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Transforming the enterprise software industry: CloudStorm open source enterprise application development and integration framework

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CLOUDSTORM (Transforming the enterprise software industry: CloudStorm open source enterprise application development and integration framework)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2017-04-30

Virtual Solutions Ltd. is a Hungarian software development SME. We are developing CloudStorm - an innovative enterprise office automation and end user innovation platform.

The top priority of operational executives across all industries and geographies is meeting ever-increasing efficiency goals. This is even more pronounced in Shared Service Centres, where contracts enforce a 6-10% annual efficiency increase. Another top problem is finding and keeping the right talent, as finding skilled employees is getting harder. This is particularly true for the shared service center jobs that are generally rather repetitive by nature but still require skills and focus. SSCs are entering a wage war to attract employees from each other, which increases employee attrition and decreases overall efficiency of the sector.

To perform their work, SSC employees have to navigate several applications and excel sheets in their day-to-day activities to achieve simple tasks. Existing applications used in daily work are rigid and even the simplest change (e.g. adding an extra field for comments) takes 3-12 months due to overloaded IT departments. This results in a lot of shadow-databases in Excel and even more manual data-sync between existing apps and Excel databases, thus compromising data integrity and security. The user experience is bad and the work is repetitious. This in turn demotivates employees.

CloudStorm solves these problems with its innovative End User Innovation Tool, which enables Team Leaders and End Users to create automations to make their work more efficient and less boring (for example data entry automations, data retrieval (reporting) automations, etc.). Our solution builds on top of existing infrastructure and processes of the client, therefore can be implemented without switching cost. CloudStorm increases employee efficiency from day 1.

The CLOUDSTORM Phase 1 project focused on hypothesis testing, validation and business model development as well as developing a technology roadmap for the future. More specifically, our objectives were the following:
• Elaboration of a long term business plan to define the most profitable market strategy, validate our business model, and expand the CloudStorm community;
• Conducting an IPR study and legal assessment to support business plan development from brand strategy point of view and to investigate legal considerations of open sourcing software;
• Determining the key technical limitations and development areas by building up a larger community of beta users and extensively testing the CloudStorm framework and its paid features.

While CloudStorm technology has both developers and enterprises as target groups, we focused our efforts to uncover the problems, needs and business rationale of the paying customer side of our solution – the enterprise client – to support our go to market and quick growth strategy. The outcomes of our Phase 1 feasibility assessment are implemented directly into our product development roadmap, overall commercialization strategy, and a subsequent SME Instrument Phase 2 proposal
The overall result of the CLOUDSTORM feasibility assessment is a comprehensive commercialisation strategy for CloudStorm platform and a better understanding of our competitive landscape. We are confident to conclude that the Phase 1 and the subsequent Phase 2 project paves the way for our future roadmap.

We started the feasibility assessment with a set of hypotheses based on our previous activity in the domain. The project allowed us to prove or invalidate these. Around 70% of prior hypotheses were found valid but some major hypotheses were invalidated. These led to a fundamental change in market entry strategy and have saved us from months of future work by pointing our roadmap to a more favorable direction. Thanks to coaching, the SMEI project has led to a better internal organisation and processes.

1) Business model development and validation
Outcomes of the business model validation activities led us to reprioritize our market entry strategy. In our future roadmap we will first cater for our business users – the enterprise customers. Once we establish a CloudStorm brand which can act as an umbrella organisation for developers, will we expand our marketing efforts to create a developer marketplace. This ensures that we can tackle the usual "chicken-or-egg" problem of marketplace introductions. Through business model development, we found our niche to be at the crossroads of Robotic Process Automation and User Configurable Workflow Engines. We have also established market focus by identifying our early adopters: large enterprises in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, and a geographical focus. The project allowed us to fine tune our messages towards each stakeholder. Thanks to these findings we created a business model that rests on real life validation and is ready to be implemented in the coming months.

2) Intellectual Property study
The feasibility assessment led us to a better understanding of the competitive landscape in regard to the existing patents. In terms of the CloudStorm trademark, we have won our first case in defending our brand by acquiring the ownership of the CloudStorm account at the notable technology platform Github. We have identified key differentiators in our future roadmap which are worth to defend and patent in due time and will be the base of our IP protection strategy.

3) Technical feasibility study
Discussing with key technical decision-makers in our target industry have helped us form our technology development roadmap. We now have a better understanding of problems and responsibilities of the C-level technology officers in the target market. This has led to better formulating our message towards them in order to make an ally from the IT departments for CloudStorm implementation. Technical considerations are better known with regards to deployment in a heterogeneous enterprise IT environment, as well as data protection issues are uncovered and we started forming a risk mitigation strategy in this regard. We have established key relationships with technical experts in our domain and started cooperations that will be beneficial in the planned Phase 2 project. Our technology roadmap is clear now – first, we will focus on creating the advanced features of the CloudStorm End User Innovation Tool. In a second stage we will focus on technology and methods that allows the rapid scalability of the platform features, aided by machine learning.
CloudStorm key novelty lies in unifying the benefits of three types of software, which enables bottoms up process automation and process innovation within a company. By giving employees the tools to innovate their daily practices, CloudStorm increases employee efficiency by 90% from day one.

CloudStorm increases efficiency and cuts operational costs by connecting the data from dozens of different software used in companies, mapping all the daily processes, and based on that, automating repetitive tasks. CloudStorm is uniquely able to combine both computer- and human-based tasks in single workflows. CloudStorm enables employees automate their daily practices, without waiting for lengthy implementation projects by IT departments.

Our software is fundamentally novel compared to the state of the art process automation solutions:
1) Unified access to all the different software systems. Administrative work that required to access several different systems (like ERP, CRM, web and desktop applications) will be simplified by providing a single point of access to the end user: the CloudStorm End-User Innovation tool. Once they created automations that read or write the required information from/to the different applications they only need to use our tool, leading to a more efficient and lean user experience.
2) Democratized knowledge within an enterprise. CloudStorm automations created by one employee can be used by the colleagues: no more "exclusive knowledge". When you automate a work process, this automation will not only help your day-to-day work, but that of everyone facing similar problems, leading to a multiplied productivity gain. This also makes training new employees simpler – most common work items are provided by the automations created by other employees, meaning that no system-specific knowledge is needed to get the job done productively.
3) Increased productivity from day 1. Implementing software changes within minutes instead of months or years. CloudStorm is easy to use and implement without major software integration projects or technical trainings, thus helping employees to use it productively.
4) In-depth process monitoring to enable proactive process innovation. Today's ticketing systems offer limited reporting capabilities. It is often required to get a more detailed status report than a simple open/closed state of tickets. CloudStorm Insights analyses the automations and user actions related to a ticket family, providing progress report on a more detailed level than the tickets themselves. It can also help to track down the most time-consuming sub-tasks of a ticket, allowing users to concentrate on automating the tasks with the most productivity gain potential.
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