ELCB increases competitive edge by modernizing Progress OpenEdge-based ERP system and developing new mobile apps
Achieving decades of success and significant market share is something every organization aspires to. But getting there is not easy. It takes an unwavering commitment to product excellence, superior customer service, and the business savvy to know how to evolve and adapt to market trends and evolving customer expectations. That is how ELCB Information Services has maintained loyal customers and a competitive edge for over 25 years, securing 40% of the South African auto after-market parts industry.
An IT software and services organization headquartered in East London, South Africa, ELCB’s cloud-based ERP system, Autopart, is a fully integrated application powered by the Progress OpenEdge Platform. A Progress partner since 1993, ELCB initially acquired Autopart 20 years ago and has since continued to evolve the application to meet the unique requirements of the industry.
“One of the greatest advantages of using Progress OpenEdge is the platform’s flexibility. Over the years we have been able to rapidly evolve our solution to meet the changing demands of the market and our customers,” explains Lesley Vasi, Executive Director of Information Services at ELCB. “Our ability to adapt to change in a very short timeframe has proven to be a true competitive differentiator.”
Today, Autopart is a cloud-based ERP system focused on helping single and multi-branch distributors achieve maximum profit and improved controls in a highly competitive arena. The system offers features across the spectrum of business operations, including financials, sales, inventory management, distribution, data warehousing and business intelligence.
To take advantage of the newest performance and security enhancements of Progress OpenEdge v11.3, provide users with an easier to use, intuitive user interface, and to extend its solution to mobile devices, ELCB is in the process of modernizing Autopart on a module-by-module basis. “In our environment, we don’t have the luxury to stop development of the existing system and plough our resources into a new application. We have to continue servicing changes to the existing system because our business needs change on a daily basis. Progress OpenEdge gives us the flexibility to follow a phased approach and redevelop our solution on our own schedule,” says Vasi.
Using Progress OpenEdge WebClient, ELCB is developing a new Windows-based GUI for each module of Autopart, which will significantly improve the user experience and meet customer and market expectations for a modern, intuitive UI. “Customers can now complete an action in one to two clicks versus going through 15 or more fields previously,” says Vasi. “That translates into a significant productivity improvement and a vastly improved experience for our customers.”
The company has already modernized approximately 70% of the application, including the majority of the financial modules, and expects to complete the project in 2015. “There has been a definite change in attitude from our customers since we initiated this project; they are excited and far more willing to share ideas,” says Vasi. “And the ability to walk into a prospect with a product that looks state of the art has also given us a renewed confidence in our offering.”
As part of the modernization effort, ELCB has developed a new mobile application using the Progress Mobile App Builder to quickly and easily extend Autopart to support mobile users. Progress Mobile decreased the project’s time to market by eliminating the need to resort to patchwork Open Source. The Mobile App Builder also provided the ELCB development team with an intuitive, highly productive Visual Designer for easy drag-and-drop development of mobile UIs, an automated mobile application builder, and mobile device emulation for testing.
ELCB’s new mobile app gives clients the ability to now access live information from anywhere at any point in time. Where sales reps once had to write down an order at the customer site and input the data when back in the office, they can now complete the order via a tablet at the customer site and ensure that customer receives electronic confirmation of the order before they leave. “Mobility is particularly helpful to our customers located in remote regions of the country where it could take two to three days before a rep returns to the office after a customer visit,” says Vasi. “With the ability to complete an order in real time using a tablet, that turnaround time has essentially gone from three days down to a matter of minutes. That means customers receive their products sooner and we are able to recognize that revenue sooner as well.”
ELCB plans to develop additional mobile apps in the future to deliver greater value to their customers while achieving an edge over the competition. “Our goal is to always lead, not to follow,” says Vasi. “We believe mobility is an important way to differentiate ourselves both now and in the future.” ELCB also plans to expand its SaaS offering into new markets and possibly other countries next year. And the company is looking to broaden its existing portfolio beyond the after-market sector.
A shared commitment to success
A Progress application partner for over 20 years, Vasi says ELCB remains dedicated to Progress because Progress technology continues to provide them with the tools they need to develop high performance, competitive solutions. “With Progress, we can find all of the development tools we need in one place to support new market trends and deliver innovative solutions.”
The underlying flexible and easy-to-use Progress OpenEdge Advanced Business Language (ABL) has decreased ELCB’s time to market with the ability to quickly onboard new developers and rapidly respond to customer requirements. “The development platform is highly intuitive. We have hired a number of developers out of college with computer programming skills that have been able to quickly get up to speed with OpenEdge Advanced Business Language and Progress Mobile.”
That ease of use and flexibility afforded by Progress OpenEdge ABL has greatly accelerated the company’s time to value. “For example, the number we previously used to track branches was integer-based, allowing up to only 99 branches to be included within our database. However, when one of our clients exceeded that limit, we had to change the entire application to accommodate an alphanumeric process – a change that affected almost every program within the application. With Progress OpenEdge, we were able to make that change to thousands of programs – which amounted to essentially rewriting an entire application - in just two and a half months.”
Reliability is paramount to ELCB’s success. “Within our SaaS SLA we have a 99% uptime requirement,” says Vasi. “If a customer walks into one of our client’s stores and the system is down, our client won’t be able to close the sale and will lose that customer to a competitor. From a database standpoint, we have never had a client fall below a 99.9% uptime rate; that is really a testament to the robustness and reliability of the Progress OpenEdge database.”
Vasi says the partnership between ELCB and Progress extends beyond the technology. “There is a willingness at Progress to assist us at all levels. Our developers truly enjoy the ability to engage with the Progress experts. There are no airs or graces, no channels you have to follow to be able to speak with someone. We are able to get good answers out of top-notch people. We appreciate Progress’ continuous dedication to our growth and success.”
About ELCB Information Services
ELCB is a competitive IT company that combines the wealth of experienced professionals with technology and best practices which results in winning formula for its valued clients. ELCB Information Services has achieved decades of success, sustaining growth and a measureable high standard of service delivery. www.elcb.co.za