2-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 6/22/2012
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Spikes Cavell Government Spending Analytics Provider Uses Cloud to Scale Solution, Expand Overseas

Spikes Cavell saw an opportunity to extend its core software-as-a-service offering. To ensure rapid development and gain the scalability it needed to handle widespread adoption of its new product—spotlightonspend—it chose to host the solution on Windows Azure. By trimming infrastructure support costs and speeding time-to-innovation, Spikes Cavell is now able to expand its business to capitalize on opportunities in the U.S. public sector market.

Business Needs
Government organizations worldwide are grappling with the need to reduce spending and introduce greater fiscal transparency into their operations. However, delivering on this mandate is easier said than done. Explains Luke Spikes, Chief Executive Officer of Spikes Cavell: “One major obstacle to reform is that many public sector entities use separate, nonintegrated systems to track purchases across different departments. This makes it difficult to measure procurement efficiency and drive the delivery of savings in any meaningful way.”

Based in Newbury, England, Spikes Cavell develops online solutions that help public sector entities increase the efficiency of their procurement practices to save money. Through its self-hosted Observatory offering, a modular suite of data-driven online tools, Spikes Cavell enables government organizations to collect and store cleansed, classified, and enriched spend information from multiple systems in a single database. Financial decision makers can then use search, analytics, and reporting tools in Observatory to identify opportunities for savings.

In August 2009, Spikes read an article in the Sunday Times newspaper that sparked an idea for a new product to empower public sector organizations to share spending data with the general public. The article related a manifesto proposal from David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader who was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain in May 2010, to compel public entities to disclose all external payments for goods and services. “We recognized an opportunity to build on the spending analysis and reporting functionality we had already developed for the Observatory to help government organizations comply with this proposed policy,” says Spikes. “The obvious challenge was how to scale our infrastructure to handle the potential use of such an application by thousands of people at the same time.”

To position the new solution as a highly affordable incremental service, executives sought to minimize operating costs. They also recognized the crucial importance of delivering the application shortly after the general election in May 2010 to maximize sales opportunities and build market share.

Beginning in September 2009, developers at Spikes Cavell used the Microsoft Visual Studio development system to create the solution that the company now markets as spotlightonspend. Based on Microsoft ASP.NET and Microsoft SQL Server, this online solution uses Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in technology to render user interface components.

* As a growing company in an industry moved by rapidly changing political considerations, we needed the agility that only a fully managed cloud platform like Windows Azure can provide. *

Luke Spikes
Chief Executive Officer, Spikes Cavell

Initially, the company used Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) to host spotlightonspend. However, executives found that the need to continuously update and reconfigure servers inhibited developer productivity and the company’s responsiveness to new market opportunities. After several months, the company chose to move spotlightonspend to Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment. “The shift to Windows Azure was a long-term strategic bet on our part,” says Spikes. “As a growing company in an industry moved by rapidly changing political considerations, we needed the agility that only a fully managed cloud platform like Windows Azure can provide.”

The company released spotlightonspend in May 2010, only days after the newly installed coalition government formally announced its transparency policy. By June 2011, Spikes Cavell has delivered spotlightonspend to 40 customers in the United Kingdom, including the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Says Harry Phibbs, Cabinet Minister for Community Engagement at Hammersmith and Fulham Council: “We saw tremendous scope to work closely with Spikes Cavell and its spotlightonspend platform to take transparency much further.”

In addition to delivering spotlightonspend to a growing number of U.K.-based customers, the company is now offering the solution to U.S.-based public sector organizations. In the coming months, Spikes Cavell anticipates deploying spotlightonspend to cities in Illinois, Arizona, and Florida; K-12 school districts in Maryland; and state agencies, and colleges and universities in South Carolina.

By using familiar, flexible tools to build and host its spotlightonspend solution, Spikes Cavell has experienced the following benefits:

Speeds time to market. Spikes Cavell was able to take full advantage of its developers’ familiarity with such technologies as the Microsoft .NET Framework and SQL Server to quickly build spotlightonspend and later convert it for deployment on Windows Azure. ”spotlightonspend was conceived upon reading a newspaper article in August 2009,” recalls Spikes. “We were able to release it to market in May 2010. And the subsequent migration to Windows Azure took only 10 weeks. This timeline simply would not have been possible without the flexibility and ease-of-use of Microsoft technologies.”

Increases operating efficiency. By switching from Amazon EC2 to Windows Azure, Spikes Cavell gains a more efficient model for delivering and upgrading its spotlightonspend solution, which has helped the company reduce its monthly operating expenses. Spikes Cavell estimates that by using an integrated set of tools to develop, deploy, and manage the application, and by avoiding the need to update and maintain servers, the company’s developers save several hours a week on administrative tasks. “The ability to access a complete set of tools in a single platform means we can keep our development costs low and continue providing new functionality to meet customer requirements,” says Spikes.

Expands reach to global markets. For Spikes Cavell, expansion to the U.S. market represents a substantial growth opportunity. “Because Windows Azure makes it easier for us to focus on our core strengths, we’re able to devote more time to supporting existing customers and nurturing business opportunities in new markets, which has played a crucial role in our success,” says Spikes.

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 50 employees

Partner Profile

Since 2003, Spikes Cavell has equipped more than 1,000 public bodies worldwide with the data, tools, and insight they need to find savings, increase transparency, drive economic growth, and track performance.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft SQL Azure
  • Microsoft Silverlight

Vertical Industries
  • Government
  • Financial Services

United Kingdom

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services