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2013 Winner: Axis Group

Albert Hughes felt a little skittish when SAP AG announced it was buying Business Objects in 2007.

Axis Group LLC, which Hughes had founded 11 years earlier, was a heavy Business Objects partner. The signals Hughes was receiving as the deal steamed toward completion in early 2008 made him wonder if partner companies like his might be less important to SAP than they had been to Business Objects.

The situation wasn't critical because Axis Group used a broad portfolio of business intelligence vendors and could make up for any drops in Business Objects-related work with other projects. But it definitely got Hughes, the principal, CEO and CTO of Axis Group, looking around. "We've typically had a vendor that was a lead one," Hughes said in an interview at the Axis Group headquarters in Berkeley Heights, N.J.

Starting to disengage from SAP/Business Objects turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Axis Group, because it started a process of weaning the business intelligence solution provider off almost all but one vendor solution. That focus, in turn, helped catapult Axis Group to growth.

Hughes and others at Axis Group had been keeping an eye on QlikView, a product that combined extract, transform, load (ETL), data warehousing and a visual-analytic front-end. A few years earlier, the product seemed promising but unready for Axis Group's customers. As the SAP situation developed, Hughes and company took another look.

"We were pretty amazed at what it could do. Applying the technical capabilities and the business acumen of our people, we could [build solutions] in a very fast fashion," said Hughes. "We decided to start focusing on that."

RCP Editor in Chief Scott Bekker (right) presents an RCP Rocket Award to Axis Group principals Al Hughes (left) and Ranjan Sinha (center). Axis Group focused tightly on one business intelligence vendor and a small number of verticals to maximize business growth.

By then, the economic downturn was upon the industry, and it further spurred Axis Group to simplify, said Hughes' fellow principal Ranjan Sinha, who has responsibility for strategy, product development, sales and marketing.

"This was our first time that we said everybody's going to have to go through the same boot camp for QlikView; everybody's going to have to know the same thing," Sinha said. "We actually eliminated other technologies. It was the first time in our careers we actually said, "No, we don't want to be your partner anymore.' We got rid of the contract [for other vendors]."

At the same time, Axis Group also focused its sales efforts into specific verticals rather than selling to any company with business intelligence needs. It was another way of being more targeted and less opportunistic. The company currently offers solutions for health care; manufacturing, retail, distribution (MRD); energy and utilities; and financial services. Having the vertical focus helps the company build repeatable (and therefore more efficient) sales and implementation processes.

The strategy has helped Axis Group more than double its revenues over the last three years while substantially increasing profits. Focus also brought Axis Group into a much more productive relationship on QlikView than it enjoyed with previous vendor partners. Axis Group earned the 2012 "Solution Provider of the Year" award from the product's parent company, QlikTech International AB.

Hughes sees a virtuous circle in the multi-year focus of Axis Group on one vendor's solution. "An important thing the focus brings is expertise. Everybody in the organization has to have expertise in that core component. We have ancillary technology for the complete solutions, but everything that we focus on is really three things -- the people, the process and the technology," Hughes said, adding with a chuckle: "It's a combination of good technology and good implementation and you can get really rocket-type results."

Read the full 2013 RCP Rocket Award winners feature here.

<< Back to the RCP Rocket Awards Page

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.