February 2, 2015
Shop Talk

Q&A with Barry Clapp, President & CEO, Centage Corp.

Barry Clapp, President and CEO, Centage Corp., Natick RESIDENCE: Shrewsbury EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Nichols; MBA, Babson

VIEW: Barry Clapp, President and CEO, Centage Corp., Natick

Centage Corp., the makers of budgeting and forecasting software Budget Maestro, for small and medium-sized businesses, is on a roll. Last year, it secured $9.5 million in "Series A" venture funding, acquired the maker of a business analytics tool that complements Budget Maestro, and in November, announced year-over-year revenue growth of 30 percent in the third quarter. Its president and CEO, Barry Clapp, having worked for IBM and other technology firms, has seen his share of industry change over the last 40 years.

You sell to small and mid-sized businesses. What need does Centage fill that larger companies don't have to fill?

Most small and medium-sized businesses budget using Excel. Larger companies have access to many sophisticated budgeting tools, from big software companies like SAP and Oracle, and so forth. But the SMB market is untapped (and) unfulfilled, and so we came along and developed a budgeting and planning tool for the SMB market to enable them to have the same power the big companies have.

Is there any particular functionality that you like your company's products to have that can help your clients?

In small businesses right now, all the information for them to manage their business and do their planning is trapped in these older, back-office systems. So what we do is enable them to pull that data out of the old systems and then look forward. Most people spend their time looking backwards at their business and trying to figure out what was going on. We help them to take the same information and look forward and (help them) to be able to better manage their business. What we're finding is that in small businesses, with the amount of competition that's going on these days and how fast the markets move, even the little guy needs to be as agile as the big people.

Centage recently announced continued adoption of Budget Maestro within the manufacturing industry. What is it about the manufacturing industry that has them coming to you? Is it the ongoing cost constraints and the demands of just-in-time (manufacturing)?

In manufacturing, you're really much more at risk because you have to buy 100 parts or 1,000 parts in order to assemble them … and especially if you're doing it in "just in time," you need to get all those parts together to build to the demand that you have. And then you need to sell them as fast as possible, or else your cash is tied up in inventory or receivables. So it's all about forecasting and planning perfectly so that you can anticipate how much cash you need in order to buy all the goods that you need to buy in order to fulfill your customers.

About a decade ago, business intelligence, or data analytics, tools were beginning to climb the list of priorities for corporate IT functions. Have they fulfilled their promise, or are they capable of more?

No, I think there's lots more. Business intelligence tools have really prospered in the large-market space. Not so much in the small and medium-sized business space, so that's one thing that's exciting to us, because our customers really haven't been able to take advantage of that. There's an opportunity in the small to medium-sized business space to really empower individual people.

Software companies come and go. What are the keys to sustainability and growth in that part of the technology industry?

Software companies that stick around — that you've seen for a long time — (are) listening to their customer base and they're developing new products and expanding their product base to satisfy the customers more.

Has training end-users on software become easier with the passage of time?

Productivity demands in the market have caused fewer people to do more work, and now the tools have gotten easier. So learning a software product in the '70s, '80s or '90s is different than learning a PC product, and younger people are adept at picking up a product right away and learning it.

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