eXcelon CEO Joe Bellini Sounds Off

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The CEO of the company says layoffs are over. Analysts say market demand for its products is increasing. Confusion about its three distinct brands has been alleviated.

Now all eXcelon has to do is make sure the industry knows it is "a great XML product company," as chief executive Joe Bellini puts it.

Joe Bellini: One CEO of C-Bridege, which merged last year with eXcelon, Bellini tells CRN E-Commerce Editor Amy Rogers about his palns for the XML software firm. Repositioning after the falloff in terest in e-business services and courting partners are high on Bellini's '02 agenda.

Speaking to CRN this week on a break from helping salespeople bone up on eXcelon's 2002 marketing message, Bellini said that the separate branding of eXcelon and the company it merged with in 2001--e-business solution provider C-Bridge, where Bellini was CEO--has been wiped away. So has the distinction once made between Object Design, which was eXcelon's old name, and eXcelon; as of December, the Object Design name will no longer be used.

Excelon, based here, is grooming itself as a software company above all else, according to Bellini. He and the rest of the management team are now working to train the sales force to sell software first and are also persuading an array of channel and vendor partners to pay attention to the vendor's products.

Those offerings include ObjectStore, a database-management system; Javlin, a data-caching offering that aids in improving the performance of application servers; and eXtensible Information Server, an XML-native database management system.

The C-Bridge merger was described last summer by then-COO Satish Maripuri as an effort to enhance eXcelon with a phalanx of consulting professionals who would drive the development of a strategic services group. The drop in demand for such services, coupled with the recession, necessitated a review of that goal.

Management changes ensued. Maripuri, eXcelon President Mark Cosway and other executives left in the last month.

"We're a product company," said Bellini, adding that eXcelon's goal is to derive 40 percent of its revenue from services and 60 percent from software sales. Fourth-quarter 2001 revenue for the company is expected at between $13.6 million and $14.1 million.

"There is a difference between selling solutions and solutions-selling," said Bellini. "At C-Bridge, we were selling solutions, and that market fell apart. Now I need to make us a great product company."

Analysts said eXcelon's competition comes from an array of start-ups and established companies that provide native XML databases, from Ipedo and X-Hive to Software AG.

"The XML-grounded database vendors are trying to get the attention of the big integrators in order to increase their visibility," said Ted Friedman, an analyst in Gartner Group's strategic data management division. "They tend to be fairly weak in getting their message into the market."

To its credit, eXcelon has already established relationships with Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, KPMG and EDS, where Bellini used to work.

Under development at KPMG, in fact, is an application combining features of products from eXcelon, Iona, Hewlett-Packard's Bluestone group and IBM. The offering will use a component-based architecture to simplify data-sharing among companies, their customers and suppliers.

Nevertheless, eXcelon cannot rest on its laurels as relational database vendors including Microsoft and Oracle add XML extensions to database products that already claim huge market share, Friedman noted.

And eXcelon is taking action. Bellini said the most recent round of layoffs,about 100 people were let go this month,finally brings expenses into an acceptable $14 million range. C-Bridge--and later eXcelon--previously completed at least three rounds of job cuts in 2001.

About one-third of the current mix of eXcelon employees came from C-Bridge, Bellini said. Another one-third were still affiliated with the Object Design group.

The company is also reinforcing its ties to solution providers.

"We have very strong channel programs," Bellini said, pointing out that eXcelon is working with distributors in Europe and Asia to improve the reach of eXcelon's products outside of North America, and to create opportunities for smaller partners. "The way I tend to look at my channel environment is [the way I looked at it at i2 or Oracle, and that's, how are we going to make money together?"

Jerry King is the vice president in charge of building partner relationships.

Channel partners said they play a valuable role in helping customers get the most value out of XML's promise, in part because while XML aids in standardizing the transfer of information among various formats, it can hamper application performance.

"It's not exactly lightweight," said Jeff Gallimore, chief executive of Excella Consulting, a McLean, Va.-based systems integration and consulting firm. Clients must understand "the inherent risks,technological, organizational--of introducing XML" into the enterprise, he said.

XML-enabling systems might make it easier to pass information in disparate formats like HTML and EDI around the network, but it could also affect the way a client's company operates.

"It might change the makeup of my IT staff or how I organize my IT department," Gallimore said.

A skilled integrator ought to help clients decide how, when and where to introduce an XML layer into legacy systems, he said.

Excelon closed Thursday at $1.05.

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