Interview with Sam Van Mulders, Business Process Manager @ Sweco
Sweco plans and designs tomorrow’s communities and cities. Their work produces sustainable buildings, efficient infrastructure and access to electricity and clean water. They carry out projects in 70 countries annually throughout the world. Sweco is Europe’s leading engineering and architecture consultancy, and is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. In Belgium, Sweco has 1500 employees which makes them one of the most important players on the market. In this customer success story, we interviewed Sam Van Mulders, Business Process Manager at Sweco.
Why NoCode ?
Sweco’s journey towards a No Code solution, was driven by business users asking more and more frequently to support them with a digital solution. The company struggled with this question, as many companies do. The common choice was building an excel or creating something in MS Access, versus bringing it to IT. The latter often led to a full blown professional approach, consuming resources and money, at a stage where the ‘idea’ was not yet mature. The concept of NoCode and Betty Blocks addresses exactly this pain: provide a hosted solution to business users in order to test new idea’s, stimulating innovation, in a controlled and scalable environment. They put the theory into practice, asked Aziri to train a few key people in Betty Blocks and started the co-creation (combined resources of Sweco and Aziri) of a first app. The conclusion today is that Betty Blocks lived up to the task, covering up to 95% of their expectations.
TRA, LMA, … ?
In the first year, Sweco continued building apps mainly focused on internal tools that support the business. One of their first apps covers procedures within Sweco’s safety policy. Employees often need to carry out site-visits. Safety is of outmost importance during those inspections. The apps provides a checklist of topics to validate and allows the engineer to document the situation (incl. taking pictures). This procedure used to be covered by a paper booklet that one needed to fill in. Now, an application on the smartphone collects and centralizes all the data required by the Safety coordinator in order to remain ‘up to date’.
Next to this, they also deployed apps to manage ‘improvement proposals’, ‘innovation ideas’ and ‘internal or external complains’. Another topic of which Sam is extremely proud, is the internal communication and dashboarding app with regard to the company’s ‘Climate Neutral’ goals.
I’m not a software developer. I’m an Engineer, says Sam. Having built small websites at the age of 18, he was always interested in software development. But he never followed any specific training on the subject. With this ‘experience’ in mind, it wasn’t difficult for Sam to understand the concept of building models (tables) and relationships using an intuitive drag and drop interface. It was still easy to keep an overview, even when the data scheme became more an more complex during the development lifecycle.
One of the strengths of the Betty Blocks platform is the possibility to customize the look and feel of the frontend. By using the company house-style/brand (fonts, colors, layout, etc), end users quickly recognize the app as a Sweco solution. This facilitated the user acceptance, which was great overall.
The success of an app is heavily influenced by how an end user recognizes the app as being part of his or her company toolkit. ‘Single-Sign-On’ is something Sweco implemented from day one. All Betty Blocks apps are integrated with the international Azure SSO setup.
Sweco is happy to share some concrete numbers with regard to the amount of users already using apps built in Betty Blocks: one app, which was rolled-out across Europe has more than 2000 users. In Belgium, about 700 users (or at least half of the company) are already using NoCode-based apps.
Something else which Sam is pretty confident about, is the time saved thanks to the digitalization of some business processes and equally important, their integration the existing ERP system. For instance, the Safety App now no longer requires manual intervention to collect information. And the company can now run reports to validate KPIs on the data collected by the app in the ERP. This ensures that the data is consistent across the different Sweco applications for the end users.
Sweco engaged with Aziri to support them through the adoption of the Betty Blocks platform. Two aspects of importance pop to mind:
1. The technicality: obviously, one needs to get trained in the fundamentals of the platform. Training by Aziri and some good tips and tricks in how to optimally work with Betty Blocks facilitated the first steps in building an app.
2. The methodology: this is probably even more important than the technical aspect. One should not fall in the trap of using a NoCode platform as a framework for traditional software development. The benefit of a NoCode platform lays in it’s support for an ‘agile way of working’. “Aziri learned us to start by quickly building an minimal viable product (MVP), to collect feedback from the users, go into a second iteration with the collected feedback, and so forth”, says Sam. “This doesn’t only allow us to build fast, but also allows us to stop early in the process in case expectations aren’t met (fail fast/fail forward). This reduces the time spent, our related costs, but also avoids deception for the business users.”
To wrap things up, some advice for companies looking at NoCode to drive digital transformation by Sam.
“The choice for a technology is one thing. At the end of the day, people make the difference. So, look for employees with affinity with technology and who have a good understanding of the business processes. Combined with the know-how and experience of Aziri, who have been through the exercise with many customers before, one will see nice results. It might require a bit of time to make the shift, and one might need to overcome some hurdles, but the results will make it worth while.”