Celoxis'ing and Simplifying Enterprise Project Management Complexities
Aleading US based Financial Services Company with around 900 branch locations in 25 states was facing a project management nightmare. Individuals weren’t clear about their deliverables. Managers were facing difficulties in planning and tracking. HR didn’t know whether resources were optimally allocated and executives didn’t have a grasp of what’s going on. They were using a mix of Excel worksheets and a home grown application. Neither was working for them anymore. After several failed applications procured from multiple vendors, the company approached Celoxis Technologies, a web-based project management software provider, headquartered in Pune.
Celoxis changed everything. Soon after deployment, the client was been able to streamline their task and resource management processes, helping them achieve better productivity and visibility across the system. Celoxis’ advanced reporting capabilities helped them more informed, data driven business decisions. “We developed Celoxis, keeping the customers’ challenges in mind. Every feature is aimed to solve the pain points they face”, said Nikhil Daddikar, Co-founder, Celoxis technologies. Co-Founder Ravindra Wankar added, “It is very important that the software adapts to the business environment and not the other way around. That’s how you provide true value to customers.”
How It Began
The Journey begun when Nikhil and Ravindra were working together in the U.S. Working in small and large teams they realized that too much time was being wasted on status meetings. After the effort and time spent, nobody had a clear picture of what was going on. “The dynamism complicated things even further. Things would change every week. And important activities started slipping through the cracks. The printout taken from Microsoft Project on day 1 was no longer valid next week.” added Nikhil. Collaboration too was an issue. Email and documents scattered across desktops and servers held important information. “We’d never know if we had the correct version of the word document. We quickly realized that Microsoft Project and Excel weren’t going to be enough. It was time for a revolution and we wanted to be the ones to start it.” added Ravindra.
After moving back to India in 2000 and engaging in brainstorming sessions with a few CEOs, Nikhil and Ravindra realized that the same problem plagued everyone. Even non-IT companies. “What was needed was a tool that is for everyone - the team member, manager and executives that would make project management and collaboration easier. We estimated productivity improvement of over 500 percent. That’s a lot.” added Nikhil.
Browser based software was starting to gain traction and they realized that the future was web based project management software. “We realized that On-Premise deployment was a necessity and that SaaS model would take off in a big way; it was also a safe bet to say that future teams would be multi-platform, geographically dispersed and multi-cultural,” says Ravindra. Celoxis launched its first SaaS and on Premise versions in 2001 which supported multiple browsers, databases and operating systems. “We are the first SaaS company in India,” adds a proud Nikhil.
Perfecting the Celoxis Experience
The initial days were far from reassuring. Back in 2001, web-based software was still a novelty and web-based project management was unheard of. “The value for managers and executives was easy to see. The real challenge was getting the team members to embrace it whole-heartedly.” says Nikhil. “We did everything to make them feel it was worth their time. We designed the software so users could get in and get out quickly. Even do things by email without having to login to the application. We even added a time sheet and expense modules so they didn’t have to use other software.” adds Ravindra. From day one, Celoxis provided a customizable dashboard from where users could do most things without having to go deeper into the application.
As Celoxis added more and more users, requests for customizations started pouring in. “Frankly we were a bit overwhelmed. We didn’t see till that point how every business was unique.” For two years, they struggled with meeting demands, till an epiphany struck them one day - they decided to make all views customizable. “We designed the entire view system from scratch and made everything customizable. We could proudly tell our customers that they can now view their data their way,” adds Ravindra. Everything was customizable - the filters, columns, groupings and even charts. “Celoxis is probably the only project management tool, where you can get drill-down charts even on your custom fields.” said Nikhil. “And you don’t need to hire consulting teams to do any of this. Just point and click and you are done.” added Ravindra.
