Mike Salisbury on the Quantrix Product Roadmap

Mike Salisbury is the Director of Quantrix and is responsible for the overall Product Roadmap for the Quantrix Modeler and Qloud products. Mike took a few minutes to share some insights on recent product developments and upcoming new features.

It has been a busy few months for the product teams. Can you give us an update on recent product developments on the Desktop modeler?

Certainly! In January we released a major version of the desktop product and I am pleased to say it is getting great reviews from our user community. We totally reskinned the User Interface application and focused on making the commonly used features much easier to use. New icons, new color themes, new launch panel, all aimed at making the most seasoned user to the new user more comfortable with our application.

The Dependency Inspector was completely redesigned in a recent edition of Quantrix Modeler, and it is now much easier to debug formulas.
The Dependency Inspector was completely redesigned in a recent edition of Quantrix Modeler, and it is now much easier to debug formulas.

Our Dependency Inspector (DI) redesign is a big hit. It makes formula debugging much simpler and users of all abilities can trace the calculation thread throughout the model. I personally use the Salesforce integration daily in our Quantrix sales forecasting model, and our Tableau integration means users can get information directly out of Quantrix into Tableau reports.

In our March release, we enhanced the DI even further by allowing users to navigate directly to the formula from the DI to make formula edits. Users can re-index and rename their category items on-demand, and we continue to make strategic UI improvements like shading the formula edit area in a light green to make it clearer to the user where the focus is on the screen.

How about recent Qloud developments?

New iOS tablet integration for Quantrix Qloud opens up in-the-field uses for Quantrix.
New iOS tablet integration for Quantrix Qloud opens up in-the-field uses for Quantrix.

We are really excited about our IOS tablet integration. I encourage iPad users to navigate to http://qloud.quantrix.com to check it out. Having the ability to use Quantrix Models on a Tablet device should open up some opportunities for executive and ‘in the field’ type use-cases we have in our customer community. I think one of the best features is being able to move a matrix dimension tile to the row, filter, or column tray simply by dragging it with my finger. Simple but very effective!

In our March release we introduced Salesforce compatibility for Qloud. If you are using the Salesforce integration on your desktop models, you can now use this integration on both Hosted and Enterprise Qloud. We believe the data analysis you can do in Quantrix far exceeds anything you can do within the Salesforce application itself.

How often do you release new software?

We strive to have a new desktop and Qloud release every three months. We have adopted the Agile method of software development. This allows us to quickly iterate on new features (and bug fixes) in two-week cycles or ‘sprints’. At the end of each sprint, we have a functioning product. At the end of the three-month cycle we move into a formal test period and then release to our customers. Doing this allows us to be much quicker and more reactive to our customer needs.

What is next for the Desktop Modeler and Qloud?

For Qloud, we are actively converting the Qloud framework to AngularJS. This JavaScript framework allows us to develop new features much quicker, and is more suited for tablet development. This is a big project, but our production Qloud already has many of the AngularJS pieces in place on the login page and the models list on the current hosted Qloud. We continue to work on switching over other non-model elements of the Qloud to this new technology.

In regards for Qloud features, we are actively working on Multi-user Edit. This will be an Enterprise-only feature that will allow Enterprise Customers to deploy models to users, and then allow those users to edit the model at the same time – no more waiting for your colleagues to release the lock on a model. With this comes some powerful new features including tagged versions and ‘save-as-you-go’, all to ensure you can collaborate effectively.

For Desktop, continuing the improvement of our user interface and ease of use as well as developing more getting-started help is high on our list. We are making our Salesforce integration even better by allowing joins between multiple tables in the Salesforce hierarchy. We continue to address issues and enhancements to make sure our calculation engine is as efficient as possible, because we know our customers like to make very large models!

How can a Quantrix user provide feedback?

We very much appreciate feedback from our users. Many of the new enhancements and features are the direct result of user suggestions. There are many ways to provide feedback:

As always, thank you everyone for your support of Quantrix!

Rich Lopez, aka the “QuantrixAuthority”, Creates YouTube Channel for Quantrix Users

We are always amazed and gratified by our customers’ passion for Quantrix Modeler, but Rich Lopez has taken it to the next level. By day, he works in the finance department of Litehouse Foods, but by night he is YouTube star The Quantrix Authority. His series of three- to five-minute-long how-to videos helps others get the most out of using Quantrix’s multidimensional modeling software, from learning how to snap two matrices horizontally to a canvas, to the benefits of using Timeline for recursion in a model.

How did you get started with Quantrix?

