Rapid Application Development In Action – How Mitsubishi’s Rocla Delivered 3 Month Mobile App Project in 2 Weeks

An in-depth look at how a Mitsubishi subsidiary cut their 3-month customer service app project into 2 weeks with AppGyver’s low-code platform.

Rapid Application Development In Action - How Mitsubishi's Rocla Delivered 3 Month Mobile App Project in 2 Weeks
Rapid Application Development In Action – How Mitsubishi’s Rocla Delivered 3 Month Mobile App Project in 2 Weeks

Application users and IT leaders agree that enterprise apps are overly complex—and that it crushes productivity. We’ll highlight many of the challenges of delivering enterprise mobile apps and how a low-code platform helps break the barriers normally equated with fast delivery.

In this article, we explain:

  • Traditional vs. Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD)
  • Challenges and business drivers
  • Learnings from the RMAD adoption process
  • Why RMAD is ready for enterprise adoption
  • How a faster pace drives better innovation

Content Summary

A Shift Toward Mobile-First Planning
Transforming Operations With Mobile
B2E Apps in Days vs Months

A Shift Toward Mobile-First Planning

A shift is underway as mobile apps transform business operations just as they have our personal lives. Mobility is proving to deliver the top and bottom-line impact through mobile interactions that create huge productivity gains, convenience, and speed. Mobile workers are often the ones closest to the customer and partners, as well as the product itself. With real-time data at one’s finger-tips, the mobile worker can make more informed decisions and achieve better outcomes faster. With improved ability to communicate, collaborate, and transact on the spot, they can solve problems and achieve business goals without delay. The result is that business stakeholders are requesting more apps every day. Without a cohesive strategy and standardized approach, enterprise mobile app backlogs are mounting. In response to the growing demand, companies are embracing mobile-first approaches to app development. Mobile-first considers the unique needs of the mobile workforce right up front rather than viewing mobile apps as just carbon copy extensions of existing desktop software and processes. This development strategy allows for the speedy creation of apps or, “user experiences” that address the backlog in smarter ways and improve efficiency and productivity in every step of the value chain.

AppGyver helps thousands of companies around the world mobilize key processes. We hear many of these organizations voice similar concerns – mobile-first is hard without the proper collection of best practices and technologies to enable the creation process. While improvements are being made, mobile backlogs are still growing. The potential is great but the complexities are many: from integrating with legacy systems to building user experiences that leverage powerful native capabilities. These solutions must span the ever-changing and landscape of devices and manage a growing number of apps over their lifespans. Additionally, finding the developer talent to fulfill these needs is increasingly difficult and expensive.

Tell us what percentage of the mobile apps your organization has deployed are mobile versions of existing applications? Source: 2015 IDC Enterprise Mobility Survey
Tell us what percentage of the mobile apps your organization has deployed are mobile versions of existing applications? Source: 2015 IDC Enterprise Mobility Survey

Recent history is filled with companies who’ve tried leveraging web technologies in building apps with hybrid frameworks and tools like Cordova and PhoneGap, only to be discouraged by the results: poor performing and unforgiving apps. Many companies have also outsourced app development. Time and again we hear companies complain about how such custom-developed apps become constraining or at least expensive to change as business needs evolve and mobile technology changes. As a result, the true potential of mobilizing workforces to improve operational performance and create a competitive advantage remains largely untapped.

Many products have entered the market in the past few years, promising faster and easier ways to build mobile apps. Time and again, these offerings have shown great promise, but fall short in meeting enterprise needs. Key requirements like integration to legacy databases and services, authentication and security support as well as extendibility to meet specific requirements have been overlooked. As a result, the meaningful adoption of these products has been impossible in the enterprise.

Today companies are finding that at least some visual, low-code app building platforms are ready for enterprise prime time. These firms are leveraging visual development platforms like AppGyver to reduce project delivery schedules from weeks and months to hours and days. Backlogs are shrinking as a result.

What was possible but impractical is now feasible, and the returns are exciting. One great example is global forklift manufacturer Rocla, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi. They used a Rapid Mobile Application Development (RMAD) platform to quickly build apps aimed at their maintenance and repair operations. This area of the business was key to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue, yet the processes that drove innovation were filled with friction. This paper explores Rocla’s digital journey as they mobilized the maintenance and repair operations delighting customers and increasing revenues along the way.

