YESCO Lights up App Delivery With OutSystems, Cutting Development Time in Half
The Young Electric Sign Co. (YESCO), a global sign maker most famous for the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and whose work illuminates more than 12 casinos in Las Vegas and the iconic Apple headquarters in Cupertino, needed to accelerate and streamline its delivery processes. Using OutSystems, YESCO built four enterprise apps, cutting development time by 50 percent. The platform’s ease of use enabled YESCO to eliminate development silos and promote collaboration across IT and business functions.
"OutSystems provided our company with a complete development stack, giving us the tools to deliver applications faster and at a lower cost than with traditional development tools. We’re able to serve our customers better by delivering top-quality applications on tight deadlines."
Sticking to the schedule
Challenge - Several years ago, into its tenth decade and with a “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign that hasn’t stayed in Vegas, YESCO started making plans to modernize its app development infrastructure. Several business and technology challenges drove this decision, and CIO Warren Strong said it seemed like the right time to make a clean break.
“We were at the end of the line with the platform we were using, and we had several projects coming up that were going to need attention,” Strong said. “We were frustrated with our development stack and the way we were doing things, so we knew we had to make a move.”
The Salt Lake City-based sign maker relied on multiple off-the-shelf software packages to run operations like ERP and finance. Specialty applications—like shop floor processes, data collection and cost estimating—were always developed in-house, using conventional coding languages like Visual Basic or Delphi. However, the language YESCO had chosen as its standard, Adobe Flex, was being retired.
YESCO also faced a challenge with productivity. Developers were building back-end and front-end components of new apps in different languages. Strong said this created extra steps in the process, leading to missed deadlines and more work repairing flawed code.
“We were trying to keep to a two-week release schedule, but with all the chaos we were finding it hard,” he said. “It was difficult to release new features, and when we did release them, we had more problems than we wanted.”
Simplifying the development environment
Solution - Strong and his team looked for a solution that would simplify the development environment and deliver applications faster. He looked at traditional development stacks that used coding languages such as Ruby on Rails or Python but came away convinced that they weren’t going to solve the complexity issue that was slowing down the app dev effort.
“We wanted to get to the point where our developers generated applications that solved business problems and spent less time working on the back end, database, and maintenance on the servers,” he said. “Getting it all in one environment like OutSystems really appealed to us.”
After examining several low-code platforms, Strong opted to try OutSystems when a friend in the automotive parts field recommended the solution.
"We got a trial version, we spent about a month building an application, and we felt it was a good fit. It just felt like a more complete system than what we’d been looking at. And it’s turned out to be just what we needed."
Solving business problems
Results - Strong’s team built the prototype for an expense reporting system that would replace an off-the-shelf program it had been using for several years. Developers later completed the app, adding specialized features that supervisors could use to match expenses to specific jobs automatically. As a result, the company had better visibility into spending. The new app saved on staff time, eliminating manual entry of expense data into specific categories.
In the next five years, YESCO rolled out four more enterprise apps that Strong said solved a series of pressing business problems:
- A call routing app: In less than three months, a single developer built an app that streamlined all of YESCO’s call routing. Rather than have dedicated receptionists in each of the company’s more than 40 U.S. offices, YESCO created a smart system that feeds calls to receptionists in two central locations. The system processed information that callers spoke into the phone, helping receptionists direct calls more accurately.
- A sales portal: Previously, vendors and franchises accepted and processed orders from national clients like McDonald’s primarily by phone and email. This cumbersome process, Strong said, led to orders falling through the cracks when they weren’t tracked properly. The new app takes orders, routes them to the correct location for service work, dispatches service calls, and collects information for invoicing.
- A field service app: This is the biggest project YESCO has undertaken with OutSystems. The app functions as a lead-gen tool, CRM system, and field service solution. It handles customer interactions, the sales lifecycle, scheduling, job dispatching, job management and invoicing. Four developers completed the basic components of the project in about 18 months—about half the time it would have taken to build using conventional coding.
- A mobile expense reporting app: Strong’s team replaced the earlier expense reporting system with a mobile version. The app integrates with YESCO’s Mastercard provider and ERP system.
“Getting on the OutSystems platform has been a huge benefit for us,” Strong said. “We do all of our in-house development on OutSystems. Our developers are more productive, we build faster, and we’re able to meet deadlines.”
Strong said the agile nature of OutSystems has promoted more collaboration across the company’s business and IT functions. Business leaders come to IT more readily asking for new features, knowing they can be turned around quicker. Also, Strong reorganized the development team to partner on the same projects, sharing work on the same platform rather than pursue separate tasks on different platforms.
“Features like code sharing are a lot easier using the platform than what we were doing before,” he said.