needs the product, but Decision Lens needs the staying power to prove it. He observes:
“The mistake I have seen companies make in emerging markets is being too aggressive, too early. They invest too far ahead of the market, which can result in financial challenges. We won’t suffer from that. We will be patient.”
Finding the right balance
The challenge is to balance, not be too aggressive or too conservative when selling business-to-business software.
“The best way I have found to strike the right balance is to clearly understand who is buying your product, an early adopter or a pragmatic buyer. An early adopter will buy the vision of what is possible and the pragmatic buyer will buy ROI. You can normally tell them apart by the questions they ask in the buying process. Don’t let early adopters get you so excited you invest too early, for example, by adding sales people and increasing marketing. Be patient and wait for the pragmatic buyers; then be aggressive.”
On the plus side, serving a new market is more interesting to John than trying to compete in a market with well-established players. He says: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t prefer it.” John learned from working in the early digital paging industry (considered the birth of mobile) that he does not want to compete with a commodity.
Timing can be critical
Tech history is littered with the remains of companies that hit the market too early or too late.
“The discipline I got as an accountant will always make sure I pay attention to the first rule in business. The first rule in business is, of course, — be in business.”
Sometimes, a competitor has too great a lead. In his previous role, John was brought in as CEO of Vivisimo, a struggling startup company that specialized in developing computer search engines. In 2010 he helped the team agree there was more value in selling its public web metasearch engine with document clustering to Yippy, Inc., than battling alone for position in the marketplace. In May 2012, IBM acquired Vivisimo and branded it as IBM Watson Explorer, a product of the IBM Watson Group.
“It is better to be bought than to be sold,” John says; then channeling his inner accountant he adds: “Having your financial and legal house in order is essential before the deal when you’re competing with time.”
Decision Lens started as a platform software, which means covering any use case or situation with broadly focused software. John says: “We are continuously conducting research on a number of different use cases to find our biggest market opportunity to then build a targeted product around.”
Some Decision Lens Smart Portfolio users include:
Mondelez – Making important decisions on the technologies they invest in to make their candy products more appealing and sell more.
Amtrak – Strategically selecting the initiatives and the vendors they’ll use to implement them to make their trains more customer friendly and sell more.
Utah Transit Authority – Reducing their planning time from weeks to days, speeding up their process and getting money to where it’s required faster.
John concludes: “When Gartner and Forrester cover a space in detail, it’s a good sign to us that the market has great potential. We think it’s the biggest market out there right now.”