Crystal Decision Expert Craig Todd
|This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has
an exclusive interview with Craig Todd, Senior
Program Manager, OEM, Crystal Decisions Inc.
(formerly Seagate Software).
Q: Craig, you are considered by many as the foremost
expert in Crystal Decision products which are
integrated into so many offerings from other major
software vendors. It’s a real privilege to have you
with us. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.
A: Thanks for the compliment Stephen, although I’ve
never really considered myself an “expert” before.
We have so many very talented individuals at Crystal
Decisions, so I really think of myself as one of the
Q: Craig, due to the need for your expertise, it’s
hard to track you down since you travel so
extensively worldwide. Can you provide two
interesting stories from your global travels?
A: Isolating any two is really quite a challenge and
very often the stories tend to repeat themselves.
One story that stands out though occurred while
traveling to a meeting in Austin, Texas. My flight
was from Vancouver through Los Angeles and on to
Austin. Unfortunately, there was a massive storm
sweeping across the United States that day and the
flight was delayed over an hour. We flew south
through Mexico to try to outrun the storm.
Unfortunately, it beat us to Austin by about 5
minutes and just as we were about to land, we had to
pull the landing gear back up, abort our approach
and fly to Houston.
Originally, I would have been in Austin by 10:30
that night, but found myself in Houston at 2:30 in
the morning. Since there were no flights until 10:30
am, and needing to make my meeting the next day, I
rented a car and headed off through the middle of
Texas at 3:15 in the morning, armed with some strong
coffee and directions from a local gas station. As
the storm raged on around me, lightning crashed so
frequently that it lit the night sky like daylight,
and I considered the possibility that this was not
the best choice I had ever made. Three hours later,
I arrived safe and sound with enough time to catch a
cat-nap and a shower and made the meeting on time.
Q: Outside of your schooling, how did your career
evolve into your current position, what key
decisions did you make and what impact did they have
on your career?
A: I spent a number of years in retail sales and
sales management before finally deciding upon a
career in the IT Industry. The problem was, I had
never used a computer before and needed somewhere to
start. I got a job at Radio Shack, determining I
would be able to put my previous experience to good
use managing stores while taking advantage of the
opportunity to learn about computers on the job.
Once I had what I felt was a good grounding in the
technology, I quit my job to return to school full
time to pursue a formal education in Computer
Systems Management. Along the way, I picked up
Microsoft and Novell certifications and moved into
networking, ultimately working as an IT
Administrator and then Service and Support Manager
for a Vancouver-based ISV and Systems Integrator
before coming to Crystal. Each decision so far has
seemed to simply be a logical step.
Q: You have partnerships with so many computing
companies. Can you describe a few of these
relationships and how they are important to your
A: Crystal Decisions has a long history of
partnering with software companies incorporating our
best of breed reporting and analytic solutions in
their applications. We have long standing
relationships with companies like Microsoft, having
been included in their Visual Basic/Visual Studio
development products going back as far as 1993. This
particular relationship has culminated in the
development of a new customized version of Crystal
Reports specifically for the Visual Studio .Net
development suite. Crystal Reports for Visual
Studio.NET is installed as the default report
writing and analytic tool for developers building
.Net applications. Additionally, we have OEM
relationships with BaaN, PeopleSoft, SAP, IBM/Lotus,
Lawson Software, Hyperion Software and over 285
other Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that
choose to incorporate and redistribute our
These relationships have been a key part of the
growth and success of Crystal Decisions as they not
only provide an expanded distribution channel for
sales of products like Crystal Reports and Crystal
Enterprise, but they also help establish us as a
standard in the marketplace as the reporting and
analytic tools of choice for the world’s leading
software companies. It says a great deal about the
functionality, quality and usability of a product
when world leaders across multiple vertical markets
choose Crystal Decisions’ products to provide their
Business Intelligence infrastructure.
Q: Can you provide a brief overview of your products
and services and their respective target markets?
A: Crystal Decisions, formerly known as Seagate
Software, is an information infrastructure company
founded in Vancouver, BC in 1984. We produce
Information Management tools to assist companies in
bringing together their two most important assets:
people and information.
There are four main product families: Crystal
Reports, Crystal Enterprise, Crystal Analysis and
Crystal Applications. Crystal Reports allows users
to create powerful and interactive reports from
virtually any datasource and publish them to the web
using the Crystal Enterprise platform. The Crystal
Analysis product family includes a powerful,
scalable, multidimensional OLAP server called
Crystal Holos and a dynamic report writer for OLAP
datasources called Crystal Analysis Professional.
Like Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis Professional
allows users to publish their reports to the web
using Crystal Enterprise. Crystal Applications are
analytic applications like Balanced Scorecard, KPI
Scorecard, eTelecom Analysis and others that allow
for interactive business analysis using data mining
tools and techniques. All of these technologies are
brought to the web using Crystal Enterprise, a
scalable, secure, fault tolerant platform for
information analysis and delivery. Crystal
Enterprise also allows you to easily integrate
reporting and analysis into web-based applications,
intranets, extranets, portals and wireless
applications using our flexible software developers’
The target markets for Crystal Decisions’ products
are really split across three distinct groups:
Business Users, IT Analysts and Developers. Everyone
needs access to information and we develop products
to break down any barriers to that access. We
develop our products with key features to appeal to
and assist each of the members of our target markets
in making better business decisions every day with
Our Crystal Services Organization includes over 300
consultants, trainers and certified consulting and
training partners that assist in product training,
implementation, design and development and our
Crystal Care technical support specialists number
over 250 worldwide providing support services to our
Q: Where do you see your career evolving over time
and how do you plan to shape your role within the
company and to your clients, in the next two years.
