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Business Software Firm Gives Customers Online and Offline Capabilities with Cloud
MYOB, the leading provider of business software in Australia and New Zealand, wanted to offer its flagship accounting solution both on and offline. The company, which serves approximately 1.2 million active businesses, wanted a more scalable, single-tenanted solution that would keep pace with its rapid business growth, ever-expanding client needs, and marketplace changes. To stay competitive, MYOB needed to bring the cloud to its existing clients as well as provide services to new customers. The company decided to switch to a cloud delivery system based on the Windows Azure platform. As a result, it can more easily meet diverse business needs, provide better access to data for tens of thousands of clients, and accelerate innovation with easier development and faster time-to-market.
"Windows Azure gives us the ability to scale up to thousands of databases as needed. Today, more than 50 percent of new product registrations at MYOB are for our cloud accounting solutions."
Based in Glen Waverly, Australia, MYOB provides more than 50 management applications to 1.2 million Australian and New Zealand businesses. The company estimates that its solutions, including its flagship product AccountRight, are used by 60 percent of the region’s small businesses and public accountants.
Established in 1991, MYOB has a reputation for innovative solutions that streamline and automate business processes. To help its client offering keep up with rapid business growth and marketplace changes, MYOB wanted a more flexible solution that would provide better access to business data, even when business owners and their advisors are traveling. Simon Raik-Allen, Chief Technology Officer at MYOB, says, “One of the challenges we faced was that people had become increasingly mobile and often wanted to work offsite.”
Other trends included requirements for easier collaboration, as well as more timely access to information. “Accountants are moving up the value chain,” says Raik-Allen. “They want to do more than just look at a client’s books at the end of the year. They want to actively monitor and advise businesses on a regular basis.”
MYOB wanted to enhance its own client service too, with faster, more frequent software updates and new features.
MYOB decided to transition AccountRight from stand-alone, desktop software to a powerful cloud solution with a rich desktop interface. The company looked at platform-as-a-service offerings from multiple vendors before choosing the Windows Azure platform. “When we moved our technology suite online, we needed a vendor that would provide us with a single architecture in the cloud that matched our existing technology stack and model,” says Raik-Allen. “And when we surveyed all the different cloud vendors, only Microsoft Cloud Services with Azure SQL Database gave us that capability.”
In November 2012, MYOB launched AccountRight Live in the cloud, which has a full stack of business logic and database running both in the cloud on Windows Azure SQL Database as well as the local desktop. The two environments are kept synchronized, and, as a result, customers can switch between working offline or online as needed.
To improve performance and handle peak workloads more easily, MYOB integrated Windows Azure SQL Database Premium, which provides reserved resources for predictable performance. MYOB uses the premium service to process concurrent customer logons, which can reach up to tens of thousands of connections an hour. After gaining access to the system, customers work with their financial data stored in their assigned SQL Database Web edition. By combining the two database service tiers, the company ensures a high level of mission-critical performance while enabling cost-effective scale to support its quickly expanding client base.
In addition, MYOB uses Windows Azure BizTalk Services to connect the cloud infrastructure to its on-premises customer relationship management (CRM) solution. BizTalk Services pulls account information from the CRM system, and if the customers’ information is current, they can begin working with their files in the cloud. BizTalk Services supports other workflows at MYOB as well. For example, the solution connects with external systems such as an interface that provides customers with automatic feeds of their business’s bank transactions, which helps to eliminate manual data entry processes.
MYOB uses the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development suite to design innovative solutions that support its core offering. For example, to enhance its services, MYOB is providing an application programming interface (API) to almost 600 external developers and regularly hosts hackathons for its own development teams.
With Windows Azure, MYOB has gained better flexibility and support for growth, transformed client business processes, and spurred faster innovation.
Gains Better Flexibility and Access to Data
By using Windows Azure Cloud Services to deliver its flagship accounting software, MYOB is improving its offering to hundreds of thousands of existing AccountRight customers as well as new clients. They can now work from virtually any location with the devices they choose, and use the same tools online that they work with on their PCs. “Windows Azure gave us the flexibility we need to provide online capability alongside offline capability, “says Raik-Allen. “Clients who work on the desktop can now connect with the cloud to access and update current business data including bank transactions, as well as collaborate with peers and business partners.”
Improves Support for Growth and Transforms Business Operations
MYOB can now provide greater support to clients across Australia and New Zealand by ensuring that online tools and information are continuously available when needed. With tiered services such as SQL Database Premium and SQL Database Web, the company now has an affordable, highly scalable infrastructure that can seamlessly handle thousands of concurrent logons daily and support a rapidly increasing number of individual client databases. “Windows Azure gives us the ability to scale up to thousands of databases as needed, and we have a disaster recovery solution and geo-redundancy as well,” says Raik-Allen. “Today, more than 50 percent of new product registrations at MYOB are for our cloud accounting solutions. A rapidly increasing number of people are relying on online technologies to help run and give insight into their businesses.”
Online access to accounting tools and data is also changing the way MYOB customers work. Instead of reviewing a client’s records once a year, accountants can take a more active role. “By taking advantage of MYOB tools on Windows Azure, accountants can go online and immediately track a client’s performance,” says Raik-Allen. “It gives an accountant the opportunity to bring more value to a small business more often.”
MYOB is improving its business agility as well, with a cloud-based solution that it can use to test and deploy new solutions quickly without purchasing additional on-premises infrastructure. As a result, the company has accelerated time-to-market for new features and products. “Previously, we would publish one or two new AccountRight releases annually,” says Raik-Allen. “But with AccountRight Live on Windows Azure, we can deliver a release every six weeks. That’s an amazing difference.”
With a faster development lifecycle, the company can be more responsive to its customers. “It’s really exciting to see the business transformation with MYOB software on Windows Azure,” says Raik-Allen. “People can ask for a new feature, and log on a few weeks later and it’s there.”
The company credits the Visual Studio 2010 integrated development environment (IDE) with providing the flexibility and tools it needs to move smoothly between designing on-premises and cloud solutions. “Microsoft makes great IDEs, especially when you start looking at some of the integration opportunities,” says Raik-Allen. “It’s a really rich environment, and our developers swear by it.”
The open, extensive platform is providing more opportunities for further innovation. For example, a recent hackathon winner automated a process for updating tax tables, saving the company months of work each year. “Client satisfaction and engagement are very important us,” says Raik-Allen. “I’m a strong believer that innovation is a culture of thinking, because ideas are everywhere. With a Microsoft platform, we can have a system built in such a way that it’s easy to take advantage of those ideas.”
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