I was introduced to Quantrix when I worked at clothing retailer Coldwater Creek. I used it to build an allocation tool to manage inventory at our 350+ stores. When I moved to Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division, a co-worker and I built a distribution model to ensure that we were getting the Xboxes and games shipped properly. It was during some of the really big

Rich Lopez, the Quantrix Authority
Rich Lopez, the Quantrix Authority

Microsoft launches, like Halo 4 and Windows 8, so we build scenarios for everything we had to manage during the holiday season. We were able to model it down to the daily levels. Quantrix saved my bacon at that job – I could not have done what we needed without it. Now I use Quantrix for financial modeling and capacity modeling for Litehouse.

What inspired you to start making video tutorials about Quantrix Modeler?

I leaned a lot about using Excel from a guy on YouTube called MrExcel. Bill Jelen has more than a thousand videos, and I used to watch him every day. I am a pretty advanced Excel user, but I love Quantrix more. After seeing what MrExcel has done, and seeing how his expertise helped me, I thought I could do something similar to help others with this fantastic software.

How do you choose the topics?

My first video was about the first feature I learned in Quantrix – “Using As.” My mentor taught me that when I started at Coldwater Creek, and it’s basic functionality in Quantrix. Some people at my company are struggling to use certain features of our Quantrix Models, so I’m starting to create videos on topics that will help them.

Who are you targeting?

I am pretty much reaching out to beginners and intermediate users. I am very open to questions – after my second video, I got an email from a Quantrix user in the Ukraine. Just this week someone asked me about using DataLink with .csv files, so I made that video. Whenever someone asks me a question, I try to answer it.

How many videos do you plan to make?

MrExcel has more than 1,000 videos and a forum that everyone knows. I have eight videos online now, and if I get to 100, I know I will have really accomplished something.

I’m following you on Twitter. How famous are you?

Ha ha! On a scale of one to ten, I am probably a “one” in real life. But in the Quantrix world, I hope to one day be about an eight! I am having fun with the videos, and with my Twitter account (@QuantrixAuthor). I have legitimate Quantrix users following me, and I feel like I am rubbing shoulders with some real legends. Some of these people are such power users, and they are telling me to keep making videos. Their feedback is so positive, and it’s great.

Final question – what was your “aha” moment using Quantrix?

It happened at Microsoft. I remember being called into a room by eight managers and having them tell me they needed some specific information, and they wanted it in three days. It could not be done in Excel, so we just pounded out a model in Quantrix. I stayed up until two in the morning a couple of nights, but I developed a model where if the managers wanted to add another distribution center, product line, or launch scenario they just could select a category and hit “enter”. That was it. And I realized then and there that Quantrix Modeler was the coolest tool that has ever been made. Quantrix Forever!

People of Quantrix: James Kipling, Product Manager

James Kipling started his professional career at IDBS, which develops advanced software for research and development and also is the parent company of Quantrix. When assigned the task of developing a performance management tool, he immediately decided to use Quantrix Modeler for the project. He became as hooked as many of Quantrix’s other customers, and recently joined the Quantrix product management team. Following are some insights from James.

James Kipling, Quantrix
James Kipling, Quantrix

Tell us a little bit about your history with IDBS.

I started working summers while I was at university. I was a software tester, and then worked on the Help Desk. That was a great experience, and really helped me understand our customers. When I graduated, I was assigned to Operations, and worked on our Balanced Scorecard Project.

What did that involve?

A Balanced Scorecard is basically a way for a company to measure its performance and trend it between periods. We are developing our Scorecard to measure metrics such as revenue, profit, customer satisfaction, adherence to forecasted product release dates, and more. We will use it for performance management for IDBS and our subsidiaries around the world. I knew this would be a project that Quantrix Modeler was perfect for.

How did Quantrix perform?

We are still in the process of refining it, but once it’s fully linked to our support systems and data sources, it will be a completely automated system. We will be able to get an instant update about anything happening in our business – this process used to take us a full month just to pull the data together.

Like many Quantrix users, we had multiple iterations of Excel models around the business. Marketing had one version, corporate had another – it was a challenge to determine who had the right number. We needed a single model that accessed the right information, but that could provide different views. This is where Quantrix excels – we can trend metrics over time, and generate views very quickly. This will become our single source of truth for metrics.

I bet your Quantrix skills are pretty good now.

I would say that I am now a Quantrix power user! I was invited to speak at the annual customer event, Seminar by the Sea, in Portland, Maine last fall about my work on this project. It was great to be surrounded by people who love Quantrix as much as I do.

How else have you used Quantrix?

When I moved into sales operations at IDBS, I used Quantrix for sales forecasting, pipeline analysis, and to evaluate sales opportunities across multiple regions. After using Quantrix so much, I really aspired to be on the Quantrix team. When I had the opportunity to join the product management team, I jumped on it.

What does the new position entail?

