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Megan Wallin-Kerth


Stay In Your Lane: How to Compete In a Saturated Market

MasterControl’s Matt Lowe talks competition, data, and what quality does for a company

Published: Monday, March 27, 2023 - 11:03

At last year’s Masters Summit, MasterControl’s chief strategy officer, Matt Lowe, chatted with Quality Digest’s CEO, Jeff Dewar, about the challenges and rewards of his work and the many titles he’s held over the years. Lowe, who has worked at MasterControl for more than 15 years, has a lot to say about the technical knowledge and focus required to succeed in his field—particularly when it comes to gathering and analyzing data.

“It’s been quite the journey,” says Lowe of his career at MasterControl. “Lots of different hats. I always figured there’s an opportunity there if there’s something new for me to learn. Let’s give it a shot.”

Teamwork comes in many forms

This openness to new skill sets and roles has led to numerous job positions, one of which particularly sparks interest from Dewar.

“You had a title that I [had seen] maybe only once before in various executive titles: chief product and marketing officer. I’ve seen CMO, I’ve seen CPO, but never CPMO,” says Dewar. 

“It’s funny, because prior to my life in software, product and product managers always lived inside the marketing department,” says Lowe. “It wasn’t until I came to MasterControl that I saw it separated.”

However, he says that separation is common for software companies with both a CMO and CPO—titles that his job at MasterControl has allowed him to combine.

Elaborating, Lowe points out that the customer, marketing team, and sales team all need to be on the same page, so creating “walls” between departments is ultimately counterproductive.

“When you’re able to pair [these departments] together, I think it gives you a real advantage,” says Lowe. Basically, he says, bring management and marketing together.  

Providing a successful QMS to an increasingly saturated market

The market is shifting, as Dewar points out, noting that he has seen many new QMS software companies enter the market. The number of QMS advertisers has increased as well. So what gives?

“There were some really large acquisitions that occurred over a number of years,” says Lowe. “And I mean two really big ones, with the Sparta/Honeywell transactions and the ETQ/Hexagon transaction this year. When those come up in the business press, investors take note, and so there’s definitely an influx of equity investment that is coming into this space.”

“What would your most important piece of advice be to [companies providing niche QMS services] in their efforts to provide a successful QMS to their customers?” Dewar asks.

In response to this, Lowe emphasizes that word, niche. It really is that simple, he insists. Having also held the role of executive vice president, he knows plenty about cultivating that critical anchor.

‘Pick your lane and be very good within that lane.’
–Matt Lowe

“Being deep in the vertical and really understanding what your customer set does, and what they need in their specific business circumstance, that’s probably the most critical thing you can do. You can try to be all things to all people, but you’re probably going to crash and burn. So pick your lane and be very good within that lane.”

Here, Lowe says that the life sciences industry presents unique opportunities for success—one area where MasterControl is well equipped.

What sets MasterControl apart from the competition, he says, is the ability to home in on one area of expertise rather than trying to go “more horizontal” like many other companies.

“MasterControl has doubled down on the life sciences, and we’re looking to solve as many problems as possible for life sciences as they’ll allow us to do.”

However, as Dewar noted and Lowe confirmed, that focus doesn’t limit the range of clients who seek out MasterControl’s services. If anything, it cements the company’s credibility in the industry, attracting an estimated 10–15 percent of customers outside of the life sciences, according to the CEO.

There’s a reason for that, too, Lowe says. For one thing, MasterControl has been around for nearly three decades. Early on, it was serving manufacturers who were seeking ISO certification, and those customers stuck around.

Matt Lowe talks with Quality Digest CEO Jeff Dewar about the importance of “staying in your lane.” To watch the entire video, click here.

Data-based skills are the future

Looking into a metaphorical “crystal ball,” Dewar asks, what will we see in the average EQMS five years from now?

“It will not look the same,” says Lowe. “This idea of purpose-built, no-code solutions I think is core to where the future is headed—data at the heart of everything, so that you can operate algorithms and models on top of those data.”

With respect to the current mode of operation, he says the old way of addressing problems as they occurred is shifting to a “predictive and prescriptive model.”  

“When we embarked upon our new product development efforts, I emphasized with the team over and over again, we’re moving from an age where we have been a software applications developer to where we’re a purveyor of business insights. We’re a data company and really, we need to make our software application as easy as possible for people to put the data in so we can operate on the data and make their business better.”

For readers who may have a limited understanding of terms like purpose-built and no-code platforms, Lowe explains, “It’s basically this idea that you can give people a toolbox—non-IT people—that allows them to build software that’s built for the process that they’re trying to automate. There are several vendors in this space that are very large and have been around for a long time.”

The problem, he says, comes if it’s not purpose-built from a problem-solving standpoint for that particular industry—and doesn't address the issue it was created to resolve.

As Dewar questions how to prepare the next generation coming out of college for a rapidly advancing industry, even Lowe’s advice to newcomers to the quality profession hangs on this idea of a data-centric, quality-centric model.

“They’ve got to know about data,” he says. [They need to know] “how to ingest it, how to manipulate it, how to analyze it, in mass quantities, using technology. I think there’s got to be a much greater focus on that because if we don’t see that coming out in the new quality professionals of our day, we’re going to get left behind.”

While that may be at the top of the list, Lowe follows up with what he considers another important skill in the quality profession: Ask yourself “How do I pitch the importance of quality and what it means to our business to the rest of my leadership peers?”

Quality, he maintains, isn’t about worrying what will happen when the auditor comes, but looking at the “cost perspective” from a time-to-market lens.

“So, starting to develop those skills... deep down, we’re all salespeople. We’ve all got to pitch something to someone.”

Without the intrinsic understanding of how to look at data and understand them well enough to transform your team, inform clients, and support your marketing team, quality can easily get lost in the shuffle.

“I think people recognize that quality of your product in and of itself is a differentiator,” says Lowe. “It’s something that people will pay for.”


About The Author

Megan Wallin-Kerth’s picture

Megan Wallin-Kerth

Megan Wallin-Kerth is a Quality Digest editor and writer.