Transforming Operations With Mobile

By 2016, we’ve all likely experienced delightful digital moments – those instances where the simplest mobile or web interactions deliver huge benefits to what were otherwise hard or friction-filled tasks. Designers have spent the better part of a decade building contextually rich mobile moments to drive sales and satisfaction. Not surprisingly, the returns have proven huge for those who got it right: increased loyalty, sales, repeat business, overall satisfaction, and even complete business model disruption. Companies enjoy those same benefits when they employ a mobile-first approach in automating business processes.

Time and again we see companies focusing on mobilizing existing enterprise applications as they embark on their mobile journey. However, the real transformative experiences come from task-specific applications that go beyond the functionality and data of legacy applications. IDC research validates this phenomenon, indicating that almost half of enterprise mobile apps fuel new ways of working rather than augmenting old applications and processes.

The Distributed Data Behind Rocla Problems

Rocla’s Maintenance & Repair app is a great example of functionality, user interfaces, and data that did not exist in legacy applications. By taking a mobile-first approach the Mitsubishi company has streamlined operations, improved customer satisfaction, and increased revenues.

Rocla distributes its forklifts through a network of resellers. These resellers operate a network of global service centers that provide maintenance, support, and parts to customers. When servicing and maintaining equipment, customers can either work through their local reseller or directly with the Rocla Service Centers. It is not uncommon that a customer switches between working with the distributor and Rocla directly for differing requests. Tracking and correlating the equipment service history in the context of the overall customer relationship was nearly impossible and extremely time-consuming.

Before Rocla tackled the challenge, it was not uncommon for a customer to have to call their distributor with a problem or complaint. Unable to access complete service history, the distributors would need to contact the Rocla Service Centers who in turn would search across legacy systems for appropriate customer, manufacturing, and parts data. The process, therefore, was fraught with calls and wait times just to get the info to start servicing the problem. This was a costly, time consuming, and frustrating process for customers and service partners. Often it would result in actors unnecessarily performing maintenance (at the extra expense but free to the customer) in the name of expediting a process. Other times frustration would mount to a point where great effort and expense would be necessary to correct the situation for the customer.

Mobilizing The Data With Simple Access & Update Apps

By taking a mobile-first approach, Rocla identified the need for mobile workers to access and update a payload of data associated with each forklift (model and serial numbers; warranties and user manuals; billing information and equipment locations; maintenance and repair history, etc). Mobile personnel needing to access, update, or progress a workflow might work for Rocla, the customer, or a distributor. The data resides in legacy applications and databases inside each of these actors in the value chain.

Which of the following mobile deployment issues has your organization experienced? Source: 2015 IDC Enterprise Mobility Survey
Which of the following mobile deployment issues has your organization experienced? Source: 2015 IDC Enterprise Mobility Survey

Mobile app interfaces have been created for each actor in the maintenance and repair process. This includes the customer along with service personnel at Rocla and distributors. A repair request can be initiated right from a customer warehouse by scanning a QR code. From there a service request complete with Model, SN, and photos is generated from the operator’s app. The repair order sends a notification to the responsible maintenance engineer. That same QR code allows service personnel to track the equipment through multiple stages of the service process. The app will surface maintenance status as the request moves through the process. It also provides repair and service history, part information, diagrams, and manuals. This visibility allows support personnel at 3rd party and Rocla facilities to triage problems and perform service more quickly. The app facilitates better coordination, ultimately providing more timely responses to maintenance and support requests while removing duplicate or unnecessary effort.

Changing Customer Perception and Adding to the Bottom Line

Through mobilization, Rocla has successfully turned a process that was fraught with customer satisfaction issues into one that fuels delight and is less costly. The application saves customers time and frustration while eliminating email threads and phone calls with multiple contacts. The feedback has been positive. Even critical input on how the app can be improved is welcomed and fed into a rapid iteration cycle. This fuels the regular release of new features and task-specific modules.

