As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Markus Mikola, Partner at Sopima, about using the Windows Azure platform to run the company's contract management solution. Here's what he had to say:
MSDN: Tell us more about Sopima and the services you provide.
Mikola: In 2009, we started to develop Sopima Online Contract Bank-a software application that simplifies the steps of creating, managing, and approving business contracts, including negotiations processes among stakeholders. It helps companies collaborate and negotiate easily and helps avoid sending documents back and forth through e-mail.
MSDN: What was the biggest challenge Sopima faced prior to adopting the Windows Azure platform?
Mikola: We knew that a cloud-computing solution was the best way to launch our contract life-cycle management solution. We are a small company, so we needed a low-maintenance, low-cost solution. At the same time, we also needed to provide customers with a highly scalable, high-performance solution that they could trust.
MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with the Windows Azure platform to help you address your need for cost-effective scalability?
Mikola: We evaluated other vendors but went with Windows Azure because it offers a full-scale platform. We developed Sopima with tools and technologies that we're already familiar with, like Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Team Foundation Server development system and the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5. We use Microsoft SQL Azure to manage contracts and contract information that helps customers track the commitments within the contracts based on any chosen criteria. We also use SQL Azure to store all deadline and project milestone reminders for users involved in the contract creation process. We used the Microsoft Silverlight 3.0 browser plug-in as the basis for the user interface.
MSDN: What makes Sopima unique?
MIkola: Sopima Online Contract Bank revolutionizes the way organizations create, negotiate, and control their contracts by taking the contract management process online. It helps shorten the time it takes to negotiate deals, saves time in daily administration tasks, and takes risk management to a higher level. As a small company, we have built this global solution with a minimal investment thanks to the Windows Azure platform.
MSDN: Have you been able to reach new customers as a result of using Windows Azure?
Mikola: We launched Sopima Online Contract Bank in May 2010 together with our pilot customers. Simultaneously, we are taking in new organizations-we estimate to have 3,000 users by the end of 2010. This is partly due to our membership in the Microsoft BizSpark program, which I would recommend for any startup company. Through membership in the BizSpark program, we've gained visibility with potential investors, clients, and partners-we now have a network of potential customers that would have cost a significant amount of money to build on our own.
MSDN: What are some of the key benefits Sopima has seen since implementing Windows Azure?
Mikola: In addition to the cost-avoidance that we see in terms of infrastructure and personnel needs-approximately U.S.$500,000 in salaries alone-we're also able to pass those savings on to our customers and provide a reliable, affordable solution. Customers can scale the service according to their own usage. Our market intelligence tells us that our customers can save as much as $2,000 per user in setup fees for hosting and approximately $15,000 a year per company in maintenance and hosting fees, using our application and Windows Azure.
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To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit: www.windowsazure.com/evidence