The focus is on improved usability with Vena’s latest quarterly upgrade, including full integration with Office 365, an improved interface and template automation.
Toronto-based CPM [corporate performance management] software vendor Vena Solutions already made big news this month with the announcement that founder and CEO Don Mal would step aside into a corporate ambassador role. Mal will be replaced by COO Shawn Cadeau, who will take over as CEO on June 1. Now the company is announcing a significant refresh of their flagship offering, with over 40 upgrades, including full integration with Office 365.
“Our focus moving forward is on three primary areas,” said Rishi Grover, Vena’s Chief Solutions Architect. “The customer experience is incredibly important to us. We are rated very highly through multiple independent studies, but we can’t rest on that. Secondly, we will continue to ensure that we have a best-in-class product, and you can expect to see more exciting things there.”
The third focus area is improving operational efficiency, reflecting the fact that Vena is still a relatively young company that has expanded at a very fast rate.
“Vena has been around for seven years, and is still undergoing rapid growth,” Grover said. “It is important to put the processes, systems and training in place for efficiency. Greater operational efficiency is a primary aim for us.”
The new release is the second since Vena shifted to a quarterly release schedule.
“The 40 plus new features are quite substantial, but we have a theme around each release,” Grover said. “The theme of this one is around usability, and it is on two fronts – for end users generally, and for setting up applications for power users. With both, the objective is to create a lower TCO, and a more seamless end user experience.”
It starts with filling out the last elements of Vena’s Office 365 integration. Vena is based on Excel, and the Excel integration is central, but other elements of Office are included, and some have been enhanced with this release.
“Excel is the biggest area because it is our DNA, and with this release we are leveraging more of what Excel online offers,” Grover said. “This now includes multi-user collaboration, which we have integrated in. We had compatibility before with online Excel, but have done some fine tuning to it. We have also had Word and PowerPoint integrations before, and they can talk to our database just like Excel can, We’ve also gone a step further, with connectors for the updated versions of OneDrive and Flow.”
Significant changes have also been made to the user interface.
“It’s now a lot more intuitive for the end user,” Grover said. “It now prioritizes what the users need to do, with information on status and where they should focus their attention. It also fully supports mobile, which required a lot of a rewrite of the code. The new interface also brings a lot better analytics as well.”
Template automation is one of the biggest new changes.
“This was there before, but in a beta state,” Grover said’ “Database logic in enterprise performance management has always traditionally been done by scripting. Now, we are able to allow users to use Excel calculations to impact that logic, to recalculate it when anything changes. I believe this is a game changer, because it removes the need for database scripting. It’s a very innovative addition.”
Half of the new features came from direct client requests.
“Due date email notification was a very common request from clients,” Grover said. “We didn’t have an automated way to set a rule to notify yourself again, and we have added that. Enhanced audit trails, illustrating things like who made the last change, were also client-driven. We always had all that data in the system before, but you would have to open it up. Now it’s all easily accessible in the browser.”
Grover, one of the company’s three original co-founders, along with George Papayiannis and Don Mal, will remain in place after Mal’s retirement from the CEO position, as will Papayiannis.
“The transition plan was started before I joined the company,” said Cadeau, who came to Vena as Chief Revenue Officer in January 2017.
“Don had a life plan for himself which involved stepping back, and that was why I was recruited as the CRO, responsible for the growth areas of the business,” Cadeau stated. “I was later promoted to COO, and added responsibilities for product management and customer service as well.
Cadeau pointed out that Mal isn’t leaving the company.
“He’s not fully retiring,” he said. “He is still a founder. He will be our chief ambassador – but on a part time basis. He has some other things he wants to do with his life – including a music career – which he will be able to do by no longer being full-time.”