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Crystal Decision Expert Craig
Interview by S. Ibaraki, I.S.P.
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Craig
Todd, Senior Program Manager, OEM, Crystal Decisions Inc. (formerly Seagate
Q: Craig, you are considered by many as the foremost expert in Crystal
Decision products which are integrated into so many offerings from other
major software vendors. Itís a real privilege to have you with us. Thank you
for agreeing to this interview.
A: Thanks for the compliment Stephen, although Iíve never really considered
myself an ďexpertĒ before. We have so many very talented individuals at
Crystal Decisions, so I really think of myself as one of the team.
Q: Craig, due to the need for your expertise, itís hard to track you down
since you travel so extensively worldwide. Can you provide two interesting
stories from your global travels?
A: Isolating any two is really quite a challenge and very often the stories
tend to repeat themselves.
One story that stands out though occurred while traveling to a meeting in
Austin, Texas. My flight was from Vancouver through Los Angeles and on to
Austin. Unfortunately, there was a massive storm sweeping across the United
States that day and the flight was delayed over an hour. We flew south
through Mexico to try to outrun the storm. Unfortunately, it beat us to
Austin by about 5 minutes and just as we were about to land, we had to pull
the landing gear back up, abort our approach and fly to Houston.
Originally, I would have been in Austin by 10:30 that night, but found myself
in Houston at 2:30 in the morning. Since there were no flights until 10:30
am, and needing to make my meeting the next day, I rented a car and headed
off through the middle of Texas at 3:15 in the morning, armed with some
strong coffee and directions from a local gas station. As the storm raged on
around me, lightning crashed so frequently that it lit the night sky like
daylight, and I considered the possibility that this was not the best choice
I had ever made. Three hours later, I arrived safe and sound with enough time
to catch a cat-nap and a shower and made the meeting on time.
Q: Outside of your schooling, how did your career evolve into your current
position, what key decisions did you make and what impact did they have on
A: I spent a number of years in retail sales and sales management before
finally deciding upon a career in the IT Industry. The problem was, I had
never used a computer before and needed somewhere to start. I got a job at
Radio Shack, determining I would be able to put my previous experience to
good use managing stores while taking advantage of the opportunity to learn
about computers on the job. Once I had what I felt was a good grounding in
the technology, I quit my job to return to school full time to pursue a
formal education in Computer Systems Management. Along the way, I picked up
Microsoft and Novell certifications and moved into networking, ultimately
working as an IT Administrator and then Service and Support Manager for a
Vancouver-based ISV and Systems Integrator before coming to Crystal. Each
decision so far has seemed to simply be a logical step.
Q: You have partnerships with so many computing companies. Can you describe a
few of these relationships and how they are important to your company?
A: Crystal Decisions has a long history of partnering with software companies
incorporating our best of breed reporting and analytic solutions in their
applications. We have long standing relationships with companies like
Microsoft, having been included in their Visual Basic/Visual Studio development
products going back as far as 1993. This particular relationship has
culminated in the development of a new customized version of Crystal Reports
specifically for the Visual Studio .Net development suite. Crystal Reports
for Visual Studio.NET is installed as the default report writing and analytic
tool for developers building .Net applications. Additionally, we have OEM
relationships with BaaN, PeopleSoft, SAP, IBM/Lotus, Lawson Software,
Hyperion Software and over 285 other Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that
choose to incorporate and redistribute our solutions.
These relationships have been a key part of the growth and success of Crystal
Decisions as they not only provide an expanded distribution channel for sales
of products like Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise, but they also help
establish us as a standard in the marketplace as the reporting and analytic
tools of choice for the worldís leading software companies. It says a great
deal about the functionality, quality and usability of a product when world
leaders across multiple vertical markets choose Crystal Decisionsí products
to provide their Business Intelligence infrastructure.
Q: Can you provide a brief overview of your products and services and their
respective target markets?
A: Crystal Decisions, formerly known as Seagate Software, is an information
infrastructure company founded in Vancouver, BC in 1984. We produce
Information Management tools to assist companies in bringing together their
two most important assets: people and information.
There are four main product families: Crystal Reports, Crystal Enterprise,
Crystal Analysis and Crystal Applications. Crystal Reports allows users to
create powerful and interactive reports from virtually any datasource and
publish them to the web using the Crystal Enterprise platform. The Crystal
Analysis product family includes a powerful, scalable, multidimensional OLAP
server called Crystal Holos and a dynamic report writer for OLAP datasources
called Crystal Analysis Professional. Like Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis
Professional allows users to publish their reports to the web using Crystal
Enterprise. Crystal Applications are analytic applications like Balanced
Scorecard, KPI Scorecard, eTelecom Analysis and others that allow for interactive
business analysis using data mining tools and techniques. All of these
technologies are brought to the web using Crystal Enterprise, a scalable,
secure, fault tolerant platform for information analysis and delivery.
Crystal Enterprise also allows you to easily integrate reporting and analysis
into web-based applications, intranets, extranets, portals and wireless
applications using our flexible software developersí kit.
The target markets for Crystal Decisionsí products are really split across three
distinct groups: Business Users, IT Analysts and Developers. Everyone needs
access to information and we develop products to break down any barriers to
that access. We develop our products with key features to appeal to and
assist each of the members of our target markets in making better business
decisions every day with their data.