A: My goal at Crystal Decisions has always been to
ensure our partners have a strong voice within our
company. When it comes to developing and enhancing
products, we understand that the voice of one
partner represents the needs of literally thousands
of end users and work to ensure we take the needs of
those partners to heart as we continue to evolve our
products. Additionally, our model is to develop very
long-standing relationships with each of our
partners. Many of our current OEM partners have been
Crystal partners for 5 years or more. We understand
that each one of them is making a long-term
investment in our company and we work hard to live
up to the faith they’ve shown in us. Quite frankly,
I think we do a pretty good job at it too!
My role in the company is that of a technical
liaison between Crystal Decisions’ OEM Partners and
a variety of internal groups at Crystal such as
Product Management, Research and Development,
Quality Assurance and Technical Support.
What I envision for the future is building a larger
team of technical resources within the Crystal to be
able to expand our relationships with our partners.
It only gets better from here!
Q: With your extensive worldwide experience, what
key technologies should IT professionals and
businesses introduce into their operations in a
year, two years, and five years?
A: The key technologies for success will be those
that allow an organization to cut costs and increase
productivity, revenue and profitability.
Business Intelligence spending is expected to grow
from $4 billion annually in 2002 to $10 billion
annually by 2006 and corporate data volumes are
growing exponentially. Those companies that are
building the framework for managing and analyzing
their corporate data and are taking the steps to
share that data with more decision makers on a daily
basis are going to lead their industries.
It’s not so much a question of specific technologies
to adopt as it is a question of making choices along
the way that allow you to do more with less, free up
key resources from unproductive tasks and empower
more people to make better decisions more often. The
ability to react quickly in a rapidly changing
market is critical. IT professionals need to
continually update their skills and take every
opportunity to read, study and be prepared for
Q: What are the five biggest problems areas/traps
that you see companies falling into and how can they
A: If I truly knew the answers to those questions,
I’d be running several large, successful
multi-national organizations by now! I think, as
hackneyed as it may sound, that failure to plan is
often one of the biggest mistakes any company can
make. Without a clear vision and plan for success,
companies waste time trying to get there.
Delivering on your promises, both internally to your
employees and externally to your partners and
customers alike is very important. The moment you
fail to deliver, fail to support and fail to
respond, you lose credibility. I’ll leave solving
the ills of the corporate world to the analysts and
continue to deliver tools they can use to analyze
and evaluate the past and plan for the future!
Q: Do you have any advice for both newly minted IT
professionals and seasoned veterans if they are
considering a change in their focus or careers? For
example, which areas they should target and how they
should go about gaining expertise in these areas?
A: My preference has always been to seek out formal
education and follow that on with self-learning.
This business requires that each and every one of us
is learning something new on a daily basis in order
to stay current or, better yet, one step ahead of
the competition. Personally, I have never sought to
restrict myself to a specific area of expertise but
rather, have been fortunate to have had the
opportunity to explore several different areas of
focus within the High Tech sector. Were I to focus
on a new area today, I would look to find something
that both challenges and interests me and then
evaluate the potential for a career. The best advice
I can think of is the advice my father offered me as
a teenager: “Find something you love to do and then
see if you can find someone to pay you for it.”
Q: What 10 tips can you provide to others that
helped you in your path to success? What would you
do different looking back in hindsight?
A: My 10 Tips for Success? That’s a tough one. Most
of them are things that we all know and, in reality,
the list is much longer than 10. Looking back at
where I’ve been and how I got to where I am now, I
think some of the following helped me get here:
Be honest. Be driven. Work hard. Fix your own
mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to ask
for what you want. Learn. Teach – one of the best
ways to learn something yourself is to teach it to
someone else. Laugh. Take risks. Love. Plan – but
not so much that you miss the opportunity in front
Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Each
choice we make in our lives is part of chain that
ultimately leads us to where are today. I’m happy
and challenged and making a difference where I am.
Had I made other choices along the way, everything
might be different. No, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: I can see that you’re an active professional and
that your work occupies much of your time. What are
your some ways you can relax?
A: Since I do travel a great deal, I try to focus on
spending as much time with my family as possible.
Whether the activity involves all of us attending my
son’s baseball game, riding our bicycles to a local
park or simply watching a movie together, we try to
enjoy one another’s company as much as we can. We
recently purchased a piano for the family and my son
and I are taking lessons. I find it restful to focus
on something that has no display screen, no wires,
and no batteries.
Q: If you were doing the interview, what two
interview questions would you ask of someone in your
position and what would be your answers?
A: Why computers? Why not medicine, law, art,
finance or some other career? What was it that drove
I think mostly it was a fascination with their
potential. I was mesmerized at a young age by video
games like Pong and Space Invaders and always drawn
to the displays of Commodore VIC20’s and Tandy
TRS80’s in the stores. Oddly enough though, I didn’t
own a computer until I was 27 years old. By then,
the industry had grown up to a point where I saw
career potential for myself in Systems Analysis
rather than programming.
What single change do you see that will affect the
IT industry and computers in general for the future?
I think the single biggest change is people. It
occurred to me while watching my son and daughter
use our home computer. Both of them have grown up
using computers from the time they could walk. They
have never known a world without the Internet. To
the children of today, the computer is an appliance.
To them, the computer is no different than a
telephone, a television or a toaster. They surf the
web, knowing that whatever they want to know is
available to them. The have no preconceived notions
about the technology involved. I think that this
will allow them to see beyond existing technologies
and build based on desire and imagination.
Q: It’s a blank slate, what added comments would you
like to give?
A: Simply that I am fortunate to be able to work in
such an exciting industry and to be associated with
such a growing and successful company.
Q: Thank you Craig for taking time out of your busy
schedule to be with us and sharing your knowledge,
vast experience, and wisdom.
A: It’s been my pleasure Stephen. Thanks for the