All systems go

Longview has a way for companies to bring all their disparate data together.

As forces like Sarbanes-Oxley put pressure on large companies to get financials out more quickly–and accurately–Longview Solutions of Markham, Ont., is gaining converts to its software, which helps integrate disparate data. “We've coined the phrase 'Return on integrity,'” says CEO Matt Townley.

Longview provides corporate performance management (CPM) software that, according to Townley, can “seamlessly pull together” planning, budgeting, forecasting, strategic tax and regulatory compliance figures. The goal: to allow companies to make decisions based on one set of accurate data. Often, different types of information are found on a wide range of systems, from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to applications from Peoplesoft, Oracle and SAP. The result? Data don't always match up or translate from one system to another. Longview's software, however, “sits on top” of other systems and converts the data into one source. “If you can create common drivers of information in one source, and it's trusted and correct, everyone can view it and use it from their own chair,” says Townley. They can also save time.

Longview, which had revenue of US$25 million in its last fiscal year, may be small in comparison to other CPM players–notably Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hyperion, Ottawa-based Cognos and Stamford, Conn.-based OutlookSoft. But billion-dollar global companies, including Time Warner, Cisco Systems and Maple Leaf Foods, have been lining up for its software. Longview recently got top marks in Business Finance Magazine's Business Performance Management Software Buyers Guide, based on research conducted by BPM Partners, a vendor-neutral consulting firm. The guide, which compared 58 business management software vendors, noted: “As one of the few truly unified solutions, Longview can effectively compete with the big guys.”

Longview's software is an outgrowth of algorithmic work done by Imperial Oil in the late 1980s, which was originally created for internal use, then spun off into a separate division. When Imperial decided to shed some non-core assets, it sold the business (not then known as Longview) in 1995 to company founder Len Adams, a former Magna Inc. executive who had worked with the software extensively and saw its commercial potential.

Townley, who had 13 years of management experience at Shared Medical Systems, a US$1.5-billion provider of health information systems based in Philadelphia, came on board as president and CEO in 1997. Since then, Longview has grown from 12 customers and 55 employees to its current roster of 150 clients and 230 staff members. It now has an international presence, with satellites in Montreal, Philadelphia (where Townley is based), Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, London, Madrid and Milan. Longview's main target is large, blue-chip companies–with annual revenues of US$500 million and up–that have outgrown legacy systems or applications such as Excel and need what Townley calls more “integrated sophistication.”

Townley says Longview has grown at an average of about 30% a year. But it has been relatively modest in building out its business, not wanting to grow too quickly to provide superior service. It has been adding about 25 to 30 new clients each year.

Now the company is looking to go public in the near future–“when the market is ready,” says Townley–in order to embark on an aggressive expansion plan in both North America and Europe. Longview plans to use any funds it raises to focus on branding and building market awareness. Once potential clients and future investors realize the size and calibre of companies now turning to Longview for solutions, Townley says he is confident those with a “long view” will see the company's growth potential.