Living in the shadow of an older, larger, and more high-profile sibling can be as challenging as it is rewarding, as data quality specialist DataFlux, a wholly owned subsidiary of the formidable business intelligence company SAS Institute, knows all too well.
Since its acquisition in June 2000, the small, North Carolina-based company has not always enjoyed uncomplicated or indeed unequivocal benefits from its relationship with SAS, for whom DataFlux’s data-cleansing and data-matching IP forms a crucial, if niche, part of its overall proposition.
Even Tony Fisher, DataFlux’s plain-speaking CEO will acknowledge that the relationship has, at times, been characterised by “contention and conflict”, although it has been “manageable”.
In Europe, in particular, SAS has limited DataFlux’s ability to sell into its customer base, a situation that has led, says Ian Charlesworth, principal analyst at Ovum, to some missed opportunities on both sides. But this malaise, he believes, has now passed and DataFlux is now in a strong position to leverage SAS’s European installed base.
DataFlux’s brand is more widely recognised in the US, where this strategy has already been highly successful, allowing the company – of just 80 people – to win clients as prestigious as mortgage-lending giant Freddie Mac, often against larger, better-known competitors.
But DataFlux has also benefited, says Jill Dyche, partner at advisory firm Baseline Consulting, who has been working closely with DataFlux, from the prevailing trend among customers to choose data quality providers on a best-of-breed basis, irrespective of their incumbent suppliers – a practice, she adds, few had anticipated.
With several competitors now assimilated into, and backed by, bigger software brands, Fisher is acutely aware that his company must continue to offer compelling technology if it is to compete effectively as an independent subsidiary – especially in Europe, where the DataFlux brand still flies under many corporate buyers’ radars.
Unlike many of its competitors, however, DataFlux’s core offering – which remains tightly focused on data cleansing and matching – has been built on a service-oriented principles. This allows the company to bring new products to market quickly and enables it to roll-out upgrades in a near seamless fashion, says Charlesworth.
Furthermore, DataFlux has been an early evangelist of master data management (MDM), and has integrated MDM components into its suite. “This has set them up really well”, says Dyche, because MDM spending looks set to take off.
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