Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2008Kellogg School of Management
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Ed Pfromer '04 and Patrick Strong '04
Ed Pfromer '04 (left) and Patrick Strong '04

Alumni Profile: Ed Pfromer '04 and Patrick Strong '04

Kellogg '04 EMBA alums lead FTI's tech rebirth

By Adrienne Murrill

In 2002, Ed Pfromer and Patrick Strong enrolled in the Kellogg School's Executive MBA Program under different circumstances that would draw them together.

Pfromer '04 attended Kellogg just after he had sold his information technology consulting company. Strong was the typical EMBA student, studying while working at global business advisory FTI Consulting. He was pursuing a new field: electronic discovery, which combines computer science with problem solving to uncover and analyze evidence at the center of legal disputes or government investigations.

From 1996 to 1999 Strong '04 and his colleagues were focused on supporting law firms with computer technology used at trials. He served as architect and chief programmer in the development of courtroom presentation software called TrialMax. By 2001, however, the firm's technology practice began to shift. During the dot-com boom, Strong and colleagues Bill Adams and Seth Rierson saw an opportunity to improve how FTI managed clients' information and processes. By offering document review software through a Web browser, they could strengthen client relationships and create a more predictable business. Clients would pay a monthly fee to manipulate their own data maintained on servers at FTI, which, by managing the data in-house, would be positioned to provide hourly consulting services. The business began to take off about the time Strong enrolled at Kellogg.

"Patrick shared with me his experiences at FTI, and I thought my background might be applicable to some of the challenges the company was facing," Pfromer recalls. That became most evident one weekend when Strong arrived in Evanston, only to be summoned to the company's Maryland data center: While one of FTI's most prominent clients was using the software, the system went offline for an extended period. When Strong returned for class the next weekend, he discussed the situation with Pfromer, who saw that FTI was "in a world of hurt." The two discussed the firm throughout the EMBA program, and upon graduation Strong invited Pfromer to join the company.

"We sat down and identified holes that needed to be filled operationally," Pfromer says. FTI's technology practice was in transition, having grown to about 40 people while earning $25 million in revenue. "The model was changing from a pure hours-based business to one that is now more 50/50 products and services." The company was increasing its dedication to client support, software marketing, sales and development.

Pfromer and Strong drew a map of what a $50-$100 million company would look like, creating a new organizational structure. They applied principles learned at Kellogg and presented ideas to senior management. "Ed and I rely on a big portion of the Kellogg curriculum, whether it's strategy, leadership skills or organization design," Strong says.

"The team-oriented aspects [of the Kellogg program] really allowed us to put together a rationale and get people to buy into it," Pfromer adds. "We helped restructure the practice after graduation and have been seeing incredible return on that effort." Today, Strong and Pfromer are senior managing directors of FTI's technology practice. Strong leads the unit's global sales team and recently directed the group's five-year strategic plan. Pfromer leads the practice's marketing team and has initiated a major push to extend FTI's reach through a global partner program.

The Kellogg alumni put the right processes and people into place at a time when the industry was rapidly growing. "In 2000 when the business started," says Strong, "we knew about the Internet but we had no idea what the future would bring. [Now] you have an explosion in e-mail, from being something people did at home to being central to every executive's day."

In 2007, revenues for the FTI technology practice were $162 million, handily surpassing previous targets. "One of the reasons we're growing so rapidly," Strong notes, "is that corporations were caught off guard by the requirements of electronic discovery. They are now scrambling to implement new software and learn rules and procedures. Our group is at the center of all of that."

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