Q&A: Sirius CEO Talks Acquisition Of Analytics Firm Brightlight Consulting

Sirius Becomes A Big-Time Analytics Player

Sirius Computer Solutions of San Antonio closed Nov. 1 on the acquisition of 60-person analytics firm Brightlight Consulting. Sirius, No. 28 in the CRN SP500, began acquisition talks earlier this year with Brightlight of Redmond, Wash., according to Sirius President and CEO Joe Mertens (pictured).

Brightlight will operate as a stand-alone analytics division under Sirius, Mertens said, with David Overcash, currently Brightlight's executive vice president of service delivery, leading the group.

Sirius will leverage its 300-person sales force to find analytics opportunities within the solution provider's national client base. Mertens said Brightlight is one of the larger pure analytics firms in the country.

Below, Mertens answers some CRN questions about what the deal means for Sirius.

What piqued your interest in Brightlight Consulting?

We had worked with them on probably half-a-dozen consulting projects for some of our clients. And we had been trying to build up our analytics capability within the organization, because, frankly, many of our clients want it. We built infrastructure and warehouses for clients, but we're really trying to get to the next stage in those warehouses and put more of a predictive view on their analytics structures. And, frankly, Brightlight was, in our view, best of breed there … Bringing them into the family will make us that much more efficient and ensure that, as we're sitting down with clients, we're able to take the project from database architecture all the way through to predictive analytics.

In what key ways do you feel your end users will benefit from the acquisition?

If you look at our clients' environments, whether it's overall infrastructure or if it's data warehousing, a lot of different parties are often involved in those projects, and it's hard to have a single party responsible for the overall success of the project. As we look at it, we're seeing more and more demand from our clients to have a single party responsible for the success of a project. So, bringing Brightlight into the organization, as opposed to using them potentially in a subcontracting capacity, allows us to ensure that we can provide a successful project for our clients, and they get one party responsible for that.

In what verticals do you feel the Brightlight offering will be most applicable?

Their strongest industries are health care and retail, and they have some specific industry focus, analytics tools around those segments. But at the same time, they've done projects in public sector, financial markets, grocery chains. It runs kind of the gamut in terms of potential capabilities.

What sized companies tend to get the most value from these tools?

Most of their clients are medium to larger-sized enterprises. So, some of their clients, which I'm probably not at liberty to name, are literally Fortune 50-sized enterprises. But at the same time, they have lots of clients that are in the 1,000-to-2,000 employee range. So it does run quite a wide range. It's really people that have built up data over the years that are now trying to take that data and make valuable information out of it.

How specifically could an end user benefit from predictive analytics?

In the retail world, it allows them to figure out which product segments are selling faster or slower, what order levels they need to have … In the past, often a lot of decision-making has been made by clients based on gut feel. And now with everything being electronic, you can get extremely precise in terms of what the history has been, what the current run-rates are, and then be able to predict from that what the likely outcomes are going to be and what stocking or management levels you need to have.

What does the acquisition mean for the existing employees of Brightlight as well as senior management?

As a general rule, virtually all employees have been offered positions in the ongoing entity. We have agreed to run this group as a dedicated and boutique group focused solely on analytics, because that's where the real value is for our clients. So we'll use our 300-person national sales force to find opportunities within our client base that have needs for their services, then utilize them to work with those clients and add value to the data that they have in their enterprise … We actually anticipate the group growing fairly dramatically as a result of the selling organization that they now have behind them.

Will Brightlight be operating as a stand-alone entity?

They'll be a division of Sirius, but running on a stand-alone basis relative to the focus that they've historically had. There'll actually be some personnel from the legacy Sirius organization that will move into that division, and then as the Sirius sales force engages in client opportunities, they'll be brought in to service the customer.

Why do you feel there are so many opportunities in analytics?

Clients are realizing a lot of unique ways to get value out of that information, but they need good tools to do it, and they need to be able to build their data warehouses in an effective way to get at that information … We've seen lots of clients that are experimenting with analytics projects, often on their own. Those projects have, frankly, a high propensity to fail simply because while clients know their business, they often use data structures that don't allow them to get to the data they really need to be effective, and they don't often understand all the capabilities from a reporting and dashboarding perspective that are out there.

Can these failed projects be salvaged?

Brightlight has often found that a lot of their business is picking up projects that were started by a client and effectively haven't been successful projects. Then they're able to work that and make it a successful project and then do ongoing reporting and management of that data warehouse so the client continues to see value, and continues to get improvements in terms of the information coming out. For us, it's an opportunity to really build on our core data storage business, but rather than being just focused on the data storage side of the infrastructure, it's helping the clients get value out of the information that's residing on that infrastructure.

Is there more information being compiled nowadays as a result of IoT?

Yeah, absolutely. If you look at the number of mobile devices, if you look at the Internet of Everything, the reality is the amount of physical data that is available is far greater than has ever existed before, but the reality is because there's so much of it, it's a challenge for clients to be able to bring that data into concise architecture to be able to then gather information from that data. You can have terabytes of data, but unless you're able to get it into a format that you can actually glean information from it, it isn't all that valuable to you.

How much of a differentiator is this in terms of solution providers and data storage?

As you look at our business over the years, it has morphed from being predominantly infrastructure. Today, our largest business segment is software and services. Many infrastructure partners frankly don't have a lot of good business software offerings for their client base … As hardware becomes more and more commodity-oriented, software and services is going to become more and more important for firms like ourselves. Being able to focus on adjacencies such as analytics, such as mobile, is a natural extension for us … It's a way for us to kind of grow business value with the roughly 4,500 clients we service.

How many of those clients do you feel could benefit from what Brightlight has to offer?

Literally, I think all of them could benefit from it. Realistically, we would need a lot more bandwidth to be effective at that. But our viewpoint is that at least several hundred of our clients we think will be able to engage with these services.