The drive to offer employees and customers anytime, anywhere access to services is common across industries. How can companies build digital and mobile apps quickly enough to meet business demand?
PointSource uses cloud data services and mobile frameworks from IBM to accelerate its development cycle, taking new apps from initial idea to proof-of-concept to full deployment in a matter of weeks.
12 weeksto design, develop and deploy mobile apps that deliver instant ROI
Up to $3.5msaved per day by enabling a logistics company to cut fuel costs
Enablesa leading insurer to enhance the digital experience for its customers
Business challenge story
Delivering innovative apps to tight deadlines
The ability to get a new service to market faster than your competitors can be a key advantage in almost any industry, and the rise of the smartphone as a platform for engaging with employees and customers has opened up a new frontier for this type of competition.
Companies are now realizing that success depends on more than just having the best offers, the best stores, the best marketing campaigns or the best website; it’s also about having the best platform to interact with your customers and employees whenever they need and wherever they are. Well-designed mobile applications can help companies become not just dominant, but ubiquitous—because wherever there’s a smartphone, there’s a branch of the business.
John Cammarata, VP of Development at PointSource, says: “Once our clients realize what they can do with mobile apps—whether it’s extending services out to their customers in a new way, or helping their own employees work smarter and more efficiently—they tend to want everything immediately. There is almost always potential to gain a first-mover advantage, so speed of development becomes a really big deal. Nobody wants to wait for a traditional six or 12-month development cycle—they want to get to market within a matter of weeks.”
However, building an app quickly with a technology stack based on traditional relational databases and development tools can be a significant challenge, as John Cammarata explains:
“To deliver an app within a tight deadline, you need to move very quickly from idea through to execution. Frequently, during the first few iterations of the development, the business realizes that the project needs to pivot as the use case becomes clearer. If you’re using a relational database, this can be problematic: you may need to completely redesign your data schema, which takes more time and effort than you can afford.”
When two of PointSource’s clients, a provider of payment solutions for fleet management companies and a home insurance company, asked for help in developing mobile apps, the PointSource team decided to take a radically different approach. Instead of a traditional technology stack, these projects would harness cloud data services and mobile application development frameworks from IBM.
Powerful, flexible platforms for fast development
The first project PointSource embarked on was the development of a smart refueling app for Comdata, a company that provides fuel payment cards for many of the world’s leading logistics and trucking companies.
Since gas stations change their pricing on a daily basis, and many trucking companies have complicated discount arrangements with different gas station chains, there can be a significant variance in costs depending on where a driver chooses to refuel their truck. Comdata wanted to give its drivers better guidance on where to go to purchase fuel at the best price, and realized that a mobile app could provide the geolocational insight to make this possible.
Chris Ketchuck, Senior Software Architect at PointSource, comments: “We decided to use IBM® Cloudant® as the database platform—partly for the flexibility of its NoSQL and JSON architecture; partly because IBM provides it as a fully managed service in the cloud, which saves a lot of infrastructure costs and administrative work on our side; and partly because of its ability to handle geospatial queries. The performance in calculating how many points of interest fall within a particular geographical bounding box, for example, is just fantastic.”
He adds: “We had previously done an analysis of the cost of writing and integrating our own geospatial components, compared to using Cloudant. There was really no contest—it was many times more cost-effective for our client to use the capabilities that Cloudant provides.”
John Cammarata says: “The flexibility of Cloudant was key in this project, because the requirements did evolve considerably during the project. The initial idea was to give the drivers a way to compare prices at different gas stations, but once we had built a proof-of-concept version, we realized that what the drivers really wanted was a solution that would actively suggest the best option for them. Cloudant made it very easy for us to respond to this feedback and redesign the app without rebuilding the whole data model from scratch.”
The whole development project harnessed IBM MobileFirst™ Foundation, which makes it easy to build, secure and manage multiplatform apps that integrate seamlessly with cloud data services such as Cloudant.
“We also used the same combination of MobileFirst and Cloudant in our second project, with Security First Insurance,” says John Cammarata. “They wanted to give their customers a set of web and mobile apps that would allow them to provide a first class self-service digital experience for tasks such as requesting a quote, paying their bill, and managing their policy. They also wanted to start capturing large amounts of unstructured data, which they could use to understand customer behavior within the apps, and improve their products and services.”
Chris Ketchuck comments: “Again, Cloudant was an ideal platform because it’s a JSON-based document database; it doesn’t need all the data you ingest to comply with a strictly-defined schema. Security First Insurance can simply use it as a repository to collect and store all sorts of data from many different sources, so that they can explore and analyze it later.”
Realizing business benefits rapidly
By combining its own leading-edge application design and development methodologies with the versatile IBM MobileFirst platform and the power of IBM Cloudant, PointSource was able to deliver both projects rapidly, and unlock immediate return on investment for its clients.
“In the case of Comdata, we delivered the proof-of-concept application in six weeks, and the full application was in production just a few months later,” says Chris Ketchuck. “Comdata quickly saw a return on investment—the potential fuel savings are estimated at around USD3.5 million per day, across all the fleets that Comdata serves.”
John Cammarata adds: “Using the IBM solutions instead of a traditional stack cut the development time by at least 50 percent, and allowed us to deliver several weeks earlier than might otherwise have been possible. When you factor in the potential daily savings for Comdata’s fleet clients, it’s a case where rapid development literally saved tens of millions of dollars.”
John Cammarata concludes: “Our approach is always to define the business outcomes we need to achieve before we start the project, and then focus on delivering them. In the cases of both Comdata and Security First Insurance, our clients have seen impressive results, and we’ve proven that Cloudant and MobileFirst are the right option to deliver those results quickly. We’re excited about working with IBM to help other clients harness these technologies in the future.”
PointSource is a design and development firm that focuses on helping its clients achieve digital transformation through a combination of strategic direction and user experience design, as well as software design, architecture, engineering, deployment and support. It blends the creative energy of an agency with the technology savvy of a development firm to build digital solutions that solve complex problems and change businesses.
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IBM Cloud Data Services offers a complete portfolio of data and analytics services providing unique and seamless product integrations to build apps faster and gain new insights easier with flexible deployment and pricing options. For more information about how IBM Cloud Data Services can help businesses solve tough big data problems rapidly and cost-effectively, please visit ibm.biz/clouddataservices