Interview with David Murray,  COO of Silicon Avenue Limited.

Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I am Chief Operating Officer of Silicon Avenue Limited, an ISV cloud solution provider based in Tauranga, New Zealand.

What is your company’s mission?

Give small company owners their weekends back, and enable them to manage productivity & cost efficiently.

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:

We develop and market a cloud-based project management & workflow solution called Procision+, that has strong integration with the Microsoft stack.

Tell us about your Azure based solution.

We believe that Procision+ is the easiest, smartest way to manage projects and keep track of jobs. We focus on workshop manufacturers and Professional Services firms (like surveyors and engineering consultants). Our customers can create and manage project plans or just sync with Microsoft Project, and allow their team to easily write their time, expenses and materials against the project or job – anywhere, anytime, including on their mobile devices. They can keep a finger on the pulse or ‘health’ of their project, with up-to-the-minute progress and performance reports by project, department and more.

How is Azure implemented in your solution?

Our full application site and mobile site are hosted on Azure web roles. We use SQL Azure for our customers’ data, and AppFabric for authentication through Authorized Identity Providers. Procision+ reports are generated using SQL Azure Reporting Services.

How did you get excited about Azure?

We needed a PaaS infrastructure when we decided to re-engineer our product for the cloud. We soon realized that Azure would give us the scalability we needed, and integrated very well with our existing development environment of Visual Studio, SQL Server, and .Net 4. This meant that we could get up and running quickly. We liked the approach Microsoft was taking in becoming cloud-centric. The cloud approach is the future. It is the only way to increase application availability and reduce costs.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Scalability we can control, authentication through AppFabric, predictable costs per customer and the incentives of BizSpark and Azure Cloud Essentials programs.

What specific value are you getting from BizSpark beyond the technology?

For a small startup, access to MSDN for the latest tools has allowed us to quickly drive our engineering with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server, and facilitated integration with other Microsoft products such as Dynamics CRM and Office. The Azure services that are provided with MSDN/BizSpark have also been very helpful in development, testing, and internal use of our product.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?

We started with certain ideas about the types of business that could benefit from cloud-based workflow and project management software. But we now understand that almost any project-based company, of any size, can greatly improve their business efficiency by accurately recording the time, materials, and expenses, and having that information available in real time. For example, workers in metalwork shops now use tablets running Procision+ to view their jobs, record their work, and notify the manager (and customer) when the work is complete.

What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?

The main thing is, DO IT! On-premise applications could be largely extinct in a few years. About eighteen months ago we thought our customers might be resistant to their data being stored off-premise and off-shore. Now we never get any questions or concerns about this, and most of our enquiries are from SMEs looking to replace their existing expensive and outdated on-premise products with cloud software, or in many cases replace their existing manual systems with a cloud solution. These companies have never considered an on-premise solution due to up-front cost and infrastructure issues. The cloud has quickly moved from a modest gamble to a no-brainer.

What is the one thing that you would like readers to take away about your Azure app?

Managing your project data and company processes with Procision+ gives you fantastic business intelligence at a very modest cost. Now small to medium-sized businesses can manage with tools as good as or better than their larger competitors!

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