Essential industries can be a tough environment for software development. The need to manage large-scale networks of complex assets, adapt to continual regulatory changes, take advantage of new technologies and support users working in the field as well as the back-office raises challenges that many other industry sectors simply don’t have to face.
This is why our design philosophy – which informs both the development of our products and our implementation methodology – is centred on the concept of flexibility.
Take our mobile platform as an example. Most software vendors’ mobile offerings are tightly coupled to their proprietary back-end systems, which makes them quick and easy to deploy for the purpose they’re designed for, but leaves little room for manoeuvre if the requirements are more complex. In essential industries, where companies are often using multiple back-end systems from different vendors, this lack of flexibility can lead to multiple mobile deployments or significant customisation of the mobile solution and complex integration. This in turn is expensive and difficult to maintain.
By contrast, our mobile platform is designed to be much more versatile. It has been integrated with a wide range of ERP and asset management solutions (Ellipse, IBM Maximo and SAP amongst others) and can act as a single point of control for all mobile communications between the field and the back office, regardless of the underlying IT architecture.
Equally, we understand that both technology platforms and industry needs are constantly evolving, so we build our products to be flexible enough to move with the times. The key here is to protect our clients’ investment in our technology, instead of requiring them to “rip and replace” whenever the requirements change. As one example, a mobile asset inspection solution that we deployed over 12 years ago for one of our clients is still in is still in use – even though the sleek smartphones it runs on today bear almost no resemblance to the ruggedized laptops on which it was originally deployed.
Another reason for making flexible and adaptable design our top priority is extensibility. Again, let’s take mobile technology as our example. As the cost of mobile devices continues to fall, it’s becoming cost-effective for clients to roll out mobile capabilities to more and more areas of their businesses. A mobile platform that is designed for one specific purpose might not be able to scale or extend to meet all these new requirements – but with our approach, it’s relatively simple to add new business logic and roll out new functionality to new or larger groups of users.
The same philosophy informs our implementation methodology – after all, there is little benefit in developing an open product if you implement it in a non-flexible way. We constantly engage with our clients to take a long-term view of technology implementations and deploy software in a manner that won’t restrict them when change inevitably comes. And because our products are built for flexibility, it’s possible to implement them quickly even when very specific requirements need to be met.
The key is to take an “outside in” approach – rather than seeing technology as a limiting factor that demands drastic business change, we work with the business processes and back-end systems that already exist, and use our technology to augment and enhance them. This is a natural approach for us, because it goes hand-in-hand with our flexible design philosophy and takes into account the unique requirements of this challenging, ever-changing industry.