Development Changes and Challenges for Cloud CPM

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This article is an interview with Solver’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mike Applegate about technology development and enterprise technology management in the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) realm.
As many of you know, Solver launched BI360 to the cloud in June, so I decided to sit down with CTO Mike Applegate to discuss life after the cloud launch. Mike leads the product strategy and development team. With Mike’s knowledge and experience, this interview is a must-read for those interested in developing applications that are on-premises or cloud-hosted.

Kim: Solver launched BI360 Cloud, a cloud deployment corporate performance management (CPM) suite offering, a little over a month ago after years of success with the on-premises version of BI360. Have you seen technology development change since when you joined Solver and started leading the team?
Applegate: I have been lucky enough to ride the technology and Business Intelligence (BI)/CPM wave for almost two decades. I started on the front lines as a functional and technical consultant implementing and customizing CPM solutions. I had a laundry list of ideas to improve the experience for our customers. Many ideas were achievable with technology advances and others required new options to empower users to do their job more efficiently. In those early days, I think solutions lacked the cohesiveness we are seeing today.  The diverse collection of technologies and solutions often caused user adoption issues, which in turn shortened the lifespan of the solution in place. Today, we can leverage technology advances to provide a complete CPM solution to our customers. But I am most excited about the next five years. We are seeing breakthroughs in technologies such as Machine Learning,* and I believe it will dramatically change BI/CPM in the coming years.
*According to Statistical Analysis System (SAS), Machine Learning is “a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. Using algorithms that iteratively learn from data, machine learning allows computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look.” You can find more information on Machine Learning here.
Kim:  Were there challenges that your department has faced in developing and creating applications that are on-premises and cloud-hosted, that needed to come together? If so, what were those challenges?
Applegate:  After many years of perfecting our workflow and distribution process for on-premises deployments, we had to go back to the drawing board to devise a new strategy to offer cloud, on-premises, and a hybrid of the two. This certainly presented many unique challenges because we wanted to exploit all of the amazing technologies available within our cloud provider, Microsoft Azure, but also ensure on-premises deployments utilize infrastructure our customers can manage on their own. We also wanted to ensure our platform could offer a hybrid option in which both cloud and on-premises could be deployed in unison.  We believe our new platform accomplishes these goals while providing consistent world class experiences for our cloud and on-premises customers. We may see a bifurcation in the future as cloud technologies exceed those of on-premises data centers, but we have plans to ensure our customers continue to leverage the benefits of all deployment options.
Kim:  How can the development department as well as other departments at Solver, such as the IT department and accounting department, partner to manage enterprise technology, such as cloud CPM, in the most efficient way?
Applegate: Cloud solutions immediately remove some of the typical technology barriers you find with on-premises solutions. Servers, dependencies, configurations, etc. are all handled by our cloud operations team. This enables customers to hit the road running. Removing the infrastructure from the equation enables the organization to focus on implementation and almost immediate usage of the solution. Collaboration amongst departments is always key to a successful rollout of a new enterprise solution.
Kim: What will the impact be for Solver customers, and what can they expect?
Applegate: Our customers will not only enjoy a new platform with outstanding new features and enhancements to existing features, but they will also have more deployment options. For those with an immediate cloud strategy, they can go straight to our cloud offering. For those in transition or plans to remain on-premises or with a private hosting provider, they can choose our on-premises version. And for those that prefer to have functionality in our cloud service for their end users and on-premises for power users, they can select the hybrid option.  They may also want to take advantage of new integrated features such as our integration connectors and ditch their external data integration tools. The new platform offers many options for our customers for near and long term planning.
I hope this interview was as insightful to you as it was for me. Mike has been spearheading the strategy of the cloud project over the past two years at Solver, and it has been exciting listening in on his development roadmap meetings. If you are moving into the cloud space, you are probably going to have some questions. BI/CPM involve important and strategic company processes when moving to the cloud, so preparing for that shift (if you haven’t made that move already) from on-premises to the cloud can be overwhelming, but Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and dashboards as a way to accelerate company performance management.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

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