Dan Murray of Interworks to Speak at Seminar by the Sea

Dan Murray is Director of Strategic Innovation for Interworks, a global IT services and business solutions provider. He is the author of Tableau Your Data!, and will be the featured speaker at this year’s Seminar by the Sea. We had a chance to talk with him about the data modeling ecosystem, and the value of an iterative process.

Describe your practice at Interworks.

Murray: InterWorks has a different model than most consulting companies —we aim to do high quality work, very quickly and then leave. Our consultants are good at translating technical needs into business cases. We also provide clients with thought leadership and project planning/implementation. Then we help them design dashboards that help them see and understand their data. We

Dan Murray, Director of Strategic Innovation, Interworks

have a broad skillset surrounding business information including data visualization, database design, extract, transform and load logic, hardware and network design to enable appropriately responsive data.

How did you get started working with data?

My first job was with a leveraged buyout firm. We bought bankrupt companies, looked at data, figured out how to make them profitable, and flipped them. That was better than an MBA – I figured out how to set up capital structures, leverage business assets, and drive profits. Over the last 30 years I’ve used data to solve problems, identify opportunities, and drive improvement. In the last seven years I’ve focused on teaching clients how to do this well.

What are some of the changes you’ve seen in your 30+ years managing data?

The proliferation of data bases – they are growing all the time. Many of our clients don’t have one database; they have a dozen and they can’t figure out how to get to the information. Our practice is built on helping companies bridge those gaps. And the tools are so much less expensive. Small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford to spend $1 million on toolsets to extract data and spit out multiple scenarios. Tools like Quantrix are dramatically lower in cost.

What else sets Quantrix apart?

Quantrix defines formulas the way that databases think – not by the cell, but by dimension. You can take a model with 4,000 formulas in Excel and do it with 40 in Quantrix.

You talk about the data ecosystem – where does Quantrix fit in?

At the center of everything is some kind of database. And Quantrix does something that no other tool does – it architects formulas in a very efficient and powerful way by speaking the database language at the data level, not the cell level. This means it can do powerful things with assumptions for predictive analysis. Factors that affected a business’s performance a year ago might not affect it a year from now, so you need to build a complex calculation that based on a sliding assumption. You identify the dimensions that are important to your business, and the assumptions that have worked in the past. With Quantrix, you can adjust the sliders to see if each factor will impact the future, by how much, and the outcome.

Give me an example of how that information impacts performance over time.

Today, most companies create a budget, and then re-budget every quarter. They take it for granted that they need to revise their forecast, but they are not using that information to refine their forecast. Quantrix can be the tool that you are iterating the potential future from. When you have new information, you should be populating the database with that innovation, and capture your assumptions. They are part of the innovation cycle. We tend to forget the bad ones and overemphasize the good ones – but with Quantrix connected to a database, you can see how good your assumptions were, and use them when you iterate. If we can reduce the time and effort required rebuild that forecast, then you can really advance over time.

What’s the bottom line for companies?

In the end, it’s all about data. Do you have it? Can you interpret it correctly? If you move the dial – which you can do easily with a Quantrix slider – did the expected outcome occur? That, to me, is what it’s all about. Drop the technology hurdle, expose the bones from the assumptions, and have a learning process where you get better over time. It is measurable. At some level, something significant happens – if you’re doing it right, the cumulative effect of the effort will help you grow.

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!

Hold the Date – Quantrix Seminar by the Sea Scheduled for September 10-12

We’ve been busy planning our annual customer gathering, and are excited to announce our 8th annual Seminar by the Sea will be September 10-12 in Portland, Maine. This event is one of the highlights of our year at Quantrix because we get the chance to show off Quantrix Modeler and share some new features. We learn how people use Quantrix to solve various business challenges, and are able to ask them questions in an informal setting. We get to meet people who are looking for solutions to help them model information, and show them the power of Quantrix. But best of all, we get the chance to introduce everyone – the Quantrix team, current customers, and prospective customers — to each other.

