Solving Omni-Channel Development Challenges in Just 10 Weeks


on October 5, 2017

This blog was written by Tim Hendricks, Director of Digital Solutions at Magnus

The Omni-Channel Challenge

The number of interaction channels that customers expect from companies is increasing, and therefore the effort required to provide a good service offering is rising exponentially. During most of the 90’s, customers mainly interacted with companies through physical visits to stores or offices, making phone calls or sometimes writing a letter. Setting up and maintaining these interaction channels does have its own challenges, but doing so mainly consists of arranging sufficient manpower and having the right procedures in place. Even more importantly, this process underwent little change for about half a century.

The abrupt rise of digital technologies changed all of this. Today, companies are expected to provide customers with a growing number of interaction channels: E-commerce or a website is necessary, having an app or mobile-friendly interface is expected and more recently, customers have grown accustomed to interacting with companies through social media and messaging apps.

This rapidly evolving end-user technology expectation presents a headache for companies of any size. It can seem as if, as soon as one catches up with current demands, the next shift has already appeared. We have arrived in an age where change is a constant necessity, and we must now take a second look at our development technologies. Fast changing market demands require higher speed of omni-channel development and more flexibility. Nowhere is this more apparent than with businesses that are built on the idea of disruption. Let’s have a look at SEND and how the company managed to stay on top of the competition by embracing the digital revolution.

Introducing SEND

SEND is an on-demand delivery start-up from Malaysia. Customers can request an item of any type (documents, food or even furniture) to be picked up and delivered to the desired location. Their business solves a range of problems in the market: Deliveries can be instant instead of being delivered the next day, people have an opportunity to earn an income independently, and because anyone can be a SENDer (deliverer) there are fewer delays in delivery due to peaks in usage as often happens during holiday seasons with traditional delivery companies.

Image courtesy of SEND

To efficiently enable this business model, SEND needs a range of different interaction channels and endpoints: Customers can request deliveries via an app or web portal, SENDers need an app to accept and complete delivery requests, and the headquarters needs a back-office system to monitor all ongoing deliveries and ensure that they are completed on time.

Omni-Complexity with Traditional Development Tools

SEND originally launched with a system developed with traditional software development tools. They developed four separate mobile apps (Android and iOS versions of both a customer and SENDer app) as well as a web portal and a back-office system. To develop these six applications, SEND had a team of 10 software developers working for about a year to complete the first version. The cost turned out to be higher than initially expected, but it wasn’t until after launching that more important challenges became apparent.

Launching a new digital service typically involves multiple iterations of the underlying IT system. As actual usage data starts coming in, features and functionalities need to be changed to adjust to market demand. This is especially true with new types of digital services and even more so in Malaysia, where digital services like SEND are new to consumers and market demands are shifting rapidly.  However, being a start-up and having to maintain six different applications, changes at SEND required development times of up to six months, by which time the requirements often had already changed. After one year, SEND had proven to be a valuable business with high customer demand, but in order to maintain this momentum, a range of outstanding changes had to be implemented as soon as possible. SEND decided to switch to developing in the Mendix platform.

Magnus Realizes a New Omni-Channel Solution in Ten Weeks with Two Developers

Magnus was able to rebuild the existing systems in Mendix as well as implement the complete backlog of requested features and changes in just ten weeks with only two developers. Implementing any one of the outstanding major features would have cost more development time using traditional technology than the complete redesign of the system with all outstanding changes. The architecture was also significantly simplified, moving from six code-bases and five programming languages to one code base and one language.

Image courtesy of SEND

SEND can now implement changes on the fly with their own development team. This change in flexibly had a major impact on the team’s daily decision making: Instead of lengthy project plans, new features are now implemented in bi-weekly releases, which gives SEND the opportunity to be even more creative in its service offering.  

Image courtesy of SEND

Omni-channel user experiences result in more satisfied customers but they also add an extra layer of complexity and demand faster adoption of changes. Therefore, careful consideration is necessary to implement the right type of technology. As the pace of digital innovation increases, new interaction channels enable companies to offer new types of services. Building the future and staying ahead of the competition requires more flexibility and agility than ever before. Is your organization prepared?