Stibo – the oldest software company?

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There are not many companies that are more than 200 years old that develop and market software but Stibo, which is a Danish company founded in 1794, is one of them. Nor is Stibo by any means a small company, with 800 staff and annual turnover of $180m. However, it is not Stibo that I want to discuss but Stibo Catalog, which has been in existence for a mere 31 years and which is, despite the fact that most people won’t have heard of them, a significant vendor within the product information management (PIM) sector of the master data management (MDM) market. And when I say significant I mean 100+ customers, which certainly makes Stibo the leading vendor after the likes of SAP, Oracle and IBM.

So, how come Stibo Catalog has been so successful (and has offices across Europe, in the United States and Singapore), without anyone hearing about them?

The short answer can be gleaned from the company’s name: it originally specialised in printed catalogues, making these easier and more efficient to produce based on database technology (in which relevant product details, descriptions and images were held) linked to desktop publishing. From here it is not difficult to imagine how the company progressed into the PIM space. Needless to say it initially focused on upgrading its existing user base, which was primarily in the distribution market. However, in the past few years it has gained significant traction in the manufacturing, retail and travel industries. In all cases the company tends to focus on the largest enterprises within these sectors. Major customers include well-known brands in consumer electronics, manufacturing, distribution, mail order and travel.

The longer answer is that Stibo Catalog’s product STEP (which is currently in version 5.0) is much more than just a PIM product. Certainly it provides all the sorts of things one would expect from PIM: synchronisation with front-office ERP applications, collaborative authoring, unlimited support for hierarchical views, data quality through a partnership with Silver Creek, and so on. It runs on top of an Oracle database though this is not visible (in the sense of needing to manage it) by the user. It works with products, suppliers (in terms of their relationships with products) and locations, both in terms of physical locations but also with respect to localisation.

However, in addition to this, the product also includes document management, digital asset management (for images, movies and sound files), web publishing, document authoring, a language manager (single and double byte) and multi-lingual publishing, workflow and integration with both QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign, merchandising planning and analysis capabilities, and automated indexing, amongst others. In other words, while PIM is at the heart of the STEP solution and the other facilities are all options, in its entirety STEP is a complete solution for multi-channel product marketing and publishing.

The core component of STEP provides product management, merchandise planning, document management and authoring, digital asset management, workflow management and appropriate APIs. Then there are some 19 optional modules that provide all of the product’s additional capabilities. In other words you can start with an extended PIM solution (even the core product has more capability than most PIM solutions) and then you can extend it a variety of ways, as required. While this doesn’t really explain why the company is so little known it certainly does explain why it has been as successful as it has and why you should be looking at it.