I co-founded Bedford Consulting in 2008. I was 24 years of age. Optimistic and naive in equal measure, I thought I knew everything but really, knew nothing. I remember, as if like yesterday, arriving home to Dublin to tell my long-suffering parents I had left my safe, secure job at Deloitte, my Dad’s face a picture of horror. Only years later I learnt his concern was more at the thought of me returning to live in the family home than any great concern for my future financial wellbeing or career path. Nearly 9 years later, I’m less naive but no less optimistic. I now have a team around me that can rival any other niche consultancy and can even give some of the Big 4 a run for their money. I have a sales engine which drives 30% year on year growth continually, and in my brother, Cathal, I have the perfect right hand man. We have completed 100’s of projects across some of the biggest companies in the UK, and indeed in the World. So why, in such a seemingly safe position, am I taking the monumental leap to become a single product focused organisation and abandon Cognos, the product on which we founded the business and has served us so well over the past 9 years?
Well to be honest, it’s not really that monumental a decision. Our business has naturally switched towards Anaplan over the last few years, since I first came across it in 2011. I would like to take the credit for some epiphany of thought, or a moment of clarity in the future direction of Bedford, but unfortunately the tale is slightly less romantic. I really turned up just to have a look. I was curious at best, and recognised some of the names involved from previous successful businesses in the Cognos space. That was it – no great entrepreneurial vision, or pivotal insight into the direction of business analytics, I was simply curious.
But for many years since, I’ve spoken of the light bulb moment that took place in that room – the first view of a very young Anaplan – no dashboards, model maps, no real layout functionality just an AMAZINGLY powerful and intuitive modelling platform in its early modular format. It was with childish glee that I greeted the technology, simple plain English logic (I was just starting to learn TM1 at the time), no servers, no installations, and I could build cubes as big as I liked. It might seem ridiculous now, but the first thing I did when I got access to the platform was to build a single HUGE module. Laughably, HUGE to me was 20million cells. And the second thing I did was to untick myself as a workspace admin and essentially lock myself out of my own model. Yep – the second thing I ever did in Anaplan was lock myself out. And this brings me on to another key reason, why moving to being a single product vendor is actually quite a simple decision. The people. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but in those days it was Guy Haddleton and Michael Gould who helped me get back into the model. Yep, that was their first impression of the young Bedford MD Neil Doyle – I locked myself out of my own model. But naturally they didn’t gloat, and hopefully both have subsequently forgotten this embarrassing incident (until now). However – working with Michael just recently in York on a multi million dollar project, reminded me how although the company has grown, it still maintains those core values which attracted me to the product originally. People who really know where the problems in our industry are and how to solve them. What causes us the biggest heartache and how they can build products to alleviate those problems. Business is simple really but the product team at Anaplan continue to astound me, release after release the product gets better and better. It’s now so far ahead of its rivals, and the products I used to work with, there is really only a single strong vendor in the market, and this situation will continue to play out for many years to come without a radical shake up at the larger competitors.
It's people who build companies, and the people I’ve worked with at Anaplan are some of the best. People such as UK MD Ian Stone, Partner Managers – Ed Hickling & Dominic Travis, CS Directors Simon Richie and Louis Peacock, the wonderful Jayne Goodman. Not all have been around from the start, but most have and it has been such a fantastic thing to watch from the outside. A company growing from nothing to Unicorn valuation in such a short space of time having been steered with such delicate hands. From Fred Laluyaux, handing over to James Budge & Paul Melchiorre you can see how the company has invested heavily in its people, and every day now we hear of more appointments of people with the experience and gravitas of those at the top of their game and with the ability to take the company to the next level.
And to my own team, a lot of whom have come from the old world and emerged into the light of Anaplan. They are with me on this journey and back my decision, we talk about it regularly, and of course there are some in my team who point out the things they prefer in other products. Old habits die hard. But that doesn’t get us away from the simple point that Anaplan is actually fun to work with as a whole package. During a recent sales hot house versus a competitor, I explained this to the potential client. How Anaplan was just more fun to work with – not surprisingly he looked at me like I had just landed from Mars. However, two days later having undergone the same PoC with another provider, he emailed me to say I was correct – it just wasn’t as fun as Anaplan. Now as a partner, how can you beat that! Having a product that people enjoy working with is gold dust, and makes our lives so much easier. By the way, that potential client signed up and went live within 2 weeks of our meeting. Happy Anaplanning!
So, we move forward into a new world – a single product consultancy and reseller. I am so excited about the future, about the wonderful team I have, the fantastic product we work with and the sheer possibilities that lie ahead. I’m excited for our customers, I’m excited to see what Anaplan can do for them, I’m excited to see how it can help them reclaim their time and enjoy their jobs that little bit more. The new world is bright, and I for one cannot wait.