Featured BizSpark Startup on Azure – Sopima

Interview with Riitta Raesmaa, Co-founder of Sopima.

Web site: http://www.sopima.com/.

Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I’m co-founder of the company and responsible for the product marketing. I also blog about both personal and professional topics: Entrepreneurship, Technology, Social Business/Enterprise 2.0, Social Media, Cloud, SaaS, Books, Design. My motto: Always in Beta. And passionately so. Twitter @raesmaa http://raesmaa.wordpress.com/

What is your company’s mission?

Sopima brings contracts to life!

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:

Sopima® Contract Management is designed to revolutionize the way organizations control, create, negotiate, and utilize their contracts.

Tell us about your Azure based solution.

The value is brought to the customer by shortening the time to negotiate deals, saving time in daily tasks, and enabling transparency with extensive search and reporting on all contract assets. Sopima also takes risk management to a new level with no more expensive lessons in neglected or forgotten commitments. The latest developments in technology and the acceptance of SaaS delivery model have made creating solutions like Sopima possible. Designed together with Avanade, we are using the latest innovations in cloud computing (Microsoft Windows Azure). The client solution is built on latest Rich Internet Application technology (Microsoft Silverlight for PC and Windows Phone 7). The contract sharing is designed to work on all devices, including touch enabled screens (e.g. Microsoft Slates and iPad). On the desktop Sopima is designed to work together with Microsoft Office products (Outlook, Excel, etc.). Elaborate integrations are supported through a standard Odata API (e.g. Active Directory, Biztalk, and Microsoft Dynamics).

How is Azure implemented in your solution?

After investigating the Amazon EC2 and Google App Engine cloud platforms and determining that they lacked sufficient service and management features, Sopima chose to become an early adopter of the Windows Azure platform from Microsoft. The Sopima team began development by creating a robust and flexible data model that could adapt to the needs of each customer and the wide variety of possible contracts. They then combined Microsoft SQL Azure storage options with an interface built on the Silverlight browser plug-in to collect and store contract content and metadata.

How did you get excited about Azure?

Our vision is to be the world’s best known and most liked way to manage contracts. Windows Azure has many features that let developers focus on the business logic and forget everything else, so you can devote your time to the areas that make your application special.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Working with the Windows Azure platform simplified many aspects of application development and enabled Sopima to offer customers an Internet-wide application they can deploy with minimal time and effort. The transition to a cloud programming model went smoothly for Sopima developers, who were able to spend less time on issues of security, scalability, and compatibility and more time focusing on application features and functionality.

What specific value are you getting from BizSpark beyond the technology?

Support from Microsoft team has been really fantastic both from Microsoft Finland and from BizSpark team. Sopima visibility has been raised to a totally new level.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment since founding your company?

The users are regular business people in those organizations, not just lawyers and contract managers. This user base expansion is made possible because Sopima makes contracts easy, visual and understandable. Sopima enables ordinary business people go get full benefits form good contract management. All this dramatically increases the number of potential customers and users.

What were the Azure features that prompted you to decide to build on Azure?

Simplified scaling, testing, and deployment, High security with minimal effort and Familiar development tools.

Because Windows Azure is hosted in Microsoft data centers, we can focus solely on making our application as secure as possible and not worry about the data center side. A huge range of security questions just disappeared when we decided to use Windows Azure. Deploying the Sopima through a cloud platform has all but eliminated that concern, because CPU, storage, and network resources can be added or removed as needed on a pay-as-you-go basis with no upfront capital investment. Developers are also freed from having to worry about many issues of scalability and storage management since they are handled automatically by Microsoft. Cloud development has greatly simplified testing and deployment for Sopima. Because services are hosted in the cloud, rather than installed in a customer’s data center, developers don’t need to take into account the huge variety of possible infrastructure configurations. Basically, we’re developing and testing for a common environment for all customers. The only thing our customers need to install is the Silverlight front end, so we can set up a worldwide deployment in a half hour. It’s really pretty amazing!

What advice do you have for companies that are thinking about building in the cloud?

By moving to a cloud platform, Sopima programmers were able to focus more on business logic programming and less on issues of scalability, testing, deployment, and security. Because they were able to use a familiar programming environment when working with Windows Azure, they were able to make the move to a new development paradigm without extensive training or the need to learn new tools.

What is the one thing that you would like readers to take away about your Azure app?

Sopima revolutionizes contract and commitment management by providing easy to use contract creation and management tools as an affordable online service for organizations of all sizes.

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