If this year’s Branham award nominees share a common thread, it’s stubbornness.

There’s a recognition that IT solutions and services are a tough sell, but also a willingness to go ahead and do it anyway. The companies

are not just successful, but successful in spite of an ailing economy.

“”Immaterial of what is going on in the economy, we are continuing to grow at the pace we had predicted, or faster than we had predicted,”” says Amin Rawji, executive vice-president, Matrikon Inc. — which along with CGI Group Inc. and Platform Computing Inc. is one of the nominees for company of the year.

ITBusiness.ca spoke to five of this year’s nominees, asking them to share their formula for success and why they believe they’ve got Branham’s attention this year. The awards will be handed out Thursday evening at a gala ceremony in Toronto.


Transformation Company of the Year:

Changepoint Corp., Richmond Hill, Ont.
Chuck Tatham, vice-president of marketing and development

Changepoint has thrived this year by re-inventing itself. The company sells business process automation and business intelligence tools to professional services organizations, consulting companies, and IT departments.

It started out by going after small to medium-sized businesses. “”That’s where we cut our teeth,”” says Tatham. But the dot-com downturn saw many of these companies disappear, so Changepoint climbed a few rungs of the corporate ladder.

“”We were in a position where we had to take some pretty drastic action with respect to our business model,”” says Tatham. “”Rather than being a vendor to smaller organizations to make a shift to go after the very largest service organizations in the world, because there was still some ability to spend.””

Changepoint retooled its software, revised its marketing plan and has since signed up clients like Microsoft and NCR. “”I think what impressed Branham in all of this is that we were able to successfully do that in this down market.””


Up and Comer of the Year — Product:

iPerceptions Inc., Montreal
Jerry Tarasofsky, CEO

The key to Web marketing is simplicity, according to Tarasofsky. His company provides corporate intranets, portals and consumer Web sites with a tool to gauge customer reaction by asking them five short questions that appear on a pop-up window.

“”We’ve developed a framework that is based on the psychological behaviour of a buyer,”” says Tarasofsky. By keeping the questions short, he says the pop-ups received an eight to 15 per cent rate of returns, and 90 per cent of people who start the survey finish it.

Clients of iPerceptions are also furnished with a tool to analyze the results of the completed surveys. “”The day after it’s finished, the client has a very easy way to slice and dice (data) in a very easy format.””

A Walt Disney Web site, for example, received 10,000 responses, and a Toronto Stock Exchange site received 3,000. “”It’s the typical thing: you can’t succeed in business unless you listen to your users,”” he says.


Up and Comer of the Year — Service:

Questcom Consulting Inc., Ottawa
Marc Sigouin, president

Sigouin used to be a Deloitte consultant; now his former employer is one of his clients.

He started his whole consulting firm just over a year ago, offering planning and strategy services, as well as technology implementations and infrastructure planning. In his words, “”I essentially took the Deloitte consulting model and shrunk it down.””

Questcom recently completed a voice-over-IP implementation for Deloitte’s Ottawa office using Mitel Networks equipment (another of Sigouin’s clients). Other Deloitte offices may follow suit, says Sigouin.

Sigouin says he isn’t afraid of the large consulting companies out there, because his 12-person staff — made up of Deloitte and Andersen consulting veterans — can respond faster than the big guys. “”The clients still get the very high quality of deliverables, but we’re able to compete a little bit better on pricing,”” he says.

“”I still do a lot of the projects and so do my other partners, so we have quite a vested interest in ensuring the clients are happy. What you see is what you get with us.””

Sigouin is planning to add five to 10 consultants to his practice by next spring.


Up and Comer of the Year — Product:

Tomoye Corp., Hull, Que.
John Mertl, president and CEO

Tomoye provides software to companies so “”the organization knows what it knows.””

This isn’t a Dr. Seuss riddle, but the result of Tomoye’s collaborative software so “”the right hand of that organization knows what the left hand is doing,”” says Mertl.

John Deere, perhaps best known for manufacturing lawn-mowers, and public relations firm Hill & Knowlton are among Tomoye clients that now know what they know.

Lately, the company has sold its solution to the U.S. government, including the department of defense and the Inland Revenue Service, and departments within the Canadian federal government.

Tomoye is just below breaking even, says Mertl, but has achieved 30 per cent quarter over quarter growth rates on the little capital it was able to raise from venture capitalists. The company’s performance over the last year has attracted interest from other investors, says Mertl, and he anticipates more financing.

“”We’re essentially a boot-strapped start-up. . . We beat our budgets and our targets for the last two years running.””


Company of the Year:

Matrikon Inc., Edmonton
Amin Rawji, executive vice-president

Matrikon solves problems that sound like they could have been caused by Homer Simpson.

“”I have walked into plants where operators have taken a toothpick and stuck it into the ‘acknowledge’ button,”” says Rawji. “”Because there are so many alarms occurring, there is no way they can keep up with it.””

Matrikon sells process control and automation software to manufacturing facilities like refineries and chemical and food processing plants. One of the biggest problems they face is the number of alarms that go off on a daily basis, he says. Operators can handle 200 or 300 alarms a day — not the 5,000 to 30,000 they receive. Matrikon’s Process Guard software helps separate the minor alarms from the potential catastrophes to make the manufacturing process more manageable.

Process automation tools will also help these clients face personnel issues. Rawji says a lot of plants are losing experienced workers through retirement, but aren’t necessarily replacing them due to budget squeezes.

“”We’ve entered the market at the right time and our products have matured. We are actually in the infancy of the type of growth we will see.””

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