When an inquisitive software analyst takes a seat across the table from TIBCO Software CFO Tom Berquist, the inquisitor may not know that TIBCO’s finance leader once sat on their side of the table and in certain ways still prefers it.
From 1996 to 2006, Berquist added a distinguished equity research chapter to his career when he became a marquee analyst inside the software realm for a string of Wall Street investment houses—namely, Piper Jaffray, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup.Read More
Seated across the table from the likes of Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Bill Gates (at the time, Microsoft’s CEO), and many others, Berquist asked probing questions and listened to the carefully crafted narratives designed to achieve “buy-in” on the company’s strategy from discerning analysts.
“You would get pieces of information from each of the different companies, which gives you this incredibly powerful view of the market,” recalls Berquist, who even today seems to envy the analyst he once was.
“The CEOs and CFOs would read your research and then come back and complain and try to explain why you are wrong by supplying you with even more data points—which is helpful because you can then create an even bigger mosaic,” continues Berquist, who ultimately exited software research when he was offered a CFO role at a newly minted company formed from a group of technologies spun out from CA Technologies that was then known as Computer Associates.
“We had to build the finance function from scratch,” remembers Berquist, who quickly set about building processes and hiring finance professionals to lead the company’s different functional groups.
As the finance function grew up around him, Berquist says, he observed firsthand how finance acquires its “bottom up” view of the business organizationally, whereby data is first captured and then finance projects trends according to what’s already happened.
“I’ve found this in every finance function that I’ve encountered since that time, so I view it as a universal truth,” states Berquist, who set out to remedy finance’s traditional “bottom up” approach by applying some “top down” macroeconomic insights.
“I put in processes to run a “top down” model after actually building it myself. I compared and contrasted it to the traditional finance model and we reached common ground, allowing us to get in front of the trends,” says Berquist, who, even today after multiple CFO and CEO roles, can’t help but linger on the other side of the table. –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about TIBCO … what sets it apart from its competitors?
Berquist: TIBCO is a pretty interesting company. It’s one of the few independent, pure-play, infrastructure and analytics companies that are out there. There are others that cross over to our space, of course, but in most cases, the companies that we see out there are what I would call ecosystem vendors—an IBM, a Microsoft, a Salesforce, or an SAP—that have a huge footprint of things that they do: applications, infrastructure, services, kind of the whole shooting match. What doesn’t exist as much is somebody who’s independent of that. We call it a Switzerland.Read More
We are cross-ecosystem. We can work with companies that are a mix of vendors—which is most big companies, if you want to know the truth. As a result, we are a supplier of integration to cross between these applications and platforms, whether they’re on-premise platforms running the data center or they’re cloud platforms running an Amazon, Microsoft, Google, whatever it might be.
With this platform independence and our company independence, we typically get better access to the APIs and the kinds of ways that you need to integrate things together than we would be if we were another ecosystem vendor trying to integrate with another ecosystem vendor. We have this natural advantage, and this was what led to the formation of TIBCO. It’s been a big part of our story from the beginning. We’ve made a number of acquisitions, and what we realized maybe 7 or 8 years ago now was that there was an awful lot of data flowing through our connections. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer analytics capabilities, both static and via real-time streaming? As data is arriving in whatever format you’re able to look at it in, you could analyze it, dashboard it, report on it, have metrics, whatever it might be.
This led us to the Spotfire acquisition, which was the first. Then we supplemented that with a number of acquisitions, including IBI, which added some additional capabilities and some vertical market depth as well. The last thing that we did, about 2 years ago, was to buy a French company called Orchestra Networks, which actually offers what we call MDM and reference data management capability to kind of unify the metadata about your day.
Value Quote: “We spent a lot of time and attention this past year on getting our people online and productive from home. Many of them want to stay there, so the big challenge for us will be to figure out what the new work environment looks like. Where will people be located? How will they get access to systems and such that they need? How will we keep them trained and engaged with the company?” jb
TIBCO Software | www.tibco.com | Palo Alto, CA