Applied Systems CTO Guns for a Long Range Transformation

“It’s been around for a long time,” said Belanger, who initially joined the company as vice president of product development. He is the first CTO of Applied.

“At Applied we have had a leadership position in the industry for many years, but our customers want us to bring even more innovation to the market. [and] enable them to harness data through new technologies,” Belanger said.

Applied’s new initiatives under his mandate include a “data lake,” a collection of a wide variety of structured and unstructured data in an analytics environment. This allows data to be combined in new and flexible ways not possible with older data storage technologies, Belanger explained. This would also allow Applied to integrate into the ecosystem of tools used by customers. Additionally, Applied is building a suite of next-generation APIs and is now also using Google Cloud, further fueled through an investment relationship with Google through its private equity arm. Additionally, the company is moving to a 100% browser-native front-end solution for its key product Applied Epic Cloud Management System.

“When I joined a couple of years ago, just before the pandemic, Applied was talking about needing to get some of these initiatives off the ground,” Belanger said. “It has been under my leadership that we actually launched [them] and now they are delivering value to our customers.”

Weak points and facilitation

Belanger has served as CTO for just over two years, initially joining Applied as vice president of product development. The veteran executive said he brings some key skills to the job.

“My primary focus is to be the leading technologist driving the best customer experience, tools and capabilities for our global customer base,” explained Belanger.

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He said the “data lake” and other existing or upcoming initiatives have come from talking with customers and employees alike.

“I have to spend time… listening to customer pain points, [and] talking to our internal staff about where we wanted to go as a company,” said Belanger. “Working together, we identified these areas as key pain points for our clients.”

One particular sticking point was the company’s Applied Epic product, whose front end is a native Windows client, meaning you have to install the software on individual laptops and desktops. The new native browser product update that Applied is building runs on the standard Chrome or Firefox browsers that everyone uses, allowing Applied to deliver updates and innovation faster.

“It takes advantage of many of the tools available for other browser solutions and makes it much easier for our customers to train and onboard new staff to deal with very complex mergers and integrations,” said Belanger.

Simultaneous actions and ultimate goals

Other technology improvement initiatives are being carried out simultaneously, Belanger explained.

“Once a quarter we do something we call ‘Development Day,’ where we take the entire technology and product management organization and focus on development,” he said. “We’re actually doing an innovation hackathon, where we have 20 teams at Applied proposing product improvements powered by our new technology, with the goal of driving them into the product in the coming months.”

The changes made so far to Applied return to Belanger’s focus as CTO for clients.

“The technology solutions that we offer — the browser, our new data lake, and our APIs — really help accelerate innovation,” Belanger said. “When a customer has a great idea or we see an opportunity in the market, we can implement a solution much faster than five years ago.”

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Ultimately, Belanger said, he sees technology as a way to empower employees and customers alike.

“For employees, we’re working to drive a simple, consumer-friendly employee experience and move away from the old-school business systems type of approach,” Belanger said.

With that in mind, Belanger said, the largest consumer technology companies, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, are setting the standard in terms of the customer experience and ease of use of their products.

“Those are the things we want to emulate. For too long, enterprise technology solutions have required extensive training and unfriendly user interfaces,” said Belanger. “In fact, we are moving on the side of the employees to adopt a much simpler and more consumer-friendly set of solutions. That is also what we are trying to do for customers.”

Belanger said he expects Applied to reach a point where it can go from product vision to development and launch in a matter of weeks or months.

“I’d like us to be able to deliver end-user experiences that delight our customers,” Belanger said. “I know it sounds silly for an enterprise software company, but why shouldn’t we make it a pleasant and…positive experience to use our tools?”