We structure the Seminar so that there is the right combination of learning for all levels – classroom sessions where you get to learn from our team and from your peers, small break-out groups for advanced users or for newbies, and plenty of informal learning opportunities. The Seminar is an exceptionally interactive event – people are encouraged to ask questions and share ideas. We often add sessions on the fly – if a user has a unique idea or a well-executed model, we ask them to give a mini presentation to the group. (Read a recap of last year’s event if you’d like an idea of what to expect.)

Adding to the personal nature of the Seminar is the setting – Portland, Maine is Quantrix’s headquarters, and we love showing off our town. From the working waterfront, to the boutique shopping, to the world-class restaurants, Portland is an ideal location for this type of event. Many of our attendees bring their spouses or significant others, and some extend their stay to enjoy the city together.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to Maine without a chance to eat lobster – we will once again host an evening Windjammer sail on Casco Bay, followed by a traditional lobster bake. Even for those of us based in Portland, the opportunity to cruise among our harbor islands on an historic boat is special.

Learn more about session topics here, and here’s more info if you’re ready to register. We hope you can join us this year!

The Value of Multidimensional Modeling with Quantrix – An Interview with Software Executive George Pappas

Many people purchase Quantrix because they are looking for a tool that can delve more deeply into their data than typical spreadsheet solutions. One of the important capabilities that Quantrix delivers is its ability to model complex information relationships in multiple dimensions. At Quantrix’s 2014 Seminar by the Sea, VC-affiliated Software Executive, George Pappas shared how he uses Quantrix to provide in-depth analytical insight to help high-growth companies succeed. Following is a discussion with him about his use of Quantrix.

Why do you use Quantrix?

I work with venture-capital-backed companies to help them get to the next stage of their evolution. As a member of The Edison Venture Partners Director’s Network, I have observed similar patterns of complexity challenges across their portfolio companies.  The need to analyze activities and behaviors that drive financial results requires more modeling power than the spreadsheet metaphor. Quantrix is a superior tool for modeling that lets me do things that are too rudimentary in Excel.

You work with software companies that either use or want to migrate to a software-as-a-service model. What challenges does that bring?

Rather than getting licensing revenues up front, companies get a monthly subscription fee. It’s a very challenging business model if you have a complex product. The cost of building and implementing a SaaS customer is complex, so you have the same cost as for a customer purchasing a license, but much less up-front revenue and cash, so you have to be careful.

What are some of the other common concerns of start-up companies?

When you try to grow fast, the risk goes up. And the team has to grow from doing things themselves to managing things, and that brings a lot of complexity. There are so many challenges, really, and people tend to make emotional rather than objective decisions. They also tend to make their models match their expectations. But really, the levers that drive results are too complicated in most cases to model in a program like Excel. People end up simplifying their assumptions and inputs to their model to drive what they expect will be the financial results, such as, it will take us one month to get five new customers. This happens not just because the finance person might not understand the detailed sales process and key drivers, but also because they are not comfortable in using Excel to model the assumptions that drive the results.

So, tools can be a barrier to insight?

The problem is not modeling financials; it’s modeling the activities that drive the financial result in a way that is rich enough to test your assumptions. I spend a lot of time working with the CFOs at companies, and asking them about their financial and operating models. How much expense does it really take to implement a customer? How long does it take? What resources do we need, and how much do they cost? You need a modeling tool that can describe in a rich way the activities that you need to drive the outcomes that you want and validate the model by seeing the results in multiple perspectives simultaneously; that is where Quantrix’s multi-dimensionality is so valuable. Excel offers a flat, two-dimensional perspective with simplified assumptions. But you can get something much richer and more adaptable with Quantrix.

Give us an example.

Ok, one of my companies developed assumptions for new customer growth including the sales cycle, close rate, deployment time, and economics.

The next step was to dig into that, and find out what it meant. Take a look at the next figure – this is a flattened Excel view of the sales booking of these new customers, and the assumptions seem reasonable.

But then you look at the next figure. This is a multidimensional Quantrix model that shows the reality: if you sell this way, and your deployment time is as predicted, then you have to be prepared to handle rolling out 70 locations in one month at peak load and staffing.