The following are just a few of the benefits gained by Rocla after transforming their maintenance and repair operations with mobile:

  • Customer satisfaction via a one-stop service request process,
  • Faster fulfillment which begins immediately and can be tracked throughout the process,
  • Unplanned equipment failures in the field are minimized through a better-managed service process,
  • Maintenance and repair services are delivered more efficiently as all participants in the process have visibility to the customer,
  • Equipment and service histories allow better decisions,
  • New revenue is emerging from a more efficient mobilized maintenance and repair process.

Extending the ROI of the Customer App

The original drivers for Rocla’s app were improving maintenance and repair operations as well as boosting customer satisfaction. They quickly realized, however, that the app was a perfect “point of sale” for the very parts and additional services that are required in remediating problems. Today, both customers and support personnel can order through the app. Rocla is happy to see many of the transactions represent upgrades and new sales.

B2E Apps in Days vs Months

Many companies have successfully provisioned basic productivity apps like email and file sharing to their employees on mobile devices. The big returns come as more complex workflows like Rocla’s are mobilized through task-specific apps. As stated, building and maintaining mobile-first enterprise apps that offer contextually relevant multi-channel user experiences has historically been hard. Data has often been hidden in tough to access systems and hybrid applications have performed terribly in the past, requiring developing and managing two or three codebases (web, iOS, and Android). Furthermore, building native apps have traditionally required scarce or at least very expensive developer talent. Simply put, complexity and cost are the main reason mobile backlogs continue to mount.

The Drivers for the Rocla’s Technology Choice

Rocla could likely have justified the maintenance and repair mobile project on its own merits, given the importance of the workflows to customer satisfaction and the cost of service. But the same complexities would then need to be tackled for other mobile initiatives. Not every use case could justify the heavy work involved in building such apps. Rocla decided to evaluate Rapid Mobile Application Development platforms to see if they could find a cost-efficient way to scale their development capacity to meet the rising mobile app backlog.

Rocla’s Estimated Project Plan vs. Actual Time with AppGyver (in days)
Rocla’s Estimated Project Plan vs. Actual Time with AppGyver (in days)

Key Requirements for Rocla’s RMAD

The following requirements were key to Rocla standardizing and accelerating multi-channel app development with an RMAD platform:

  • Visual native app development: The solution needed to enable non-developers and developers alike to build performant native mobile apps,
  • Extensible: It needed to be extendable at every level through scripting and coding to prevent constraints,
  • Multi-channel: Apps should be configured once and delivered across the web, iOS, and Android without extra effort,
  • Re-use: UI elements, application modules, business logic, and workflows should be reusable across projects
  • Agile and iterative: The solution should promote agile and iterative, development with governance across many app projects,
  • Enterprise Ready: The platform had to meet enterprise-grade security, stability, scalability, and deployment flexibility requirements.

Thinking RMAD for Accelerated Problem Solving

Building B2E and B2B native mobile apps are no longer hard – it is dead simple. RMAD platforms like AppGyver Composer offer acceleration akin to how airplanes accelerated trans-oceanic crossings in the 20th century. The effort and cost of building apps can be reduced by as much as 10X. As the graph above on the previous page indicates, before selecting an RMAD platform, Rocla estimated the development effort to take 3 months. With Composer, they delivered the app in under 2 weeks!

Mobile enablement is no longer complex, costly, and prohibitive. B2E and B2B Apps now represent a low hanging fruit for improving efficiency, satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue. Furthermore, enterprise-grade RMAD offerings are emerging. These platforms promise simplicity, acceleration, and agility in mobilizing high impact processes. Some platforms, like AppGyver Composer, are proving their enterprise readiness at large Global 1000 companies every day. AppGyver Composer routinely shrinks project times from months to just days. The result for firms like Rocla is truly transformative.

Technology Choice: AppGyver Composer 2

Development Time: 2 Weeks

Key Requirements for Rocla:

  • Visual native app development
  • Extensibility
  • Multi-channel app delivery
  • Re-usable app logic and elements
  • Agile and iterative – The solution should promote agile iterative development
  • Enterprise-grade security, stability, scalability, and deployment flexibility

Key Benefits to Rocla:

  • Happier employees, partners, and customers
  • Better collaboration between remote and office workers
  • Shortened response time to business app needs
  • Shrinking mobile app backlogs
  • Standardized and better-governed app development

Source: AppGyver

Thomas Apel Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.