You don’t have to talk to Scott Smith for long to realize a common thread connects much of the career of the CEO of InQuisient — a desire to help decision makers make better decisions.
InQuisient is a small company in the government market, but it is taking on a big issue – helping CIOs, program managers and others collect and decipher the vast amounts of data they have and put it to good use.
“Our mission is to enable our customers to make decisions with data that is accurate and realtime,” he told me.
The company started with a tool focused on enterprise architecture, and from there it has expanded into portfolio management, asset management, strategic planning and a tool specific to managing FITARA requirements.
Smith became InQuisient CEO after serving on the board for several years. The company has transformed itself from a consulting firm to a software company. While they do not disclose revenue figures, the company’s head count has grown 50 percent over the past two years.
Most of its customers are in the classified portions of the defense and intelligence sector, he said.
It also has formed alliances with Carahsoft, which holds its GSA Schedule, BDNA, which is integrating its Technopedia product into InQuisient’s (more on that later), and systems integrator OG Systems. There also have been other integrator partners at specific agencies, Smith said.
“The space we play in is enterprise data management and the key thing we do is help large, federated organizations that have disparate systems pull data from all of those sources into one place,” he said.
The result is a central data repository, from which reports can be pulled and better decisions can be made, Smith said.
He described one case where a colonel was overseeing 13 different projects worth $1 billion. “When her two-star asked for an update, she’d have to scramble and go to her 13 project managers and get updates from their spreadsheets,” he said.
That takes a lot of time, and there is little assurance about how current or accurate the data is.
Headquarters: Reston, Va.
FITARA A-Plus Module
IQ Portfolio Insight
IQ Strategic Planner
Data Call Central
IG Assessment Data Collection
Scott Smith, CEO
Randy DeWoolfson, founder and chief innovation officer
Randy Ridley, SVP, sales and operations
Sandy Levine, chief marketing officer
Mark Schmeets, VP, development
Stephen Pipino, VP, solution services
“With our tool, all of that information becomes real time and at her fingertips,” Smith said.
The InQuisient tool taps into Oracle products many of its customers are already using. “The data is already there, and we enable the customer to use that data in a more productive manner,” Smith said.
The partnership with BDNA and its Technopedia product brings more depth to InQuisient’s tools.
“This is a big deal for us because they have the repository of data and information on IT products, their life expectancy, whether they are still supported, etc.,” he said. “That data is fed into InQuisient and you can make decisions on what needs to be phased out, how much longer you should keep something or what is still supported.”
For example, the InQuisient tool can identify how many laptops a customer has running Microsoft XP, and the Technopedia data can help you identify which ones need an upgrade or which ones need to be retired.
“The BDNA data comes into our tool and helps the decision maker prioritize his spend,” Smith said. “It adds another dimension to the importance of the data and how to use it.”
The crux of what InQuisient is doing isn’t very far removed from earlier parts of Smith’s career. When he was at Xerox, he made the transition from sales to working on process improvement projects. “A light went off inside me,” he said. He started studying and learning all he could.
He was using flip charts – this was the late 1980s – to help customers get a better understanding of what they needed and how process improvements could be implemented. Then in 1992, he ran into an old friend at a reunion who was attacking the same problem but using software. By coincidence they were on the same flight back to Los Angeles from Boston. They sat together and kept sketching out their ideas on cocktail napkins.
In 1992, they launched Holosofx Inc., and 10 years later, sold it to IBM as the start of their workflow engine, he said.
From there he went to another company that also was involved in business process management. He helped them restructure. Then, he took an early retirement in 2006, except for joining the board and serving as chairman of the executive committee of InQuisient, which was then called Enterprise Elements.
“I invested, and I was active, and there came a point when they needed some additional coaching and leadership,” he said.
The company rebranded and doubled down on its move from being a consulting firm to being a software company. The company’s founder and technology guru, Randy DeWoolfson, is still with the company and is its chief innovation officer.
Smith sees the company’s roots as a consulting firm as an advantage.
“Products grow as a result of customer requirements and the best way to capture those requirements is by living and breathing with the customer and understanding their objectives and pain points,” he said. “We started with the customer and built from there.”
During their consulting work – which was primarily with intelligence agencies – they saw a repeatable pattern of the challenges they were facing in managing their enterprise architecture.
“We also wanted to figure out how to get to more customers and that was by taking what we were doing, fine tuning it and making it a product,” he said.
With a few years under their belts, the products keep coming. From their base product IQ Architect, which focuses on EA, the company has recently added IQ Portfolio Insight, IQ Strategic Planner and a FITARA A-Plus module. The products are quickly deployed and accessed via a browser.
The strategic planner is the newest and helps customers map what they are doing – and this can be IT related or asset management or project management – and connect those activities back to strategic goals.
“You need greater insight into what you are spending and why and how it maps back to your mission,” Smith said.
The risk InQuisient is trying to help its customers mitigate is making decisions with bad data. “Especially in today’s world where decisions are made in a split second. You have to be mission ready,” he said.
It is also interesting to hear Smith describe the products, how they bring insights and how they are visual in nature because Smith is blind. He can’t see the product or its graphics capabilities.
“You don’t have to have sight to really see and understand the pain points,” Smith said.
Smith was a rising tennis player in his early 20s when he learned he was losing his vision.
“I had no plans to get into technology. I was going to be a tennis pro but I had to figure something out,” he said. “A disability is a way to create another ability moving forward.”
He credits his mid-western family roots. “My folks are amazing, hardworking individuals,” he said. “I was taught early in life that if you can’t get somewhere in one direction then you find another direction.”
That’s what led him to take on sales positions at IBM and then Xerox. His successes – he led the team that sold the first desktop laser printer and copier for Xerox – often had people joking, “Can you really see?”
“My ability is really not through my eyes but from what I sense and feel,” he said. “You can instinctively pull what you need based on conversations with others and through building relationships with people.”