Our Crystal Services Organization includes over 300 consultants, trainers and
certified consulting and training partners that assist in product training,
implementation, design and development and our Crystal Care technical support
specialists number over 250 worldwide providing support services to our
Q: Where do you see your career evolving over time and how do you plan to
shape your role within the company and to your clients, in the next two
A: My goal at Crystal Decisions has always been to ensure our partners have a
strong voice within our company. When it comes to developing and enhancing
products, we understand that the voice of one partner represents the needs of
literally thousands of end users and work to ensure we take the needs of
those partners to heart as we continue to evolve our products. Additionally,
our model is to develop very long-standing relationships with each of our
partners. Many of our current OEM partners have been Crystal partners for 5
years or more. We understand that each one of them is making a long-term
investment in our company and we work hard to live up to the faith theyíve
shown in us. Quite frankly, I think we do a pretty good job at it too!
My role in the company is that of a technical liaison between Crystal
Decisionsí OEM Partners and a variety of internal groups at Crystal such as
Product Management, Research and Development, Quality Assurance and Technical
What I envision for the future is building a larger team of technical
resources within the Crystal to be able to expand our relationships with our
partners. It only gets better from here!
Q: With your extensive worldwide experience, what key technologies should IT
professionals and businesses introduce into their operations in a year, two
years, and five years?
A: The key technologies for success will be those that allow an organization
to cut costs and increase productivity, revenue and profitability.
Business Intelligence spending is expected to grow from $4 billion annually
in 2002 to $10 billion annually by 2006 and corporate data volumes are
growing exponentially. Those companies that are building the framework for
managing and analyzing their corporate data and are taking the steps to share
that data with more decision makers on a daily basis are going to lead their
Itís not so much a question of specific technologies to adopt as it is a
question of making choices along the way that allow you to do more with less,
free up key resources from unproductive tasks and empower more people to make
better decisions more often. The ability to react quickly in a rapidly
changing market is critical. IT professionals need to continually update
their skills and take every opportunity to read, study and be prepared for
Q: What are the five biggest problems areas/traps that you see companies
falling into and how can they be resolved?
A: If I truly knew the answers to those questions, Iíd be running several
large, successful multi-national organizations by now! I think, as hackneyed
as it may sound, that failure to plan is often one of the biggest mistakes
any company can make. Without a clear vision and plan for success, companies waste
time trying to get there.
Delivering on your promises, both internally to your employees and externally
to your partners and customers alike is very important. The moment you fail
to deliver, fail to support and fail to respond, you lose credibility. Iíll
leave solving the ills of the corporate world to the analysts and continue to
deliver tools they can use to analyze and evaluate the past and plan for the
Q: Do you have any advice for both newly minted IT professionals and seasoned
veterans if they are considering a change in their focus or careers? For
example, which areas they should target and how they should go about gaining
expertise in these areas?
A: My preference has always been to seek out formal education and follow that
on with self-learning. This business requires that each and every one of us
is learning something new on a daily basis in order to stay current or,
better yet, one step ahead of the competition. Personally, I have never
sought to restrict myself to a specific area of expertise but rather, have
been fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore several different areas
of focus within the High Tech sector. Were I to focus on a new area today, I
would look to find something that both challenges and interests me and then
evaluate the potential for a career. The best advice I can think of is the
advice my father offered me as a teenager: ďFind something you love to do and
then see if you can find someone to pay you for it.Ē
Q: What 10 tips can you provide to others that helped you in your path to
success? What would you do different looking back in hindsight?
A: My 10 Tips for Success? Thatís a tough one. Most of them are things that
we all know and, in reality, the list is much longer than 10. Looking back at
where Iíve been and how I got to where I am now, I think some of the
following helped me get here:
Be honest. Be driven. Work hard. Fix your own mistakes and learn from them.
Donít be afraid to ask for what you want. Learn. Teach Ė one of the best ways
to learn something yourself is to teach it to someone else. Laugh. Take
risks. Love. Plan Ė but not so much that you miss the opportunity in front of
Looking back, I wouldnít change anything. Each choice we make in our lives is
part of chain that ultimately leads us to where are today. Iím happy and
challenged and making a difference where I am. Had I made other choices along
the way, everything might be different. No, I wouldnít change a thing.
Q: I can see that youíre an active professional and that your work occupies
much of your time. What are your some ways you can relax?
A: Since I do travel a great deal, I try to focus on spending as much time
with my family as possible. Whether the activity involves all of us attending
my sonís baseball game, riding our bicycles to a local park or simply
watching a movie together, we try to enjoy one anotherís company as much as
we can. We recently purchased a piano for the family and my son and I are
taking lessons. I find it restful to focus on something that has no display
screen, no wires, and no batteries.
Q: If you were doing the interview, what two interview questions would you
ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: Why computers? Why not medicine, law, art, finance or some other career?
What was it that drove you here?
I think mostly it was a fascination with their potential. I was mesmerized at
a young age by video games like Pong and Space Invaders and always drawn to
the displays of Commodore VIC20ís and Tandy TRS80ís in the stores. Oddly
enough though, I didnít own a computer until I was 27 years old. By then, the
industry had grown up to a point where I saw career potential for myself in
Systems Analysis rather than programming.
What single change do you see that will affect the IT industry and computers
in general for the future?
I think the single biggest change is people. It occurred to me while watching
my son and daughter use our home computer. Both of them have grown up using
computers from the time they could walk. They have never known a world
without the Internet. To the children of today, the computer is an appliance.
To them, the computer is no different than a telephone, a television or a
toaster. They surf the web, knowing that whatever they want to know is available
to them. The have no preconceived notions about the technology involved. I
think that this will allow them to see beyond existing technologies and build
based on desire and imagination.
Q: Itís a blank slate, what added comments would you like to give?
A: Simply that I am fortunate to be able to work in such an exciting industry
and to be associated with such a growing and successful company.
Q: Thank you Craig for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us
and sharing your knowledge, vast experience, and wisdom.
A: Itís been my pleasure Stephen. Thanks for the opportunity.