How do you streamline access to vital documents? If you’re a water management company, it’s by offering your salespeople and technicians on the road a steady flow of information right on their smartphones.
Ecolab, specifically the Nalco division, is “reinventing the way water is managed.” Every day, sales people and technicians are on site talking to corporations about their water treatment needs. It is essential that they have the most recent product information and government regulations on hand, wherever and whenever they are needed.
Ecolab’s proprietary online system Connections, built in SharePoint 2010, already catalogued all their product information and did a great job making the information available – as long as the user was on a computer. But product conversations can happen anytime, anywhere. It wasn’t always convenient to open a laptop, find WiFi or start up a hotspot – and getting the information on a smartphone was even harder.
Ecolab asked SPR Consulting to rethink and reinvent the way their product information was managed for their employees on the road.
Simple on the Surface, Powerful Below
SPR Consulting’s first rule of mobile app development is simplicity. And often, the simplest things are the hardest to do. Like the duck on a pond, what Ecolab end users saw on their smartphone screens was smooth, simple and intuitive; below the surface, however, this powerful app required the complex integration of multiple legacy and new technologies working together.
To incur the lowest risk and ensure longevity, SPR chose to work exclusively in native apps – Java for Android and Objective-C for Apple phones. The server side “hub” was written in .NET and integrated with the legacy Microsoft UAG firewall technology used on the Connections SharePoint site. This was a non-standard way of accessing a SharePoint site, but SPR knew that Ecolab wanted the leverage their current infrastructure. The “hub” worked as the glue to translate between the legacy system and the newer application components.
Streamlined interface: SPR Consulting leveraged its user experience practice to build a compelling and intuitive user interface while enabling the Ecolab brand to shine in the best light. Functionality that exists in the current website is now available on mobile devices, with controls that are easily seen and manipulated by the user. The simplicity of the UI allows for a rich search experience and refined results, all of which makes the app a very powerful for the workforce.
Expert Integration: To make it simple for the user, a lot of hard work went on in the back end to make the user experience seamless. Integrating with the current systems at Ecolab, SPR Consulting pulled information from the existing SharePoint/FAST system and facilitated authentication against the two domains. SPR Consulting’s “hub” architecture approach was critical in bridging the gap between the existing environments and the iPhone and Android smartphones.
Immediate Access and Sharing: The new system brings a higher level of efficiency to both the sales and technician teams at Ecolab. Salespeople can search for sell sheets, PowerPoint presentations and other marketing collateral and either view them on their iPhone or Android platform using the built-in players – or forward the information directly to a prospect with the touch of a finger. Technicians can also get immediate access to important safety data sheets and operating instructions that they might need while on site.
Deeper Dive: As Ecolab employees enjoy the current system’s convenience and simplicity, SPR Consulting is preparing for an additional enhancement to the system that will not only allow for a deeper dive into the documents in the system, but will also lead users to the subject matter experts behind those documents.