Custom Application Maintenance & Support for an Enterprise Contract Estimating App
The Need for Contract Estimating
Our long-time client is a multi-national, multi-division organization in mechanical and electrical construction, industrial and energy infrastructure, and building services. With such a wide array of products and services offered, they needed a system to help organize and streamline the product service price estimation and contract creation process. In order to facilitate this need, our client commissioned a custom application to be built for contract estimating, called GPMA.
The Foundation for a Useful Custom Application
The application that was originally built by another third-party vendor is a multi-tiered system that allows managers, PMs and admins to create templates for contracts.
These templates can specify labor estimates, material estimates, and maintenance plans. Multiple templates can be combined and tweaked to form a single estimate for a client project.
The general workflow is as follows:
Create equipment template – Designates base labor, price, and maintenance
Combine multiple equipment items into an equipment cost sheet – Associates equipment with a job ID and customer/job site
Export to final estimate – Consolidate all the combined equipment items into a single, editable cost break down
Export the final estimate as a proposal doc – Creates the final contract to be signed by the customer
With this application, much of the overhead involved in maintaining consistent prices and organizing contracts is totally removed. Additionally, the app provides cost analysis metrics on final estimates. These metrics allow managers to know exactly how much profit/loss a job is likely to accrue and gives base lines for offering discounts.
Creating a Plan to Keep the Application Thriving
The challenges came when the lack of support was rendering the app essentially useless. The code and documentation was difficult to maintain and the app was under-performing. To maintain the purpose of a digital solution such as the GPMA app, the client needed to react quickly to major bugs, and add additional enhancements. The app required a regular routine update, thereby allowing the business to continue asking users for feedback on ways to improve the product. This made its users more involved in the life and evolution of their application.
Our client took advantage of our full service custom application support. This includes –
Making Maintenance Part of the Routine Brings Value Back to the App
Smartbridge implemented a structured way to plan and address bug fixes by holding monthly review meetings. We then collected the batch of changes into a quarterly release.
A development environment allowed for these changes to be applied before rolling them out to their test environment for review and approval, and finally, deploying to production.
Our client had no structure to handle regular fixes before this system was put in place. Now that these standards have been implemented, it keeps the application in check for periodic updates.
To err is human, to un-waveringly comply to those errors is machine. No matter what the project, when custom software is involved there will be bugs. It is necessary to have some system in place to address the bugs as they appear.
Managed service agreements can provide a simple way to add highly skilled support to your team without the need to staff and maintain an internal team of full-time employees for software development. Additionally, a managed service agreement opens the door to custom additions to your system and can help extend the lifespan of an application potentially indefinitely.
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