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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Pitney Bowes is best known for its mailing services. Not surprisingly, given the prevalence of electronic forms of communication, it is slowly losing business in the SMB (but not the enterprise) space. However, both the SMB and enterprise clients are target companies for Pitney Bowes Digital Commerce division, which is its software arm.
Pitney Bowes has been acquiring software companies for a decade or more. And, with the notable exception of MapInfo, it has historically failed to capitalise adequately on those resources. However, last year the company hired a new chief executive, recruited from IBM, with specific expertise in marketing software solutions to the SMB sector. His challenge is formidable: according to Pitney Bowes’ own figures, over 70% of companies are aware that the company provides mail room equipment but less than 5% are aware that the company is in the software business. Nevertheless, things appear to be working, with software sales growing in excess of 20% per quarter in each of the last three quarters. And with an increased focus on software sales and marketing (recruitment has been significant) this trend is likely to continue and probably increase.
So, what does the company market in software terms? As a range of products, it is probably best thought of as a confluence between data management and customer focused solutions. On the data management side the focus is on MDM (master data management) for customers, where it has a particularly interesting solution because it is built on top of a graph database that allows you to explore non-obvious customer relationships. Underpinning this product (and others), the company has its own data quality and data integration (the former Sagent product) software. Though most readers probably don’t know it, Pitney Bowes has a significant share of the data quality market (the focus is on name and address cleansing) with some 15% of the market but 85% of its client base is in the United States, so a significant part of the company’s strategy is to focus greater efforts in other regions.
Where Pitney Bowes is most well-known is for anything to do with location-based intelligence. MapInfo is a leading brand in this space and it integrates with or is embedded within many third party applications or products. Extensions from Pitney Bowes include solutions for location-based asset management and in logistics.
Thirdly, there are customer engagement (the 2.0 version of customer relationship management) and campaign management solutions, where the most significant acquisition was that of Portrait Software back in 2010. This provides the ability to do things like predictive customer analytics such as propensity modelling. You’d have to do a comparative analysis of the data mining capabilities of the respective products to be sure, but for customer intelligence Pitney Bowes looks like a serious competitor to SAS and IBM (SPSS) in this area.
Anyway, that’s a quick overview. There’s a lot more: for example, the company is doing some cool things with interactive video, it has anti-fraud applications, and more. I’m much more impressed with the company than I was, say a year ago. Historically it couldn’t market its way out of a paper bag in software terms—at least not over here, the other side of the pond things may have been different—but with the new CEO in place things seem to have radically changed and the company looks like one to reckon with if you are at all concerned about customers—and who isn’t?