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Case study: Taking on the tough projects

Published Date: 25 February 2016
Client: Metro Performance Glass
Project: Extranet

 

Metro Performance Glass (MPG) deals with high volumes of customers and transactions, as a result of customers all over New Zealand ordering varying glass panels 24/7. When they used to rely on email and post orders, the customer service team spent huge amounts of time updating orders manually; updating it was a “nightmare”, according to Keith Glover, IT Manager at MPG. Eventually, MPG headed to an Auckland development firm to develop their in-house web based ordering software, Metro Connect, which allows clients to order glass panels of many shapes and sizes online, 24/7, with transactions coming through all the time.

Although Metro Connect introduced a huge improvement in efficiency and ease of use for both the customer service team and clients, the Auckland development firm’s fast growth and lack of senior resource soon meant that they weren’t able to meet MPG’s ongoing needs. Given that Metro Connect’s success is highly dependent on its consistent performance and uninterrupted availability, MPG and the development firm went looking for a software partner to take on the tough, ongoing challenges of Metro Connect.

For the takeover of a demanding job like this, Room9 was a clear choice. With a track record of taking on big challenges and delivering on promises, along with the necessary skills in house, they are all set for projects of this type, and were excited about “cracking this nut”.

 

The Challenge: Pushing through the glass ceiling

As a first step, Room9 assessed MPG’s situation and established risk factors which needed to be addressed urgently, including:

  1. A high dependency on one highly skilled developer at the Auckland firm
  2. A highly complex application which only senior or specialised developers can handle
  3. A lack of documentation
  4. A lack of progress, transparency and communication

Room9 quickly addressed these risks by:

  1. Training two qualified developers on the Metro Connect code base, addressing both of the first two risks
  2. Creating a plan to ensure ongoing code documentation and commenting
  3. Ensuring progress transparency and frequent communication, which are part of Room9’s process and were automatically in place when MPG decided to work with Room9

Next, Room9 and MPG identified that there was no long term IT strategy in place for Metro Connect, so Room9 developed a roadmap for the work ahead, undertaking business analysis workshops with key people at MPG. This enabled Room9 to create a meaningful backlog and ensure that the work they were doing on clearing this backlog, and improving Metro Connect for the future, would deliver on business goals.

 

The Solution: Continuous improvement

By reorganising the code base, Room9 were able to make work-in-progress, test and production releases easily identifiable, and introduce automated deploys to ensure that new releases were predictable and reliable. Testing then began, with high priority work-in-progress completed and out to production as soon as possible.

Room9 fully rewrote the rendering code around glass shapes from scratch, simplifying the code and introducing welcome stability for Metro Connect’s customers. Before the rewrite this critical component had proven to be unpredictable and frustrating.

Knowing how difficult and time-consuming it is for MPG customer service staff to deal with orders uploaded offline through an HTML client, Room9 also developed and released a new Microsoft.NET client that self updates and works across multiple Microsoft platforms.

 

The Impact: Clear as glass

Since starting to work with Room9 3½ years ago, MPG have noticed a huge difference. “We normally always had to keep an eye on orders; now I hardly look at it. I only really go on to look at updates and do tests of new features,” shares Keith.

Not only have the improvements made the process of ordering much easier for the customer service team, it has made it “much easier for clients”, who can easily and quickly upload orders, and utilise the web-based software across virtually any platform – meaning they can trust that their order has gone through, and they’ll receive both the exceptional products and great service that MPG is known for.

For Room9, working with MPG has meant huge improvements across the system, and a real sense of satisfaction. “What is most satisfying for us is taking a product with many risks - one that has fallen off-track - and using our skills and knowledge to mitigate these risks and establish superior project management and quality controls,” shares Room9 Managing Director, Claudia Hill. “These put it back on track, allowing us to deliver reliable and regular results for Metro Connect’s business and customers.”