As an ISV (independent software vendor), Exelsys develops high-quality software and provides development services to its clients. Some of their products and services include: human capital management, e-commerce solutions, customizations for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, website monitoring services as well as outsourcing of software-development projects.Situation
In 1984, Kyriacos Fiakkas, started his own software company that developed an accounting program that proved to be the most popular system being used in Cyprus with more than 2,500 users by the year 2000. Despite this success, he always had a dream to deliver software as a service over the Internet. He believed that by doing so, it would cut down on operational and maintenance expenses. These savings could be later passed on to his customers. Secondly, it would be possible to centrally provide support and maintenance to clients regardless of their location since the software would be located in only one place, the internet or otherwise known as the cloud. Thirdly, the company could provide better service and minimize the support issues since the software would be based on only one code version. “This was my vision. Unfortunately, the technology was not yet available at that time to make this into reality,” says Kyriacos.
|Because of Windows Azure, we have managed to keep our prices competitive and allowed us to survive and grow although for the last couple of years, the world economy has been suffering.|
The inspiration to establish Exelsys later came, when while introducing Microsoft Dynamics NAV to various companies, he realized that the software was missing some functionality within human resource management. He then decided to develop software that would fill this gap and provide a full-fledged Human Capital Management System for the mid-market.
The customers who use the company’s solutions come from different industries, such as: professional services, construction, travel, banking and manufacturing. This demonstrates the flexibility and functionality of their software as a horizontal solution.
For a lot of ISVs, selling and delivering their products and services means going to a customer site where they need to install, setup and configure the system. In many cases, it involves supporting the solution for a period of time to ensure that it is working properly. This may also include upgrades or enhancements that require an ISV’s personnel to be on-site.
However, this traditional approach is very time-consuming, expensive and requires a significant number of resources which an ISV or their partner has to provide. For ISVs with global clients, this puts a heavy strain on resources, as well as their ability to respond quickly to issues experienced by customers. Because of these factors, an ISV may be forced to increase their prices just to cover these costs.
“One of our bottlenecks was our ability to deploy our software to a customer site within a reasonable period of time. Usually, it would normally take about a week to get a customer on board. This period would be lengthened if we had to perform multiple installations, since it would depend on the availability of our support staff. On top of that, we had to charge our clients for the time our employees spent working at their site. We wanted to decrease our deployment time and reduce our customer’s cost of ownership.”
“From the beginning, our company had already decided that our software would be sold as a service in the cloud following the SaaS (Software as a Service) model. Therefore, we built our infrastructure based on Microsoft SilverLight, Microsoft .NET and Microsoft 2008 Server R2 as well as other Microsoft tools,” and deployed it on the Cloud, he adds.Solution
Exelsys’ main goal was to ensure that the company could focus in developing their software and let Windows Azure take care of the rest.
“When Windows Azure appeared sometime in 2010, we were in the process of developing a new recruitment module within Exelsys’ Human Capital Management System. We reviewed carefully what Windows Azure could do for us, and we found some very interesting features and functionality that we believe would be beneficial for our business.”
|Our products can be used by customers worldwide without any issues or additional costs. We can quickly get a customer on board with only minimal expenses.|
One of Windows Azure’s key features that we found advantageous is “pricing and metering." This means that a customer’s cost is based on their usage of our software. This approach will make it more economical for them. Since our recruitment module is based on usage, we realized that the module would be ideally suited for Windows Azure.”
Other considerations included performance, flexibility as well as high-availability of the solution to their customers, even though it is in the cloud.
“A very good example is our recruitment module. When a company posts a job at their web site and people apply for those positions, you don't know how many seats you’re going to get or how many applicants are going to access the site (which potentially could be in the thousands). Since the application could be accessed by a high number of users or potential candidates, we wanted it to be flexible. This means being able to scale our application based on our customer’s needs. The capacity to accommodate a high number of users without having a negative impact on performance was just as important. Furthermore, once we deployed our software in the cloud, we wanted it to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We, therefore, wanted a solution that could also handle network load balancing and failover automatically in order to provide continuous availability.”
