Specialist South Island firm creates data bridges

Specialist South Island firm creates data bridges

The gloom of the recession has in fact provided a profitable silver lining for Christchurch-based Montage Interactive.

Earlier this year, the 20-year-old business spun off its Business Intelligence (BI) division into a new entity, known as Montage Business Intelligence. The two Montage businesses employ more than 30 staff based in Christchurch, with support offices in Dunedin and Wellington.

Founder and chairman Mike Perry claims the business is the largest BI specialist in the South Island, doing work in the health, agriculture, retail and financial services markets, with customers that include major rural-sector firms.

Montage Business Intelligence is also working on an Otago District Health Board BI project over the next few years, which could lead to other BI projects in the health sector.

“Our mantra is that we build the bridge between data and decision making. Every organisation has a lot of data but they aren’t able to make decisions. A lot have BI tools and they still can’t make the decisions. We come into both small and big organisations and we lead programmes within organisations to make that happen,” says Montage BI CEO Tony Millar.

He says Montage Business Intelligence provides expertise to help businesses choose IT tools, rather than selling the products themselves.

The original company, Montage Interactive, produced large scale audio-visual material, which led to it becoming an IT company.

By the mid 1990s it had progressed into the transactional kiosks market, such as machines for the sale of lift passes and pre-pay cards to charge domestic electricity meters.

But Montage saw online as a growing technology area, so 10 years ago began building e-business websites for channel management and order tracking.

As the company grew, it discovered more customers were seeking business intelligence solutions. The firm says when times are hard, it is even more important for organisations to know who their customers are and what they want.

“BI has to be done within the context of an organisation. It is not ‘one-size-fits-all’,” Millar says.

Millar says his IT experience in the UK, US, Europe and Australia has taught him that BI transcends IT and business management.

“The reason BI hasn’t worked for a lot of companies is that they drive it from the IT function, rather than have it led by the business. The data sits in IT, but decision making sits within the business.

“Montage builds the bridge and this process is not about tools and technology. It is about the transformation from being information-reactive to being information-led and empowering managers with accurate information in appropriate time frames, to make informed and confident decisions,” he says. “To truly assist organisations, you need intelligence about customers, products and the key drivers in the business, not just the numbers. Numbers tend to be historic, but really, you need to know what will produce those numbers in the future,” Millar adds.

Consequently, Montage has developed competency in customer analytics and helping organisations better define, segment, target, manage and communicate with customers to improve margin and loyalty.

Millar says its differentiators centre around partnerships and alliances with key technology players in the BI and analytics space – these include Wherescape, Microsoft, Axon, SQL Services, Oracle, Tableau and Yellow Fin.

“In good times you need BI because you’re growing for growth. In bad times, it’s about the cost savings. The other reason we do well, is not because of the market or the economy, it’s because our customers tell other people what we’ve done for them,” Millar says.

“[In the South Island] everybody does have a degree of acquaintance. There are only two degrees of separation here. Your reputation is a major factor in the growth of the business.”

Montage remains bullish about the future. “We see ourselves as partnering with customers, building a team with their IT staff and gaining the confidence of businesses managers. We strengthen rather than compete with their internal resources. BI should not be a core capability of a company. They should stick at what they are good at,” Millar says.

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