Interview: Pentaho Exec Doug Johnson on His New Role as CFO

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 25, 2010

Open source business intelligence (BI) software vendor Pentaho recently named Doug Johnson as the company's new executive vice president and chief financial officer. With more than 20 years experience in an assortment of technology companies like Black Duck Software and Discreet Logic, Johnson brings strong business and leadership acumen to the table. Take a look at what he has to say about his new role with Pentaho, the challenges facing BI companies, and what open source app he'd most love to have.

OStatic: What areas of Pentaho will you focus on first in your new role?

Pentaho is at an exciting point in its life cycle. It is growing very rapidly and dominating the open source BI market. My first area of concentration will be to help the company prepare itself for that dramatic growth. We are building the operational expertise that is required to onboard and support thousands of companies using the Pentaho BI Suite.

OStatic: What are some challenges facing open source BI companies right now?

The most complicated issue facing BI companies, in my mind, is the need to provide superior operations. The more a company benefits from open source software development the more a company's differentiation revolves around the customer experience. The customer selects and remains with a specific open source company based on the customer experience since it is easier for competing companies to spring up in a market area where the existing companies do not provide that superior customer experience.

OStatic: Although your BI Suite is open source, you don't offer a community version like many of your competitors. Why not? Do you think that decision has helped or hurt adoption of your products?

Pentaho has invested a significant amount in developing a wide range of fully-functional business intelligence and data integration products. Our Enterprise Edition is used by enterprises looking for enterprise-specific features and superior customer service.

OStatic: As CFO, will you be more accountable to your investors or to the customer base? How will you meet the expectations of both?

A CFO must be accountable to both the investors and the customers. Through my operational role, I have to help the company provide the customer with an exceptional experience. It has always been my experience that a company that provides the customer with an exceptional experience will ultimately make the investors very happy.

OStatic: Is it more difficult to work at the executive level of a company that produces open source products over one that creates strictly commercial products? It seems like the open source nature of the business would add another layer of complexity.

There are major advantages to a commercial open source model. Having a massive developer community ensures rapid innovation and exceptional quality assurance that proprietary vendors cannot match without significant investment. It also allows commercial open source providers to deliver exceptional products at a fraction of the cost of proprietary vendors. Aside from winning business from established vendors, it also opens up new markets altogether that were never viable for proprietary vendors. As a CFO, one of the challenges becomes how to handle large numbers of transactions at lower average selling prices. It also requires us to focus on operational improvements in areas like customer on-boarding and support.

OStatic: I note you live on a 50-foot trawler. What would your dream open source boating app do?

I would love to get hold of an open source maintenance system to help me maintain the 10 different systems I have on board. I currently pay for a commercial software package to do that. To my knowledge there are no open source packages available. Yet.