I’m working with the desktop software development team as the voice of the user. My job is to listen to customers, learn what they need and want, shape the feedback, and relay that back to the team. My aim is to help the team bring out high-quality features that will help our existing and prospective customers get the most out of Quantrix.

How has this played out with the team?

I have had so many interesting conversations with the team about how customers use certain features. One example is the Dependency Inspector – it was created primarily as a debugging tool and of course it works great as that. But our customers also use it to query how a number is generated within Quantrix. Executives can click on a number and find out its sources and how the final number is calculated. That’s just one interesting way that I can bring the customer’s voice to the table when it comes to design and development – I think it will really help us make even higher quality products.

You’re splitting your time between the UK and the States for this role – what do you do in your spare time other than trying to get some sleep at 35,000 feet.

I have done a lot of offshore sailing, and would like to get back into that. But I’d also call myself a foodie – Portland, Maine is one of the foodiest cities in America, so I’m looking forward to working my way through the more than 200 restaurants here.

New features in Quantrix Modeler 5.3 boost business model performance

We’re excited to announce that version 5.3 of our Quantrix Modeler desktop modeling and analytics application is now available. This release focuses on fixes in the code base to better support Timeline, which streamlines the process of setting up time-based dimensions in models. It also improves inter-model formulas and models that use deep recursion with multi-threaded calculation. If your business and financial models have these characteristics, you’ll find they perform more quickly and efficiently in Quantrix Modeler 5.3.

Other enhancements include:

Updates to the Quantrix Qloud for online access to multidimensional business models

  • -When a model is checked out from the cloud-based version of Quantrix Modeler, the toolbar save icon automatically saves changes directly back to the Qloud.
  • -The language is simplified on the last page of the Qloud upload wizard.

UI & Formula Improvements

  • -Constrained lists in cells support tab autocomplete functionality.
  • -Status summary bar now displays the result in the color of the number format of the cell selected.
  • -New time-aware function called sublist has been added to aid in ‘rolling’ calculations such as rolling averages.

Scripting

  • -Scripts now return the items from a selection in another matrix.
  • -New script support for unlinking of categories.
  • -Timeout setting can be applied for scripts

You can see all the details of the changes in our version 5.3 release notes PDF.

FYI, our last production release was version 5.1, so you may be wondering if you missed a beat.  Version 5.2 was an internal release to support our parent company’s (IDBS) implementation of Quantrix in its E-WorkBook application. You can jump right from 5.1 to 5.3.

How to Update to Quantrix 5.3:

This is a free upgrade for all customers of our version 5 series.

The Help > Update Quantrix feature is not available for this release. Please use Help > About Quantrix to verify your version number. If your version is not 5.3.1.20150302, you can download the installers using one the links below:

Quantrix On-Line Support Portal:
http://quantrixsupport.idbs.com/sw/quantrixwss/

Free Trial Form on Quantrix.com: (Just note in the comments box you are upgrading version 5.3)
https://quantrix.com/free-trial/

If you have multiple computer installations of Quantrix Desktop, it is best to update all installations to the new version at the same time. Also, good data practices dictate taking backups of all your model files prior to using with a new version.

If you have any questions about the upgrade feel free to contact our technical support desk at support@quantrix.com.

Thank you for your continuing support of Quantrix.

-Mike

mikeHeadShot2

Quantrix Offers Collaborative Environment for Essla International

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.

Quantrix Customers Extend Education at 2014 Seminar by the Sea

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.
Quantrix Seminar by the Sea Schooner
Attendees at this year’s Seminar took an evening sail in Casco Bay on the historic schooner Wendameen.

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.

Seminar attendees enjoyed the lobster buffet.
Seminar attendees enjoyed the lobster buffet.

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 customerservice@quantrix.com to be included on the list for when we announce the dates.

Happy modeling!

Top-Performing Organizations Look Beyond Spreadsheets

A lot of companies use spreadsheets – they’re cheap, relatively easy to use, and are standalone apps for the desktop. But any organization relying on spreadsheets for financial planning should read the recent research report from Nick Castellina at Aberdeen Group (Beyond Spreadsheets: The Next Level in Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting). This report calls out something that is no surprise to us at Quantrix: top-performing organizations take a “beyond spreadsheets” approach to budgeting, forecasting, and planning.

In addition to security, challenges with version control, and problems accessing data, spreadsheets simply aren’t as nimble and agile as most businesses need for decision-making. Aberdeen’s research finds that organizations that use a beyond-spreadsheets approach are more than twice as likely to have real-time updates to financial metrics. They can better track performance against budget on an ongoing basis, and they can reforecast as market conditions change.

The report calls out one of the strengths of Quantrix – the ability to create “what-if” scenarios. Those who can generate scenarios can create more informed plans, and set contingencies for certain events. Moving beyond spreadsheets enables organizations to make adjustments to the business that improve productivity, revenue, and operating margins.

