Liberty Industrial Group scaffolding inspection and inventory platform that is.
Software Ops conducted a rollout review with our client Liberty Industrial Group who commissioned Software Ops to build a scaffold inspection and inventory system. The system is design for their staff on location at construction sites and therefore the mobile component is the key to the whole system. We have launched the rollout of the beta to our client. The initial rollout of a project is always interesting because, we deploy the mobile software into the wild for the first time and we see how people really want to use the system.
What is most interesting is the importance of inventory management for Liberty. The largest capital investment for Liberty is their investment in scaffold components. It is critical for them to know where their components are in the world and the utilization of those components. The system we build will give them the insights they need to better manager their capital inventory.
Another interesting fact is that this inventory system was conceived by Liberty as a “Mobile First” project because most of their scaffold inventory is out in the field and most of it stays in the field on long term projects or is moved from site to site. The vision was for employees in the field to utilize their company issued iPhone or iPad to both conduct daily inspections of scaffolding and to manage scaffold inventory components as they constructed and deconstructed scaffolds. In addition, Liberty management also needed a way to manage the purchase of scaffold inventory and track what items are temporarily stored in their warehouses.
Lastly, they need to understand scaffold utilization company wide and on each site so they could maximize their inventory and reduce costs of either purchasing too much inventory, having to make expensive emergency purchases or shipments of components. So we have created analytics and simple charts for Liberty management to see utilization of their components for the first time. Very exciting stuff.
So what does a custom project like this look like to a client and Software Ops? First, I cannot share any pricing information because that would be a breach of trust with our client. But I will take you through the process that Liberty did.
After a mutual “meeting and greeting” and getting a sense of the size of the project, we presented to Liberty a price for us to conduct a discovery and design project. This initial engagement can take between two to four weeks because of the extensive interaction and work that goes into understanding the needs of our client and for us to share some of the capabilities of what mobile devices can do and the potential capabilities of a dedicated mobile platform. Both sides simply learn from each other. What is fascinating about this process is learning about Liberty’s business. Each time we develop product for a client, we learn about different types of business and their needs. We live in an amazing market where people help each other with specialization for the simple purpose of making a living and living well.
After the Liberty accepted the design that was described in a document produced from the engagement which included, wireframes, architecture and prose that described the system, a price was negotiated and the project began. In the case of the scaffold inspection and inventory system we anticipated about six to eight person months of effort implemented over four to five months.
The initial development of the system can look like a big blackhole for a client. Most of the development for a complex system is work “under the hood’. In some cases we can build out some mobile UI, but it will look very “empty” with no data to show. As time progresses, that changes dramatically.
Soon we had enough of the system built, both the mobile side and the server side, that we put pre-alpha builds into the hands of the Liberty. Pre-alpha is a fancy work for development builds. This can be a harrowing time for a client, because they have to understand that our purpose is not to show them anything close to finished product, but to show progress. The leadership at Liberty clearly understood this and they were delighted to see progress and could begin to assess the designs. There is nothing better than having a client take the time and effort to give us early feedback.
As more of the system became functional, Liberty was able to start entering in real data and exercise the mobile component of the system. This point is where we start to get constructive feedback on the features and the usability of a system. Addressing this feedback is essential for client satisfaction. Early design of a system is just, early design. It is usually 90% on target with the intention of the client, but there is always 10% that needs fine tuning. It’s that process of fine tuning the last 10% that really brings forth the value of the system. Clients are delighted when Software Ops is happy and willing to modify the system while in development.
The Liberty mobile system took about 5 months of duration to get to the 1.0 version and begin the rolling out of the system. That is fast by any standard and is typical of the speed that Software Ops can build these mobile systems because of the talent of our team and the technology we utilize.