Bill Lochten serves as director of the federal organization at Information Builders. He has been a part of the intelligence solutions provider since 2007 and is responsible for the overall management and company vision for the firm’s government business and customers.
Amidst the White House’s push for big data research and development initiatives, Lochten explains to ExecutiveBiz how the firm’s solutions work for both commercial and federal clients, growth and why big data is not such a curve ball after all.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your method for success in your current position and how does your previous experience play into that strategy?
Bill Lochten: Maintaining and expanding our leadership position in this field requires every one of our team members to be even closer to the customer than ever before. It’s our responsibility to understand their specific mission and success criteria. That means we have to take the time to really learn how each person in the organization uses information to accomplish their job. You can’t do that from your desk, or by email or conference calls. It demands a sustained investment of time and effort.
Lasting success in this business doesn’t occur unless every member of your team embraces accountability. That’s an important part of the Information Builders company culture. It helps to explain why after 36 years we remain one of the most respected software companies in the world.
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe business intelligence solutions and how can government agencies benefit from those solutions?
Bill Lochten: A highly-effective business intelligence solution is one that will deliver the right information at the right time to any and all stakeholders who make decisions. It’s not any more complicated than that. Historically, because of their cost and complexity, business intelligence systems were designed and deployed to support a small number of people in the organization, typically executives and other managers. In this competitive market, Information Builders is unique in its ability to deliver customer applications that enable all people in the organization who make decisions to have access to information that’s both timely and accurate
Our public sector customers are enjoying great success in unlocking large volumes of data to uncover trends, analyze anomalies and help determine what will likely happen next. It’s not just about reporting on what happened yesterday. Exposing all of the agency’s information assets to their business intelligence tool is critical – and it’s where you get real ROI.
ExecutiveBiz: What government agencies does Information Builders support and do you expect that customer base to grow?
Bill Lochten: Information Builders is recognized as the leading provider of the world’s most widely-used business intelligence applications. And in the federal government, customers using Information Builders software have deployed the largest implementations of business intelligence solutions. In some agencies, we have tens of thousands of users who depend on our applications each day to perform their jobs. But our software is also helping small departments with less than a hundred employees enjoy the same results.
We’re now in our fourth decade serving the federal government. Our business intelligence, data integrity and data integration solutions are being used pervasively throughout the civilian, defense and intelligence agencies. Many of our customer relationships span 20 years and longer, like Treasury Department, Social Security Administration, Department of Justice, the Army Corps of Engineers, to name just a few.
ExecutiveBiz: Since you’ve been in the business for a while, is big data a curveball to you?
Bill Lochten: We see a tremendous opportunity to help our customers with their big data initiatives. Our analytical and integration tools help our federal customers exploit all of their information assets, regardless of their location or whether the data is structured or unstructured. And our data integrity solutions provide the confidence they demand that their data is accurate and authoritative.
Big data challenges are commonplace today, whether it’s an intelligence analyst looking for minute changes in a certain region in the world among the terabytes of data generated from sensors, or a federal law enforcement officer, who in response to a potential terrorist threat, requires a comprehensive report on multiple suspects. Information Builders solutions blend both real-time and historical data to help our customers make more effective decisions.
As the cost to store information has steadily declined, our government customers have built larger data warehouses to store more and more information. The challenge becomes how to effectively mine and query all of that data so it can become actionable and timely information. That’s where we play. We’re not in the business of creating those large data warehouses. Instead, we’re helping our government customers unlock the value of the information in them.
ExecutiveBiz: What kind of reach back does the organization provide to offer cost-effective solutions to your government customers?
Bill Lochten: Like our federal government business, our work with commercial and state and local government customers is growing rapidly. It’s not surprising that we’re addressing similar business problems for our customers regardless of whether they’re in the public or private sectors.
For example, we’re heavily involved with several federal agencies in developing solutions to help identify and eliminate improper payments. My colleagues at Information Builders who work with both corporate and state and local government clients are engaged in similar efforts. For example, several state governments have recently chosen Information Builders to assist them in identifying food stamp fraud, as well as erroneous or duplicate outlays for other public assistance programs.
Likewise, the work that we’re doing with some of our federal customers in the area of performance management – helping agencies set goals, measure results and report progress on collaboration and transparency priorities – are being replicated in the private sector. Corporations, like the government, are trying to do a better job of managing the performance of its employees, partners and projects. Our technology enables better transparency and accountability.
ExecutiveBiz: What types of services does the firm offer for mobility and telework and how could these solutions benefit the government in the current budget environment?
Bill Lochten: The ability to deploy business intelligence solutions to mobile devices isn’t new. Information Builders introduced the capability more than a decade ago. Now that many of the social and technical barriers have been addressed, several of our government customers are presenting information at their users’ handheld devices, tablets and smartphones.
Organizations are starting to recognize how important it is to give mobile users the ability to access and interact with information when they’re out of the office. Some of the hesitation to move forward on these projects can be attributed to “myths” about mobile BI. There is misunderstanding and misinformation that mobile BI is expensive, that it’s too difficult to deploy and that it’s too limited in functionality. That is simply not true. We have customers that are using our mobile solutions in a myriad of ways and getting tremendous value from it. I’m expecting mobile BI to be a source of high growth for our company in the coming years.
ExecutiveBiz: The government has recently taken on cloud strategies so that it can certify a cloud service once and deploy it across agencies. What is the benefit of this model and in what additional areas should the government consider a similar model?
Bill Lochten: A cloud-based service model is attractive for several reasons, most notably for reducing cost and enabling IT resources to be managed more effectively and adjusted for new demands. The challenges that many of our customers face has to do with security, privacy issues and compliance. Relinquishing some control of their applications and information assets will require customers to develop new strategies. As a result, we’re seeing more of our customers consider both hybrid and private clouds instead.
The performance, scalability and usability of Information Builders solutions are just as effective in the cloud as in a more traditional platform environment. We’re aggressively pursuing ways to reduce the costs associated with developing and deploying intelligence solutions, as well as making these applications more useable and intuitive to more people. This includes new software development tools, “pay as you go” and subscription software licensing models, and the use of open source software.
ExecutiveBiz: Are there any technology applications you see on the horizon that will be big for the government and company in the coming years?
Bill Lochten: Information Builders is making significant investments in the area of predictive analytics. Our analytical software is less complex than other competitive tools for building models that expose potential outcomes. Intuitive software means greater usability and a faster ROI. Our customers are building practical solutions that help explain what may happen next.
We’re seeing new applications on an almost-daily basis, from predicting the impact of early retirement on an agency’s workforce to the most effective strategies for deploying law enforcement officers, based on such factors such as weather, events and historical crime data. We’re fortunate to work with many federal and state & local government law enforcement agencies. With smaller budgets, these customers rely on predictive analytics to staff and patrol their regions more effectively than before.
Historically, most BI tools required considerable training. As a result, they tended to be rather expensive and not widely available throughout the organization. This has been particularly true for predictive analytic solutions. We’re focused on making our solutions intuitive to develop, deploy and use.
Our customers expect a similar experience with our software to when they purchase clothing or music online. That will broaden the reach of our solutions to more and more people in the organization, helping them to be more effective, make better decisions and use resources more wisely. That’s where I see the opportunities for Information Builders to better support our government customers.