DEFINING THE PROBLEM
Our global industrial automation manufacturer needed a platform that allowed sales representatives and third-party technicians to view customer product details from their mobile devices.
Sales reps/technicians were used to having to travel back to their office in order to access availability, pricing, and item history. As you can imagine, this long turnaround led customers to purchase from competitors, eroding brand loyalty, and reducing sales. The sales team knew that the technology was causing the bottleneck, so they turned to Source Allies to help build a solution.
Our app development team worked with several partner teams to better understand their current application suite and in-house expertise. Our goal was to leverage any existing application design, architecture, and domain knowledge to accelerate delivery.
When working with the DevOps team, we discovered that they had heavily invested in Microsoft Azure and were in the process of migrating toward OpenID for user authentication. We also identified that the partner teams had years of experience in .NET and React. We took all of this into account when determining the technical stack of the app, and continued to collaborate with key contacts throughout the project.
DECADES OF DATA
Our partner had decades worth of data from numerous sources (some from before the computer was even invented!) and our application needed to present data from all of them. We worked with our partner to identify opportunities and develop an API strategy that improved their API platform in a way that would benefit all future projects.
Our app development team leveraged existing APIs and built out additional endpoints to expose data buried in legacy systems. Simultaneously we began collaborating with IT leadership to set the stage for creating an API platform.
Before releasing our first iteration of the user-facing app, we began getting requests from other partner teams to use the APIs we had created. We were able to quickly get them access — proving to leadership the exponential value that a solid API platform provides.
Our first step in the development process was to conduct multiple phases of user research. We interviewed users around the globe to identify specific use cases allowing us to prioritize features. Through this process, we discovered additional features that would benefit not only part sales but also service and unit sales. We worked with our partner to identify a minimum viable product (MVP) release that both satisfied their internal goals, as well as the wants and needs of their wide user base.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
CONTINUOUS DEVELOPMENT: Creating a continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline was the next step in the project. The CI/CD pipeline allowed us to verify infrastructure and tech stack viability in a production environment. This approach allowed us to release with confidence and at a steady cadence throughout the project. It also means that new features can be in the hands of our users within minutes of completion, with zero downtime.
APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT: Given the goals of the application and the features desired, we decided to develop a custom web application. Starting as a web app allowed for faster development and left the door open to easily transition to a native mobile app in the future.
Knowing the application was going to be used onsite, in industrial settings, and often in low-light, we took a mobile-first UI approach. We favored small screens, later enhancing for desktops, rather than building for big screens first and then removing features for mobile users. We built analytics into the solution from the beginning, to ensure we could have access to the best data possible when making future decisions. All code was test-driven to ensure quality and long-term stability.
We took an iterative approach and our initial release allowed reps in the field to view manufacturing product details based on the serial number. The next release allowed users to pull spare parts lists, including price and inventory counts at warehouse locations across the globe. This iterative approach enabled users to utilize features right away while allowing our team to gather feedback quickly. We were able to give our partner a quality product that could simultaneously help them achieve their goal of faster turnaround and therefore more sales, as well as a solid platform upon which future products could be (and are being) built.