Global Chemicals Company Makes SAP Easier and Mobilizes its Workforce with 35 Apps Built Using OutSystems

A global chemical company had a problem—low employee adoption of its SAP system. Lack of mobile access and lack of confidence in how to use SAP meant data was often out of date or slow to access. By implementing a suite of 35 mobile apps that are integrated with their SAP system they’ve had a breakthrough. Now over 4,000 employees and tens of thousands of supply chain partners have easy access to the information they need, where and when they need it, and the data in SAP is always up to date. Read on to learn how just two developers with no prior mobile-app development experience achieved all this with OutSystems.

 

35+ applications

35+ applications

Tens of thousands of users

Tens of thousands of users

Intuitive access to SAP data

Intuitive access to SAP data

2 in-house developers

2 in-house developers

“Even though we had no previous mobile app development experience, by adopting OutSystems we’ve become totally self-sufficient, and delivered thirty-five web and mobile apps that make work easier and faster for employees and supply chain partners.”Mobility Manager

Enabling Business Mobility Without Mobile App Developers

Challenge - Like many large chemical companies, this organization had a heavy reliance on SAP as its core business system. Their IT organization was challenged to provide greater mobility and ease of use for their distributed workforce, many of whom found SAP too complicated. At factories, typically just one or two people were adequately trained to use SAP, leading to delays and frustrations as the majority of staff could not self-serve, and data was often out of date.

Developing a suite of simple mobile apps that all employees could use would provide mobility, and just as importantly enable staff to retrieve, or update, data held in the SAP system, thereby improving data quality and operational excellence.

Plan A was to develop these mobile apps using SAP technology, but the IT team found that approach too slow, and expensive, and the complexity was forcing them to rely on outside resources for development, which stifled agility.

Seeking a faster, easier way to develop mobile apps and democratize access to SAP, they turned to Plan B: low-code. They evaluated and tested low-code development platforms with a proof-of-concept CRM application. Integration with SAP was an essential aspect of their evaluation.

“We were amazed by what we were able to do with OutSystems,” said their Mobility Manager. “In terms of speed, flexibility, and integration, it proved the most capable platform for our needs.”

35+ Apps Impact Every Aspect of the Business

Solution - Since 2017 the company’s IT team has transformed the mobility and efficiency of its workforce with over thirty-five new apps built on OutSystems.

Early in their low-code journey, the team established governance and standards for OutSystems development. “Although development with OutSystems is fast and quite easy, we wanted to control who could develop, and put in place the standards needed to deliver high-quality solutions,” explains their Mobility Manager.

The company’s 35+ OutSystems apps touch nearly every aspect of the business, including sales, R&D, order to cash, HR, asset management, PLM, procure to pay, pricing, sourcing, product safety, IoT, and more.

And thanks to the powerful integration capabilities built-in to OutSystems, the company has integrated dozens of different business systems, including SAP ERP, SAP BW, Tableau, Azure Services, Office 365, Salesforce.com, and their IoT connectivity platform.

Here are just a few examples of the OutSystems apps the company’s IT team has delivered:

Integrated Sales Tool
The Integrated Sales Tool has transformed mobile sales visits. Before, reps used laptops and VPN connections when visiting customers. Now, with their mobile devices, they can view customer information, see what they need to take to customer visits, search technical and safety documentation, check current orders, and access full order history. This 360-degree customer overview makes their jobs much easier while away from the office.

PLM Document Search
The PLM Document Search app has revolutionized access to product information, technical datasheets, and quality certificates. Before, employees could only access controlled documents like these from a PC or laptop logged in to SAP. Now, even remote staff can easily retrieve quality-controlled documentation, using an intuitive app that requires no specialized training.

Asset Management
The Asset Management app is an example of a more complex application that the IT team has delivered. The complete app (backend, web UI, and mobile app) were all developed on the OutSystems platform. The application provides a registry of equipment and includes full maintenance history for every asset. The application is used every day by field service and maintenance staff.

The company’s small team of just two (occasionally three) in-house developers and a scrum master has delivered over thirty-five web and mobile applications in less than three years.

Internal App Factory Delivers Simplicity and Efficiency

Results - The company no longer relies on external resources for mobile app development. Their small in-house development team is much more responsive, delivering minor app enhancements in as little as two hours, and completely new applications in a matter of days or weeks, start to finish.

Because the apps integrate with the company’s core business systems, they have achieved two goals—access to data at the time and place of need, and improved data quality as users can update business-critical data without needing to make an extra effort to log-in to different systems.

Web and mobile apps developed on the OutSystems platform now touch almost every corner of the business. Here are just a few examples:

  • Field-based order capture
  • Delivery status from drivers
  • Mobile CRM
  • Plant asset management and maintenance

The company has found that the responsive user interface of their web applications works perfectly for use on mobile devices. “We only build native mobile apps if we need off-line capability. Otherwise, the responsive web UI works fine across all the devices we need to support, which saves extra development effort,” says their Mobility Manager.

Fast-paced, low-code development has enabled the company to mature its agile development capability. Nowadays, each new app is assigned a product owner from the business. “Continuous collaboration between the business and development team and a greater emphasis on UX design has greatly increased our ability to deliver solutions that the business loves,” says their Mobility Manager.

The team measures the success of their work based on application usage. “If satisfaction is high, usage is high,” explains their Mobility Manager. Around 4,000 of the company’s employees, and tens of thousands of users across the supply chain, now regularly use the company’s web and mobile apps.

Development continues at pace. The team is currently working on business-critical manufacturing apps, customer-facing apps, and IoT scenarios.

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