That’s the difference between two-dimensional Excel models and multidimensional Quantrix models – you get information you need to do something meaningful, or make a different choice. These are things that most people understand intuitively, but seeing the cascading effects of modeling assumptions is invaluable.

What often happens with planning is that your assumptions seem right, but when you add them up together, you see that something is not working. By modeling more richly, you can see what will really happen after calculating in all of the dependencies. With Quantrix, you can see the problems clearly before they happen. That’s a big-time selling point over Excel.

How did your client react to that information?

We changed the professional services staffing, and we adjusted compensation sales goals. We did some rethinking on our sales strategy and plans. By using Quantrix, we were able to see the impact of certain assumptions, and get a real picture of our risk. It’s all about risk and execution, and being able to model more richly in Quantrix, we were able to adjust.

Where should new Quantrix users start when they begin to model?

Given the things that Quantrix does well – multidimensional analysis, and ripping things apart and calculating on baseline data – people should try to really understand what’s going on with their customers, activities and the revenue they generate. That’s something most companies have a poor understanding of. Every business cares about revenue, so this is a good place to start with Quantrix.

Connect with George at george@pappasonline.net.

The 7th Annual Seminar by the Sea

Quantrix thanks our customers, partners and staff for making the 2013 Seminar by the Sea a great success. In September, customers joined us in Portland, Maine from Bermuda, Italy, Mexico, England, Ireland, and Austria, as well as from all over the

Attendees prepare for the 2013 Seminar by the Sea.
Attendees prepare for the 2013 Seminar by the Sea.

United States. They represented markets including financial services, higher education, software, reinsurance, energy, legal compliance services, consumer products, management consulting, and agriculture. We also were joined by staff from our parent company IDBS for our three-day event.

The Quantrix team presented an overview of future plans for the product line as well as details on new features. Brian Cabana, Quantrix Development Manager, explained new Qloud features such as the tabbed design, visual cues for users, ability to use notes, widgets, export to xls and csv, permissions, and how to use a Qloud model in DataLink. The team also conducted Road Map Roundtable sessions to gather customer requests for new features.

Brian Cabana outlines  new Quantrix features.
Brian Cabana outlines new Quantrix features.

Ben Wake, who developed Quantrix’s new Timeline feature, explained Timeline’s Wizard, which enables users to easily set up a timeline, as well as other features such as the ability to drag and drop to link an entire timeline to another matrix, and the ability to have different timelines on different matrices within a model.

The Seminar included training sessions for beginners as well as for advanced users, where participants were able to receive hands-on instruction for how to best use Quantrix in their environment.

As at other Seminars, the Customer/Partner Case Studies were a highlight. John Taylor of Planning Models, Ltd. uses Quantrix for business modeling, planning, analysis, performance, and scenario what-if’s. He demonstrated how he uses Quantrix to help educational institutions forecast student admissions, retention, facilities needs, grants, tuition, and other business challenges.

John Montana presenting his Quantrix-based solution.
John Montana presenting his Quantrix-based solution.

John Montana of Montana Associates described how his firm uses Quantrix to manage the complexities of information governance, including legal requirements and risk management. Montana Associates uses Quantrix to manage and analyze huge data sets for litigation discovery, recalls, lawsuits, ethics requirements, document production and retention, and more.

Luca Erzegovesi, professor at the University of Trento, Italy, detailed how he uses Quantrix to manage his financial planning class. He demonstrated a creative and effective use of scripting to manage student registrations, evaluations, and dynamic communications to students about their exams. He also shared the sophisticated techniques he uses within Quantrix, including string comparisons, filtered list generation, message construction using variables, importing data from Sqlite3, and image management.

All aboard!
All aboard!

In addition to classroom sessions, presenters, attendees, and Quantrix staff had an opportunity to network during an evening sail in Portland, Maine’s Casco Bay on the historic schooner Wendameen. We viewed Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light, Cushing Island, and Peaks Island before docking at Great Diamond Island for a lobster dinner at Diamond’s Edge Restaurant.

We are already looking forward to our next Seminar by the Sea. Mark your calendar for September 10-12, 2014  in Portland, Maine.  We hope you will join us!

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!