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How Syniti is honing its chops in data management

A move to shed its back office image and a laser focus on data migration has been fuelling Syniti’s growth in data management

When Kevin Campbell became CEO of BackOffice Associates more than three years ago, one of the first things he did as head honcho was to change the name of the data management company.

After all, the company was not an accounting firm, and a better name was needed to reflect the nature of its business and attract bright young talent.

Within three months and just before its show at the annual SAP Sapphire conference, BackOffice Associates was renamed Syniti with the blessings of its board and management team.

“It’s a made-up word as everything else was taken,” Campbell told Computer Weekly on a recent visit to Singapore. “Syniti comes from synergy and infinity – the synergy between data and business gives you infinite potential. That’s how we got there.”

Among a raft of data management platforms, Syniti claims to have a unique position in the market: “We’re pure bland data. We’re a software-led services company with a little over $200m in revenue. We’ve roughly doubled in size over the past three years, including a few acquisitions.

“But what we try to do is stay focused on data migration, data quality and data governance. And we have a strong point of view about how that’s going to work.”

Data migration can be a tough problem to crack, not only when moving data from on-premise datacentres to the cloud or from one platform to another, but also during mergers and acquisitions (M&As) where differences in the way organisations store, use and manage data can hamper integration efforts.

Today, close to 40% of Syniti’s work is on helping organisations involved in M&A deals to migrate their data. Its software embeds methodologies to help organisations avoid common data management pitfalls.

Syniti also has a team of 1,300 data experts around the world, along with systems integrators (SIs) who use its software to drive best practices in data management. “We aren’t somebody that just dumps everything into a data lake and says it’s all going work perfectly together,” Campbell said.

Having served some of the largest organisations in the world, including oil and gas giant Petrobras, hospitality group Hilton and pharmaceutical bigwigs Pfizer and Merck, Syniti also takes a strong view on data quality, which organisations still struggle with.

It used to be that the likes of Accenture, IBM and Deloitte had their own products to do data quality and they also used Informatica and others. Their resistance to using us was we didn't let them do any of the services
Kevin Campbell, Syniti

Campbell said too many chief data officers (CDOs) spend all their time with other information in their organisations and not focused enough on data quality, calling for CDOs to start with key performance indicators and what department heads look for.

“What are the most important things that the CEO, head of sales or head of manufacturing look at in the data? Go make sure that data is 100% accurate from the beginning, and then work out from there,” he said.

A key difference between Syniti and other data management suppliers is its expertise in data migrations involving SAP systems, including moving data to S/4 Hana, SAP’s next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

The company had identified SAP systems as a lucrative opportunity early on, given that the German ERP software giant commands a majority market share in most industries, except high tech and government which are dominated by Oracle, Campbell said.

Today, SAP offers solution extensions from Syniti that it resells with deployment options available on-premise or in the cloud. “We go through premium qualification with them every year for every new version and they sell it as their own,” he said.

Like other data management suppliers, Syniti has started offering cloud-based products, starting with hosting its applications on the cloud to building its own cloud services with a cloud-native architecture and multi-tenant capabilities.

“We’ve been on that journey for a couple years now…and it’s good enough that people can use it today and get the functions, but as it always is with software, it’s never quite over and you're always working on it,” Campbell said.

As a software and services company, Syniti’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) is growing at about 20-25% year on year. Amid the rapid growth of the company, Campbell still makes it a point to screen potential hires.

“I interview every new salesperson and everybody in the top 100 of the company, because I find that’s the best way to control the quality of the people who are coming in,” he said. “And I tell them, if you’ve got a 90-day plan, make that a 45-day plan because we’re moving fast and we’re serious about that.”

This year, Syniti will double down on engaging SIs to use Syniti’s offerings in their data management projects for clients – another move spearheaded by Campbell when he took up the top job.

“It used to be that the likes of Accenture, IBM and Deloitte had their own products to do data quality and they also used Informatica and others. Their resistance to using us was we didn’t let them do any of the services,” he said.

Campbell saw that and decided to focus the company’s talent on solving the toughest data management problems through its products while tapping SIs to help with deployments.

“When I talked to their CEOs and senior executives, I said: ‘Look, we spent $100m on the product and you can’t tell me the stuff that a couple of people did in the back room that you drag around to each engagement is as good as what we do.’ We’ve done a taste test with them a million times and every time our product wins.”

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