Q&A: Annette Dow, CEO, BRI

Binary Research International (BRI) is a provider of Software Support Services and solutions. It’s also the brains behind the world’s first software cloning utility, Ghost. In June of 1998, as the result of Symantec announcing the acquisition of Binary Research, BRI was spun off into an independent, privately-owned company which continues to sell and support Symantec Ghost. BRI is still considered to be the prime repository of Symantec Ghost sales knowledge. We spoke to the company’s CEO, Annette Dow, to find out more about this innovative company.

Tell us a bit about your job role
Possibly contrary to popular opinion, being the CEO and part-owner of a small company is NOT about sitting in your office drinking coffee, going to meetings, having lunch and issuing edicts. What I should be doing and what needs to be done don’t always match on a daily basis. Ideally, my role is about growing the business, working with developers, finding new products, planning and strategising, ensuring we have an expert and well-supported team, giving leadership and direction, energy…

The reality (and part of what makes it fun) is that most days, in addition to those tasks, I “get my hands dirty”. I have to know how to do almost every job within the company because, when we are really busy or someone is out sick, guess who helps to fill in. But my bottom-line responsibility is to ensure that we, as a company, are doing a superb job for the developers who entrust their products to us, that our personnel are well rewarded for their commitment to the company and that the company is being managed in an ethical and responsible manner.

I recall someone saying that being an owner of a company means you only have to work half days. That’s not wrong―bearing in mind that there are 12 hours in half a day and seven days in a week! That pretty much sums it up. So if you don’t have passion for what you and your company does―forget it!

What does a ‘provider of Software Support Services and Solutions’ do?
Well, we started life as the worldwide technical support and marketing arm for the NZ office which developed the “Ghost” cloning software (now Symantec Ghost). We now focus on two areas. Firstly, we seek out small software developers around the world who have great/innovative products (usually within the network utility space).

We partner with the developer and work to get the product ready for market (technical documentation, marketing and PR material, training development, market intelligence―whatever is needed). These are usually exclusive, worldwide distribution agreements. Then we release it to market, using our sales and support teams in the USA and our channel of resale partners worldwide―and then the work really begins.

Secondly, we have firmly positioned ourselves in the cloning, migration and deployment space. This is what we know best. In most cases this is reflected in the products we choose to distribute and is also the focus of our services team. We provide support, training development and delivery, and technical coaching (also known as “consulting”). Our coaching approach to consulting ensures that our Customers gain the knowledge and skills required to be able to do the tasks by themselves in the future.)

What makes you excited about the workstation cloning industry?
I wouldn’t actually say that I am “excited” about workstation cloning, per se! I’m not a techie, so the concept/process of building a master image and then sending it out to hundreds or thousands of machines doesn’t exactly get my heart racing! What DOES interest me, from a business perspective, is the thousands of hours that Best-Practice cloning saves in Technicians’ time related to setting-up and maintaining machines. The ability that an Image gives to quickly recover machines from a critical situation or, worse, when a disaster strikes a company, is worth it’s weight in gold from efficiency, productivity and mental-health standpoints.

Are there any new trends in the marketplace?
If we are talking Technology itself, we know such grows exponentially. It feeds upon itself at an astounding rate. But if one looks at what has happened in the IT industry in the last few years I wonder if there are actually many “new” trends―as opposed to development and rapid enhancement of what was already there. (Maybe one could argue that the whole cloud/virtualisation computing move has been the exception, but even those aren’t new concepts.)

“New trends” relate more to where work is done (remote versus on-site), greater expectations of the ability of the technology (e.g. ability to integrate with other technology, simplicity versus complexity of use/functionality) and in criteria used to assess effective use of money (e.g. Is it more effective to invest in training someone to use technology to maximum effect or to spend the same amount of money―if not more―on their time, trying to work it out for themselves yet unable to unlock the technology’s full potential? Is it better use of funds to force someone to continue to use an inadequate or inefficient tool (resulting in more time to do a task) or to invest in technology that does the task more effectively and efficiently?

In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing organisations?
Apart from the obvious ones of staff reductions, budget cuts, security threats, the need to do more with less? Some of the challenges that we hear from our Customers (and experience ourselves) are: keeping up with, and ahead of, what needs to be achieved; remaining responsive to needs; finding creative and innovative ways to do things without compromise; understanding what policy changes are really going to mean for your organisation; maintaining positive motivation and commitment in what has become a fairly negative and pressured environment for many organisations.

Can you give us any Best Practise Tips for Windows 7 deployment?
This won’t be a response that necessarily endears me to technical people, but … Planning and Preparation are the most critical tasks for a successful Windows 7 migration and deployment. Our training participants tell us very clearly that this process is great in theory―BUT the in most cases the reality is that they are tasked with getting the deployment DONE NOW―forget all this time “wasted” on planning and preparation. They also now tell us that the cost to those who have not planned and prepared has been business interruption, downtime and unexpected expenditure on hardware and software because of lack of assessment in the early stages.

What’s the future looking like for Binary Research International?
Challenging and, hopefully, fun! As for any small company, the risks are high in the current climate. But with the extremely strong product portfolio we have right now―one that really addresses current market needs―combined with our large, loyal customer and hardworking reseller base, the future should be very positive. In addition, our ongoing expansion into the European and Asian markets should ensure continued growth.

The ongoing challenge is always identifying the next critical need for our customers and then finding that “revolutionary” product (such as Ghost and the Universal Imaging Utility were) to address that need. Providing we can meet that challenge, that we continue to offer superb customer support and that customers have the ability to adopt new technology, the business should remain a fun place to be.

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.

  • Dave

    Pure rubbish! The Binary Research International (BRI) Ghost reselling horse died years ago. Binary Research Limited in New Zealand was the "brains" and author of Ghost, not BR International. BRI now simply resells anything that makes them a profit. The bottom line is that Binary Research International strives to appear profitable and cutting edge to lure solutions that are (hopefully) already proven. This article is merely an example of how they attempt to accomplish it. Apparently hype and appearance can prevail in a market of listening eyes.