Globalization was also catching on in a big way. Work was outsourced across the globe to whoever was cheaper and better. Teams were geographically dispersed and that added a new challenge to managing projects. “This was a new challenge and we took it up. We were the first company in the world to offer cross-time zone scheduling.” says Nikhil. Teams could now comprise of members from the U.S., India and China, and Celoxis would seamlessly schedule tasks for them. Celoxis also made managing resources across locations easier. Globalization also meant that clients and providers were located in different cities or even different countries. There was demand from clients for transparency and also need for a platform for collaborating with clients. “We were the first entrants in this space as well. We were the first company to provide free client access. Clients could login and participate in projects, discussions and issues. Even share documents. You can be transparent and still maintain control over sensitive information.” adds Nikhil. Web based SaaS applications are the platforms of choice for many enterprises. Interoperability between these applications is becoming very important. “Honestly, we have woken up a bit late to this, but 2014 is going to be year of integrations for us. We have already released integration with Google Docs and working on Salesforce integration right now.” says Nikhil.
Recently Celoxis introduced the concept of custom applications. "The pain point was simple: We found that many companies were still using home grown apps, excel sheets and other smaller web based apps over and above their primary project management system. And using multiple systems is cumbersome and counter-productive.” says Nikhil. “And don’t forget the lack of integration and learning curve”, adds Ravindra. With Celoxis’ custom apps, users can now define and track their business process workflow from Celoxis itself; everything from risk tracking, bug tracking, managing leave approvals, change requests and even sales tracking. All of this comes tightly integrated with their PM app. Celoxis is proud to be the first to introduce this concept.
Integrating into Enterprise IT systems
Celoxis is versatile and works across all modern browsers including Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Safari and Chrome.
For the On-Premise option, Celoxis application server integrates seamlessly with most enterprise IT systems. Operating systems supported include Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X Server and all flavors of Unix and Linux. Database servers supported are Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Postgresql. “We are committed to platform independence from day one and have worked hard at it. It is one of our key areas for developing intellectual properties.” says Nikhil.
Dealing with software upgrades has been bane for enterprises. Celoxis changes that completely. “We have done upgrades of other applications and are aware of how painful it can be. Our upgrade process is 100% browser-based. Just click and you are done”, says Ravindra. They demonstrated the installation and upgrade process and we wonder why every enterprise application can’t be this simple.
Celoxis is transparent when it comes to their uptime and it’s nothing short of impressive - 99.9% since 2011. You can view live and historical data at https://status.celoxis.com. The management has invested in proprietary and third party monitoring solutions along with building redundancies. “We even have developed a monitoring system to monitor our monitoring system.” says Nikhil with a chuckle. While their servers are located in an IBM datacenter in Dallas, US, they also have an identical standby system in Washington, US. “People tell us keeping an identical stand-by system is a waste, we disagree. The simplicity gives us peace of mind so we can focus on doing things that make our customers happy.”
Most enterprise systems are plagued with slow performance. We tried accessing the application at different times of the day and found the application to be surprisingly performant. “We have been victims of slow performance and we didn’t want that. We have built-in monitoring systems that alert us when performance starts degrading. Plus we always have enough extra capacity to handle the extraordinary.” points out Ravindra. Integration with other enterprise applications seems straightforward with their simple API. “Even a fresh developer can integrate Celoxis with your enterprise app” says a confident Nikhil.
While the traditional beliefs on starting an organization revolves around writing a business plan, approaching a VC and spending time in the release of a product, Celoxis focuses more on delivering value to customers ahead off any unrequited marketing tactics. Nikhil and Ravindra also are happy to say that in a country known as an outsourcing hub, Celoxis is one of the first organizations to Reverse outsource work to other countries.
Also brushing away the old-school thought of requiring sales offices in different countries, the Celoxis team manages and supports its world class product from its Indian offices. Moving forward, with a highly dedicated and motivated team, backed by a decade of experience of perfecting and adapting to the changing domains, Celoxis looks set to make a bigger positive impact and place India on the global map for software products in Project Management through its staunch ideologies, years of successful implementations and out of the box working methodologies.