VENDOR WATCH

Making the Rapid ROI Promise Stick: Q&A With Savvion CEO M.A. Ketabchi

M.A. Ketabchi, president, CEO and founder of business process management provider Savvion, might have done just as well focusing on product marketing in his career. From the beginning, he has distinguished Savvion from the competition by concentrating on the one thing potential customers care about the most: rapid ROI.

“Our customers have always appreciated that cost savings, but given the current situation, they appreciate it even more,” Ketabchi told CRM Buyer.

Savvion represents more than just a fast return on investment, though. In his conversation with CRM Buyer, Ketabchi explained how his company’s application can guide companies as they remake and reconfigure operations to match economic trends.

CRM Buyer: How is Savvion weathering the economic downturn?

M.A. Ketabchi:

Our overall business is still doing well. Our sales pipeline, our opportunity pipeline and revenues all continue to grow and are still strong. We have seen a 20 percent increase in license revenue quarter over quarter.

But we have been adversely affected: We have seen a 20 percent reduction in the number of new projects our customers are starting; there is also a 30 percent increase in the number of budget approval processes [our customers must take]. The reason for this is because the financial sector — which has always been an important vertical for us — is slow right now. The good news is that we haven’t seen an adverse impact in the level of interest in our product.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the cost-cutting measures you’ve taken?

Ketabchi:

In Q1 2008, we looked at our cost structure and trimmed it a bit in several areas. In Q4 2008, we revisited our plan and scaled it back a little bit more. But I don’t like the term “cut costs” — our approach is to control costs. What that means is we try to do more with the money we are spending. So, for example, we are increasing our marketing team and budget and also focusing on lead generation, but we are not necessarily expanding our service area too much. We have a broad network of partners that can provide services, so we don’t have to hire as many employees in this area. Also, we have operations in India, which means we can expand without increasing our costs tremendously.

CRM Buyer: How can your products help your customers’ bottom lines in the near term?

Ketabchi:

The key value of our suite of products is the real-time visibility and the agility and flexibility that provides. Customers can see where the bottlenecks occur as soon as they happen and then can eliminate inefficiencies. They can see where they can get the most out of all their investments with our software.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the bright spots for your company right now?

Ketabchi:

We have been winning against the competition in just about every deal we participate in. Last quarter, we beat some competitors multiple times in separate deals. That is why we have concluded that if we expand our marketing and sales effort, our revenue will grow faster. In fact, I would say regularly winning against the competition has significant implications for where we should invest going forward.

CRM Buyer: How will your company look a year from now?

Ketabchi:

We will have a bigger market share of the BPM market, and the rate of acquiring new customers will have increased even more. We will continue to be recognized for innovation, as we plan to introduce new products this year. Also, we have been profitable since the beginning of 2008, and we will continue to maintain that.

CRM Buyer: In what categories will you be adding new products or features?

Ketabchi:

In the area of business process improvement on demand. We already have one demand offering, but we plan to take that to the next level; it will set us apart from others in the BPM market. We’ll begin introducing the new product in Q3 with selective customers and then make it generally available in Q4.

CRM Buyer: You mentioned that the financial sector has been a drag on your performance, which is understandable. Are there any sectors that are doing well for you?

Ketabchi:

Yes, there are several that are doing well: government, telecom, life sciences, healthcare, high-tech and manufacturing. That is how we are weathering the downturn.

CRM Buyer: There are several niche BPM providers in the market. How do you differentiate yourself from others in this category?

Ketabchi:

One of our competitive advantages is that we enable our customers to achieve a high ROI with a low TCO.

CRM Buyer: Can you provide numbers to back that up?

Ketabchi:

We have done a number of studies, and the range of ROI is very wide, depending on the customer and its industry. We have had some customers that have recovered their investment in less than a month. Not all are that fast, but we have a number of examples where customers achieved millions in savings in a short period of time because of our product.

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