Interview with Martin Owen (Corso)
Corso is a products and services company specialising in enterprise strategic planning.
I interviewed Martin Owen, Corso CEO to find out more. This is the hundred and fifty fourth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Martin!
How would you describe Corso in under 50 words?
Simply put, we help businesses deliver ideas. We help organizations understand what they have, what it does and where its deployed. We then help companies optimize the way they deliver projects to implement change. Our software is available as SaaS and is incredibly easy to use.
What inspired you to create Corso?
I’d spent a lot of time working with Alan Burnett, Jamie Knowles and Jon Lederer (co-founders of Corso) at Popkin Software, Telelogic and IBM. I instinctively knew that we had skills that when combined together would gel and we all knew the enterprise architecture and portfolio management markets extremely well.
I’d also spent a long time in product management at IBM and realized that while they/we created fantastic core products, there was a market for connecting products together using the latest technologies. We noticed there was a gap for an IBM partner to plug these holes and create solutions that were complimentary and that we knew their customers would like. Not only that, we knew that with our specialist skills in strategic planning, we could also connect other products together to create solutions that customers would really like and aspire to own.
When you created Corso, what was your aim? Do you think you have fulfilled this aim yet?
Our aim was to put products and tools together from both a technological perspective and a commercial view point that would solve the issue of strategic planning. How can organizations understand new ideas, facilitate change and understand their business and IT architecture in a software tool suite that was affordable?
We managed to put together a SaaS offering based initially on IBM tools offering enterprise architecture and portfolio management capabilities. This lowered the cost of adoption by allowing customers to pay a monthly subscription in a market that is dominated by perpetual license sales. We’ve just started to see over the past 6 months the pendulum swing towards SaaS sales of enterprise architecture and portfolio management tools.
Your target market seems very niche, has this meant that competition is relatively low?
The market is new but we see the market as being made up of two traditional niche markets; enterprise architecture and portfolio management. We call this new market, strategic planning. Some of the vendors in the traditional enterprise architecture tool space are expanding with enterprise portfolio management but they aren’t addressing strategic planning yet. Some tools just do modeling, some do portfolio management, there is no single solution that addresses both.
How long did it take to put together Corso?
We started Corso in April 2011. It took just over 12 months to get the company running optimally. We focused on generating revenue to fund the business and did this purely through consulting in enterprise architecture, project portfolio management and the connections between them. We focused on building a loyal customer base that we could take on the journey with us.
We call ourselves a product company first and a consulting company second. Our consulting backs up our products and is available globally. We now have offices in the US, UK and Australia and are looking to open up in other locations this year including Benelux to serve mainland Europe and Canada. We have distributors in other parts of the world.
Our people make us unique, so we’ve focussed on putting together the best people we could find and that we knew in this market. We’re now concentrating on building on that strength and have employed an external coach to look at our people and help them understand how good they are and how good their colleagues are!
So the journey to put Corso together isn’t complete, its a journey and we’re still looking at bringing more people in that fit into our culture.
What technologies have you used to build Corso?
Our new product Corso Connections, connects tools together using ‘connectors’. Connectors map to the APIs of tools such as IBM System Architect, IBM Focal Point and Wufoo.
On our roadmap, we are also providing integrations with Twitter and Yammer. We developed this application with Ruby on Rails and used an Agile approach to development. We also use IBM tools to manage our Agile projects. Ruby on Rails fits Agile extremely well, as it is fast and lean. We also knew that other large companies were building large applications on Ruby, such as Groupon and Basecamp.
We’re also still working with Microsoft technology for some of our integrations and APIs where it suits fat client software.
It’s evident that you operate in many different markets, which would you say is your most successful market?
Our fastest growing market in terms of geography is definitely North America. However, all of our markets are successful and growing. Its important because strategic planning should be done by every company regardless of vertical market.
Do you have any product developments in the pipeline?
We have quite a few products in the pipeline. In order to do enterprise architecture (ea) successfully, you have to understand and build in ea frameworks. These can look complex. We’ve developed a new set of tools called ‘method wizards’ which coach and navigate users through the complexity of ea frameworks.
We’ve also developed roadmapping extensions for popular ea frameworks. Roadmapping allows organizations to build Business and IT roadmaps showing what they will look like in the future so that they can plan better and more efficiently.
We have other developments in the pipeline that we believe are market changing – so watch this space!
With technology continuously changing, where do you see Corso in 5 years time?
We definitely see a market shift in enterprise architecture and portfolio management and the seamless integration of them. Our technology facilitates that seamless integration. I see Corso leading the way in the creation of the strategic planning market and this new market taking over the traditional enterprise architecture and portfolio management segments.
In 5 years time, I’d expect to see strategic planning tooling through Corso as a standard mechanism for the majority of businesses to capture ideas, manage initiatives and build/deliver projects.
Can you convince the reader to start using Corso in under 50 words?
The world is rapidly changing with new ideas and technologies. Organizations need to systematically manage change in order to control risk, cost and resource. You need to understand what you have and the impact of change to unlock innovation in your company. Our SaaS platform facilitates this.
Finished reading? Check out Corso!