Back to basics: Can Informix reclaim its database heritage?

Will the chequered history of Informix hold the newly created Informix Software back? Not according to Barbara Stanley, who says...

Will the chequered history of Informix hold the newly created Informix Software back? Not according to Barbara Stanley, who says it’s great being the database company. Roanna Avison reports

As Informix Software returns to its database roots, after spinning off its applications business as a separate entity, the vendor is looking for a new beginning.

Barbara Stanley, Northern European managing director at Informix Software, has been charged with recreating the database company’s brand and she believes there are some real opportunities in the pipeline.

“The traditional trends of business have been overturned. There is a big rethink of how to do things and people are questioning every aspect of business. They are being open-minded to drive things forward,” she claims.

But will the chequered history of Informix hold the newly created Informix Software back? Not according to Stanley. “It’s great being the database company — that’s where we come from and what our customers like about us.

“We have partners that like our technical support, our investment in R&D dollars in improving the database.” Stanley argues that not all of its competitors do the same. “CA and Oracle investment does not go into improving the database, but improving the applications.”

But it will take more than a happy customer base to make the business a success, admits Stanley.

“My challenge is to refocus us on the market. I’m delighted to be the database company. The knowledge we have is fantastic and we have a legacy of excellent customers.”

But the vendor is trying to get new customers on board, Stanley adds. “We have the products that people want for today and the future.”

New partners will also be targeted by the vendor. “While we have a good group of partners, we do have plans to recruit new ones,” she says.

Back to basics
While some might suggest that altering the reputation of the Informix brand — with its well-documented financial problems — would be a real challenge, Stanley is quick to dismiss this suggestion.

“I’m almost looking at my dream job. The brand is recognised across the industry and we are building on that base. “But now I’m looking to go back to basics — partner focus and customer focus and technical superiority.”

Stanley insists that even when the business moved towards the complete system, it always focused on the database and still has a strong product to exploit.

“People need the technology — they need something to take them from their existing environment into the future environment — but whether they see the opportunity is another matter.

“But we do not want to railroad anyone into that change. We want to be ready to provide them with the technology as and when they need it,” she insists.

Anybody looking to work in e-commerce using legacy systems, in the media environment or Web-based environment is going to need what Informix has, Stanley claims.

“The database is able to handle different types of data and it doesn’t take months to do it, it’s a matter of minutes. And now it’s not just about having a Web presence, it’s about having dynamic data that’s easy to refresh and a more human interface.”

Looking forward, she sees the final piece of the jigsaw will be when users talk to computers: “Voice recognition is hot.”

In a bid to reinforce this message and discover what partners really want, Stanley is meeting Informix’s distributors and resellers. “I want to hear that what I think they want is what they want.”

She adds Informix is “going through the processes at the moment” and is looking to add value to its partner base. But she insists that knowing what the partners want is one thing, delivering it is another. “We are really focused on delivering the programme and means of communication that partners need.”

Commitment is key
Informix has historically been a partnering company and Stanley expresses a desire to re-emphasise its commitment and ensure partners are providing enough value add to make Informix a valuable proposition.

“While we’re not getting partners coming to us at the moment and asking to work with us, if you ask again in six months, it might be a different story,” Stanley predicts. As for trends that will affect the market in the future and so have a knock-on impact on Informix Software, she points to the mobile revolution and the changing user interface. “The whole mobile thing will be strong, depending on a number of things. “I do not see WAP as viable for the mobile, particularly with the tiny screen on a mobile phone.” Stanley believes devices with larger screens and broadband access to the Internet are a different story. “Provided we get the right applications, there could be a really powerful drive in that direction.” Another issue she raises is the problem with little or no signal on mobile phones in some areas at the moment. “This needs to be sorted so people can have the information at their fingertips wherever they are.” But she suggests this is the way technology seems to be going. “It’s a major trend to watch.”

Man and machine
On the user interface front, Stanley predicts a transparency between man and machine and the way they interact.

“I think voice will become the medium of interaction, rather than the finger and the screens will be bigger in a handheld device that’s bigger than a mobile.”

These areas will create a big opportunity for Informix because such devices will need to be able to access the information in the database and add data to it, she adds.

While it may be what the future holds, Stanley insists the immediate focus will be on the basics and she will not be trying to run before she can walk.

“I will be happy for my piece of the company to have increased the level of business it is doing through partners and grown its customer base,” she claims.

The question now is whether Stanley can raise the Informix Software brand as it returns to “the database company” tag it tried so hard to shed.

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