Behind the scenes, a team of software developers works to add new features and functionality to the desktop and cloud versions of Quantrix Modeler. Learn about their priorities, and the technologies they use, in this interview with Senior Developer Shane Davison.
Tell us about your work at Quantrix.
I’ve been at Quantrix for four years, and I’m a Senior Developer. That means I code software development for the Quantrix Modeler desktop application and the cloud-based version. We write a lot in Java code which provides a stable, mature platform for us to develop software. We constantly research and evaluate new technologies, but we’re very aware of the fact that people need to make sure their models will continue to work over time.
What does the team focus on?
We are always trying to make the user interface simpler. For example, we have made it much easier to share models on the web. We are always working on making the software faster, and more responsive. And we always love feedback on customers about what they want – people can contact us anytime with suggestions and ideas.
Tell us about the migration of Quantrix to the cloud.
We’ve had a web-based version for a while, but now it is much more full featured and developed. For our customers who don’t want to create or share models in the public cloud, we now offer an Enterprise Qloud version where companies can use Quantrix in their private cloud. One of the features is a load balancer that I developed to improve performance and scalability when companies have multiple users on the Enterprise Qloud.
How does the load balancer work?
If you have, say, 100 users accessing models, you want to adjust the server load to accommodate usage spikes at different times of year. Our Enterprise Qloud users can edit a configuration file to assign which machines they want to use for model servers. They can do it round robin, by which one has the most memory available, or any number of options. The load balancer will choose the server based on your criteria, and expand the model server resources available. Users set up their parameters initially, and the work happens behind the scenes.
Sweet! It sounds like you have a lot of experience.
When I was six, my parents got me a Commodore PET computer. The PET is in the Computer History Museum now! I’ve always been a computer person.
And what do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing code for Quantrix?
I like to go out and eat and sample new beverages. I love the variety and quality of restaurants in Portland, Maine, our headquarters. I also like to ski and take road trips. Maine is a great state.
Like most software companies, Quantrix offers technical support on its products. But unlike many software companies, the Quantrix help desk is not outsourced to an external provider – it is staffed by employees of our parent company, IDBS, a developer of software solutions for scientific research and discovery. So, when you call for help, you reach a member of our team. Here’s an introduction to one of our Lead Support Analysts, Dr. Alison Campbell.
What is the support team like?
There are 12 of us based in Guildford, England, and we all have a science background. Nine of us have PhDs, and the remaining three have Masters degrees, so we’re probably one of the best-qualified help desks around! My background is in Toxicology and Biochemistry, and I have a PhD in Biomolecular Medicine.
Both Quantrix and IDBS have customers around the world – how do you manage the calls?
We work on a shift basis, and the help desk is open from 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM UK time. Everyone is trained in all products, so there is always someone on hand to answer questions on Quantrix. No one has to wait for a specific person. We work closely with the development and testing teams if there is a more complex issue that we haven’t seen before or need extra input on.
What kind of calls do you get?
It varies from simple questions such as, “what does this error mean?” to something more complex where a model doesn’t calculate the way they want. We then step through all of their tables and calculations to see if there is a problem with the software or with the model. In addition to answering calls via the phone, we also publish information in the knowledge base so that people can search for answers.
What happens when you get requests for new features?
We work closely with the Product Manager at Quantrix to pass along any enhancement requests for future releases.
What advice can you give to Quantrix users about how to get the most out of their support experience?
If something’s urgent, fire us up – we are always here to help. We will ask you to send your models so that we can troubleshoot. We do screen-sharing sessions so we can troubleshoot directly on your system. We also do support via email, which is helpful for non-native English speakers. We try to give our customers as many options as possible, and help you in the way that’s best.
What do you do in your free time when you’re not supporting Quantrix and IDBS users?
I just had a baby boy, and I’ve only been back from parental leave for a few months. We like to travel, and have been to Morocco and to Kenya on safari. But travel might have to go on hold for a few years – it’s all about the baby!
Essla International is a Quantrix partner, and recently started using the business modeling solution to help its clients with budgeting and financial forecasting. At the 2014 Seminar by the Sea, Ernesto Seijas took some time to share his experiences using Quantrix.
The company had several criteria in mind when it was looking for a new software solution, including connectivity to databases, the ability to manage a lot of data, and multidimensional views and found Quantrix to be the best solution.
In addition to meeting everything on the company’s wish list, Quantrix offered a more collaborative environment. “We can have 20, 30, 50 users inputting data – that’s a major difference,” says Seijas. Other benefits include the speed of calculation and reporting.
Seijas also likes Quantrix’s graphical canvas, as it enables him to display what-if scenarios in a dynamic presentation. This capability enhances the impact of Essla’s work, particularly when sharing with management or company boards.
“Quantrix has the best of many of the software [packages] in the market,” says Seijas. “You have the multidimensional approach. You have the data gathering and databases. And you have the reporting and the [fast] calculations.”
Watch the full video to learn more.
Charity Hegel is the Director of Finance at Litehouse, Inc., an Idaho-based firm that makes salad dressings, dips, and sauces. A team of folks from Litehouse participated in the 2014 Seminar by the Sea, and Hegel sat down with us to discuss the company’s use of Quantrix.
Prior to using Quantrix, the team relied on Excel for financial modeling, what-if scenarios, and financial planning, but found it had outgrown it. Getting the information they needed was too cumbersome and required too many formulas. What was worse, the company didn’t have confidence in the output. “The credibility…was just not what we needed it to be,” says Hegel.