The ability to administer the software centrally in addition to utilization of SQL Server technology was also of great interest to the company.
“As part of our company strategy, it was important that we would be able to support our customers as efficiently and as quickly as possible. In order to achieve this, we felt that the solution had to be centrally located as well as having only one code version of our software in order to streamline support and upgrade issues. Additionally, since we have been using SQL Server to perform analytics on our services prior to the release of Windows Azure, we wanted to move this service to Windows Azure. Moreover, we wanted to take advantage of Windows SQL Azure cloud database service that is built on SQL Service technologies. For us, this means that we don’t have to install, setup or manage the database nor physically administer it anymore.”
We found out that after a careful analysis, Windows Azure could fully support all these requirements. These were the decisive or business factors for us that made us decide to develop this and our future modules on Windows Azure.”
“We then started developing the recruitment module on Windows Azure, as the first step with a view to move all our other modules on Windows Azure.”Benefits
By taking advantage of the functionality of Windows Azure, Exelsys has become more competitive as an ISV. The company has achieved what it envisioned many years ago and by doing so, creates opportunities for the business and provides a much better service at a lower cost to their customers.
Able to Focus in Developing and Delivering its Products and Services
Moving the products into the cloud has freed the company of the mundane tasks associated with setup, maintenance and support.
“We can sit back and relax and focus in developing and delivering the functionality that our clients and partners need.”
|Because of Windows Azure, we don't need to hire a lot of support staff to maintain our infrastructure and resolve issues. Now, we only need a third of the work force that we previously hired.|
A key benefit of using Windows Azure is in making the software accessible to their clients anywhere in the world.
“Our products can be used by customers worldwide without any issues or additional costs. We can quickly get a customer on board with only minimal expenses. Previously, we had to send our technical staff to install, setup and even maintain the system. These expected costs no longer exist because of Windows Azure. We have therefore saved our customers a lot of money.”
Lower Cost of Ownership
Compared to the traditional way of implementing a solution, one of the major benefits for customers has been a lower price in using the software.
“Because of Windows Azure, we have managed to keep our prices competitive and allowed us to survive and grow although for the last couple of years, the world economy has been suffering. Customers tend to be more careful when selecting solutions. Particularly, if their present solution works, they may not be inclined to change it or spend the money for it especially if it costs several thousand dollars or more. However, if they can see that they only need to pay a fraction of what they used to pay, they may be more persuaded to invest in a new solution. I'm happy to say that Windows Azure has really helped us in keeping our prices down and thereby help increase our sales.”
Faster Software Deployment
By being able to implement the solution much faster than before, the company can take on more customers without sacrificing quality or service.
“Before we used Windows Azure, it would normally take a week to get a customer on board. Now, we can have a customer up and running using our software within a few hours regardless of their location. This has proven to be a great time saver; not only for us, but also for our clients as well.”
Faster and Centralized Support
“A typical installation would require one technical person per client in order to service those installations. This is a very expensive model. Because of Windows Azure, we don't need to hire a lot of support staff to maintain our infrastructure and resolve issues. Now, we only need a third of the work force that we previously hired. With just 4-5 support staff, we can resolve and support issues from hundreds of clients quickly and efficiently. These savings we also pass on to our customers. Otherwise, they would be paying much more if we deployed and serviced our software using the traditional model.”
Complete and Problem-free Integration with Windows Azure
When we initially integrated Windows Azure with our module, we encountered some functionality issues. This was to be expected since Windows Azure just appeared in the market. However, we have had tremendous support from Microsoft during this time, and they insured that all our issues were fixed. Now, our Exelsys HCM Recruitment Module is sitting on Windows Azure without any problems whatsoever and working very well. Because of this experience, we will definitely move all our modules into Windows Azure,” says Kyriacos happily.
Windows Azure has proven to be a game-changer for the company.
The significant reduction in costs, time and resources as well as the ability to deliver and implement their solution faster to their clients, has provided more opportunities for growth which did not exist before.Microsoft Online Services
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For more information about Exelsys products and services, call (+357) 2237-5034 or visit the website at: http://www.exelsys.co.uk/This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.