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An Interview with Kurt Dupont


Kurt Dupont Kurt Dupont is based in Belgium - after his Computer Science studies, he started with Andersen Consulting (Accenture nowadays) in Brussels. After 3 years he moved to the Brussels Airport Terminal Company that runs the Brussels airport - this last placement inspired the start-up of Take-off (now known as PresentationPoint) in 1998.







Geetesh: Tell us more about Take-off and DataPoint. How did DataPoint evolve.

Kurt: Take-off was founded in 1998 to deliver products and consultancy to airports. This is mostly building databases, user interfaces and data communication mechanisms between the different information systems at airports.

Back in 1998 I did not dream to build any system outside the airport market. But with my technological curiosity I start playing with Microsoft PowerPoint and took it as a personnel challenge to link presentations to information providers such as databases.

The initial version of DataPoint was limited to text file and database linking only. Later on Microsoft Excel linking was added because there are many people that do not know how to set up a database. Filling in a Microsoft Excel sheet is very simple.

Nowadays you can link a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation to text files, databases and Microsoft Excel worksheets by using DataPoint to display live information or to generate offline presentations.


Geetesh: Can you provide some case studies where DataPoint has proven itself?

Kurt: One excellent case study is a big dancehall where they display their upcoming events on an internal television circuit by using Microsoft PowerPoint.

A second one was the Belgian badminton championship this year. They were looking for a cheap solution to display game results. They managed to build a small Microsoft Access application to enter the results. They had a notebook per game to enter the scores. With a projector they displayed an overview on the wall. New results were displayed in half a second.

A third reference is a company that does mathematical and statistical calculations for customers. The results are published in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation with graphs mainly. Their main business is doing calculations, not building the presentations. So they managed to build a template that is generating the PowerPoint output that can be presented and distributed to the customer in no time, every time again.


Geetesh: Tell us more about Take-off's support infrastructure.

Kurt: Almost all communication is done by email. Most times the customer is just asking some advice on how to use DataPoint, because its functionality is unique and people are inexperienced with its functionality and capabilities.

We try to answer every mail within 2 hours during business hours. People get value for their money because we don't stopwatch our conversations. We even give advice or consultancy on how to set up the presentation and databases. By doing this, we are in close contact with the market and can feel where the difficulties are located. Only by knowing this, we can improve our product and set priorities for future development.

In the situation that someone finds a bug, we can almost guarantee that a bug fix is sent within 5 working days, so that the user can continue his project.


Geetesh: How important is it to link databases to PowerPoint - and what areas of business can use this feature?

Kurt: Access to databases is nothing new, but presenting this information live and to your targeted audience is a new challenge for Microsoft PowerPoint. A big advantage of Microsoft PowerPoint is that it is well known and widespread all over the world. Linking data sources to presentations is opening new perspectives.

There are 2 types of database-enabled presentations; online and offline.

You can welcome customers and visitors. Inform personnel on the work floor about targets. These are examples of online or live presentations.

At the other hand people can generate new static presentations for distribution based on the current database information like a presentation linked to a Microsoft Project file or a presentation with graphs about last week's production figures.

The places were database-enabled presentations can be used are unlimited. Linking Microsoft PowerPoint to databases is nothing new. Before DataPoint it was possible to fill database information into a presentation, but you had to use VB or VBA. DataPoint is the first add-on that enables you to link information using user-friendly forms without programming.


Geetesh: Are there any new products in the pipeline?

Kurt: Take-off is investigating a new add-on that enables you to start a presentation at a specific time. After you designed your presentation you can add it to a play list and indicate when it should be displayed. Then at the time specified, the presentation will be run automatically.

Next to this new product we are looking to make DataPoint bidirectional. You will be able to put a textbox in a slide and link it to a database. When you run the presentation you can enter data in the textbox(es) which is then saved back to the data source. This additional functionality enables users for example to collect information of a potential customer and then finally put together a chart with other information for life insurance study.


Geetesh: How do you typically use PowerPoint?

Kurt: Next to my presentations that demonstrate the use of DataPoint, I have to admit that I'm almost not using Microsoft PowerPoint. I hope you don't blame me for that. It is DataPoint that gave me a real good reason to use Microsoft PowerPoint.



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