In all, organizations that Aberdeen defines as “best in class” are 71% more likely to take a “beyond spreadsheet” approach to financial planning.

To that, we say “amen” – and recommend that anyone relying on spreadsheets alone check out Quantrix. We’d love to help you become best-in-class!

Is that Season Pass Worth It? Quantrix for Personal Finance

One thing I love to do with my family is to go Alpine skiing. With Quantrix’s HQ in Maine, we can take advantage of some great ski areas. Each year we make a point to ski Sugarloaf, Mt. Abram, Black Mountain of Maine and Shawnee Peak. I even maintain a personal ski blog about our family skiing adventures. Our favorite mountain and where we have a season pass every year is Saddleback located in Rangeley, Maine.

Quantrix's Mike Salisbury finds some fresh stuff on a bluebird day.
Quantrix’s Mike Salisbury finds some fresh stuff on a bluebird day.

Each year about this time, ski areas offer “Early-Bird” pricing on next year’s season pass. The analysis for buying a season’s pass is very multi-dimensional. There is season pass price, purchase time deadlines, age level of passes, day ticket prices and the question of “How many ski-days does it take to pay off a season pass?” And of course I use Quantrix Modeler and the Quantrix Qloud to do this analysis.

With the first purchase deadline approaching, I put a model together quickly with one formula driving the entire calculation. The model is expandable so when new season pass deadline comes, I can easily expand the dimension, add the new pricing figures and the model will just… work. No formula editing or copying and pasting things around. There is also a nice canvas I built to show the model results that has links to the Saddleback website. I use a picture of my son skiing as the canvas image background.

You can view the model on our Quantrix Qloud, and you can download the model file itself here. While we market Quantrix as a tool for business, it certainly has many personal finance applications as well.

– Mike

Mike Salisbury is the Sr. Product Manager for Quantrix. In his free time in the winter you can find him somewhere on a ski slope.

Adding Value with Quantrix Modeler Skills

I’ve spoken with many finance executives over the years and a question often comes up – how do I motivate the spreadsheet gurus in our company to embrace a different tool for financial modeling?  This kind of question is not unique to Quantrix; it is often the case in any implementation of new software that people express some reluctance to taking the time to learn a new skill.   One of the reasons in our particular domain is that many individuals who have gained mastery in spreadsheets feel that part of the value they provide to their company is being the “go-to” person whenever anyone has a question about how to do something.  They have spent many years learning how to make spreadsheets do things they weren’t necessarily designed to do.  However, in my experience, most of these spreadsheet gurus catch on to Quantrix Modeler in very short order.  When they begin to use Quantrix, a light often goes off in their heads with the realization that they can do their tasks with much more speed, nimbleness and accuracy than they could have with the spreadsheet.  In a real and tangible way, they are able to take their financial modeling skills to a new level and offer even greater value to their organization.  That is a great motivating factor!  On an organizational level, this is a major benefit to finance executives who are asked to make their teams more productive with fewer resources and is one of the key reasons they come to Quantrix.  On an individual level, proficiency in Quantrix Modeler is a desired skill in the marketplace.  Quantrix has over 1000 customers in 50 countries and we are often asked to refer individuals to employers who are looking for talent.  So, investing the time to develop Quantrix skills will pay dividends in one’s career.  For those who use LinkedIn, I highly recommend adding Quantrix Modeler to your skills in your profile.  Simply log in to LinkedIn, go to Profile|Edit Profile, scroll down to Skills and Expertise, click Edit (blue pen icon), and type “Quantrix Modeler”.  Then hit the Add button.  You never know where your Quantrix Modeler skills will take you!

David Phillips

dphillips@quantrix.com

www.linkedin.com/in/davidphillips11/

The 6th Annual Seminar by the Sea

The Quantrix team would like to thank our customers and partners who participated in the 6th Annual Seminar by the Sea.  This year’s event included three days of training and presentations during the peak of Maine’s leaf peeping season.  While we spent most of the time indoors participating in sessions, we also enjoyed a “wicked walking tour” of the Old Port where we learned about Portland’s colorful and haunted history.  This year’s event offered a variety of beginner and advanced topics, as well as a number of customer presentations. Special thanks to Armando Gonzalez who discussed his project with SABMiller, Max Jungjohan who presented his projects within the Chilean transportation market, Jim Heagney who reviewed his “CFO for Hire” projects with several start-ups, and Henry Shin who talked about his Quantrix-based data analysis and risk management solution for the California energy market.  Our customers also benefited from ad hoc demos and discussions regarding all the interesting ways people are using Quantrix.  We are already looking forward to next year’s Seminar!