At the recent EMPOWER 2016 conference, I heard from a panel of executives regarding lessons learned from their rapid application development implementations.
The panel was moderated by Ankit Shah, senior manager of platform and product marketing and strategy at QuickBase, Inc. and participants included Rich Buckley, vice president of global ops engineering and order management at Metso; Joe Lichtefeld, vice president of application services at ResCare; Nathan Mascenic, vice president of business systems at Freedom Financial; and Bruce Squibb, senior director of program development at Sodexo. Here’s a recap of the Q&A.
What have been the core challenges within your organization?
Bruce: Sodexo provides contract food services. In the U.S. prior to 2008, we were operating a lot of standalone businesses. Then, we grew our global business and were suddenly opening 20 locations for a single client. We were a very large organization but needed to become more nimble. Rapid application development was the answer, but we had to create a value stream from it so senior leadership could understand the path forward.
Nathan: Freedom Financial offers loans and debt negotiation for individuals; we settled $1 billion in debt for our customers last year. It wasn’t long ago that my team had to fight about who got to keep the spreadsheet open. Eventually, a few Excel-savvy people decided to transition everything to QuickBase. Today, we have about 100 applications serving 1000 users.
Joe: ResCare has four main operating units that provide home healthcare. I’m in the IT department but my background is in accounting, so I understood the value of QuickBase when my company acquired a firm that was using it. I’ll never forget when our CEO asked our compliance officer for information. After a fast response, the CEO said: “Normally, when I ask for something like this, it’s six months. How did you do it in six weeks?” We’ve since grown to 2000 users.
Rich: Metso is a Finnish industrial equipment manufacturer with 16,000 employees in 50 countries. There is so much data, it’s unbelievable. People don’t have tools to stay on top of data from 300,000 order lines. We used Microsoft Access and Excel spreadsheets, and people were actually taking reports, making copies of them, highlighting their portions, and passing them down. We needed a much better way to tie our operations together.
What are some of your RAD use cases?
Rich: We have a global inventory app as well as a global engineering app that tracks fluctuations in business so we can allocate resources in real time, and an order management app. Because global similarity is so important to us, our process is heavily controlled. Only two people in the company are authorized to build apps.
Joe: We have the CRM app we started with, and also now have a residential app that helps with site reviews in 42 states. It ensures everything is working properly and looks nice onsite, and that information can be centrally reviewed and managed from the corporate office. We have departmental, one-off apps. Each line of business has different needs but they use the same platform.
Nathan: We have a sales CRM for client onboarding and a ticketing system for IT operations.
Bruce: We built a cluster of operational apps that all sites use across the country. These apps perform various reporting and administrative functions. What’s funny is that many of our clients use our platform to measure our performance! We find that client-facing solutions are great at solidifying partnerships.
How do you collaborate with business?
Bruce: Our requests to build apps come from the field and we have established processes for executing them. We require a subject matter expert (SME) to join each development team. That person helps us storyboard the current process and map how we’ll use the new app to improve upon it.
Nathan: The most successful projects are those in which we are joined at the hip with the business. There’s lots of real-time coding and many whiteboard sessions. When a business leader just tells us: “Build an Intranet” and walks away, that doesn’t cut it. Both parties have to be willing to invest in the process.
Joe: Requests tend to come in through hallway conversations and emails. We can show our business team members what the platform can do in a few hours. We make a point of operating on agile business terms instead of our traditional IT terms and go out of our way to meet partner and contract needs as well.
Rich: We work with a business leader to define the problem, then we pull that person into a management meeting, and finally we get feedback from end-users on the skeleton and core functionality. This way, once we launch and do training on the app, we already have pockets of people who will promote it. We’ll leave the app for a month, get some additional feedback, and make changes. It’s an extremely controlled, standardized process.
For the rest of the Q&A, head over to the QuickBase Fast Track blog.