Litehouse recently made the switch to Quantrix, and is thrilled with the results. It has slashed the time required to accomplish certain tasks from weeks to minutes, opening up more time for data analysis and insight.
“We used to spend 90 percent of our time compiling data and 10 percent looking at data and analyzing the data,” says Hegel. “I would say we now spend 20 percent of our time compiling the data, which leaves us 80 percent of our time to analyze, bring insight, do business reviews, and actually turn the headlights on for the organization.”
The multidimensional capabilities of Quantrix have enabled Litehouse to better model the business and deliver insight to company leadership so they could make data based decisions.
“The perspective, the insight, the analysis that [Quantrix] will bring to your business – it really will revolutionize the way you look at your business and your industry,” says Hegel.
Watch the full video to learn more.
Business Pro is a Mexico City-based consulting firm that helps large companies in Mexico and throughout the world to improve their business forecasting and budgeting. At the 2014 Seminar by the Sea, Business Pro’s David Chibras talked with us about his use of Quantrix, and the benefits it has for improving business management.
One of the most valuable features of Quantrix, according to Chibras, is the integrity of the models produced and the insight they deliver. “[Quantrix] gives the capacity to spend more time analyzing the data, not just fixing spreadsheet issues,” says Chibras.
He also notes Quantrix’s ability to develop what-if scenarios – companies can adjust specific points and see the impact of changes at the business management level.
Quantrix’s cloud-based options also are important to Chibras, who likes that modelers can build apps provide tailored access to ensure that users see just the information that impacts them. “Management can now have a really simple interface that can give them complex solutions,” says Chibras. “They can see what’s going on, they can make changes, and don’t have to [be involved with] modeling processes.”
Watch the full video to learn more about David Chibras’ use of Quantrix for business forecasting and budgeting.
At the 2014 Seminar by the Sea, Christie Kent of Lipkie Consulting delivered a presentation to the attendees on developing cash flow waterfalls using Quantrix. We sat down with her during the event to learn more about why she chose Quantrix, and how it has helped her business.
As she notes, she used to use Excel to develop models for clients, until a client asked for a project that could not be done in Excel. She researched numerous financial software packages to find one that would meet her needs, and only Quantrix was able to deliver.
“Quantrix provided a solution that was ideal for this type of cash flow waterfall,” says Kent. “I didn’t have to reproduce the logic over and over – I used the same logic for each level of the waterfall… all I had to do was add another level, and the logic continued.”
In addition, she found that it was easy to add new investors to the model, and simply modify the assumptions. Quantrix has become her primary modeling solution, enabling her to support the complex structures of Lipkie Consulting’s clients.
Kent has discovered that the ease of use of Quantrix is just one benefit: “The accuracy of information is so much better with Quantrix,” she says.
Watch the full video to learn more about Christie Kent’s use of Quantrix to develop cash flow waterfalls.
The Quantrix team is energized after hosting our customers from around the world at our eighth annual Seminar by the Sea. This event, held in our headquarters city of Portland, Maine, gives us a chance to connect more closely with our customers, from Fortune 500 companies to small business owners. We shared information about our products, services, and company outlook, but more importantly, we got the chance to learn from our customers about how they are using Quantrix products in their environment. Plus, we managed to have some time to relax and network on an informal basis. Following are some of the highlights of this year’s event:
- Quantrix beginners had their own track of sessions that introduced them to the product and the essentials of model building. They also learned how to structure logic, formulas, and function as well as understand the presentation tools of Quantrix. Other introductory sessions included basics that every Quantrix user should know, including the sample model library and the support portal, and how to build dynamic presentation canvasses.
- Advanced users participated in hands-on sessions to explore features such as DataLink, DataNAV, and DataPush and to learn new skills such as building scorecard models. The final day of the seminar included a full day scripting workshop, where customers brought their own scripts in to be reviewed by the Quantrix team.
- Other sessions were conducted for the full group, including those that spelled out the Quantrix road map, introduced some upcoming product features and brainstorms around future product features, and shared best practices in model performance and scalability.
As always, among the most popular sessions of the Seminar were the presentations from customers. This year’s presenters included Charity Hegel, Kim Oleson, Derek Christensen, Matt Burrows, and Rich Lopez from Litehouse; Christie Kent from Lipkie Consulting; and George Pappas from MotionSoft. These people shared information about their models and how they use them within their companies, and answered questions from the audience. They were all great about continuing to answer questions during the networking times, as well – everyone wanted to learn more about these advanced implementations.
As in years past, we dedicated a block of time for one-on-one consulting sessions with members of our team. This year, the sessions were completely booked up almost immediately after we announced them – we were really excited that so many of our customers took advantage of this opportunity.
We had some great evening activities as well, including a sail on an historic schooner in Casco Bay. We’re not sure which was more popular – the gorgeous view of Casco Bay and its islands and the dramatic sunset sky, or the lobster dinner. People “from away” were excited to see the buffet piled high, and to grab a second (or third!) lobster.
The event was a success for Quantrix, but the true measure is when it’s a success for our customers. As one attendee said on the evaluation form, “I think Quantrix is the best kept secret in business modeling. At the networking session I was pleased with people speaking with as much passion about the product as I have.”
We thank everyone for attending. If you didn’t get a chance to come to this year’s event, we hope you can join us for next year’s event. Just watch this space, or send email to email@example.com to be included on the list for when we announce the dates.