Wizards are only as powerful as the wands they carry
Sometimes all it takes is a little magic—or at least that’s what it looks like from the client’s side. Ply Gem Building Products needed to transform its manual price page system for Mitten Siding & Accessories to an automated, easy to use format. Working directly with Ply Gem BP staff, we developed an innovative “price book wizard”—a tool that easily produces customized, on-demand price lists for each customer in—poof!—a matter of seconds.
Ply Gem Building Products is a market-leading manufacturer and distributor of products that make building exteriors both beautiful and functional. The company, acquired by residential building products giant Ply Gem in 2013, was eager to grow its current B2B business and prove that it had innovative processes, not just innovative products.
But instead of focusing on strategic business initiatives, Ply Gem’s staff were spending hours producing custom price catalogues for the company’s many B2B customers across North America, each of whom had access to different products and regional pricing.
Ply Gem Building Products needed a “wizard”—something that would magically produce a pricing catalogue, not require hours of staff time.
New initiatives often reveal the weaknesses of old systems. When we tested our prototype, we discovered that products and pricing weren’t displaying properly—the first indication that Ply Gem’s database was overdue for some maintenance. This was no surprise to the company’s IT staff, who helped the company move forward with a database cleanup and turned an unforeseen challenge into an unexpected benefit of the project.
Ply Gem also had to prove that anyone with real-time access to their data was in compliance with PCI (payment card industry) data security standards. We needed fast access to the data without the administrative headache of confirming that all work met PCI criteria. Our solution was to develop a unique pull-push system—a nightly download of their data so we could work with it offline (the pull), and a corresponding upload of updated data to their database (the push).
Agile development requires close collaboration with clients. Ply Gem sent staff right into our office for parts of the project.
By working side-by-side with our developers, the client could offer immediate feedback and contribute to decisions on the fly, adding a level of efficiency and flexibility to our “build-show-review” process that’s impossible with clients who choose to stay at arm’s length. By being a valued member of the team, Ply Gem could maintain control over where money was being spent and make fast decisions on priorities so only the most critical—and valuable—work was being completed.
“From concept to completion, the price book wizard was a team effort between Ply Gem and Human_Code. By partnering with Human_Code, we were able to deliver an online application that allows sales associates to generate a professional price book for the wide variety of product lines distributed by Ply Gem. This is an extension of the drive by Ply Gem to differentiate us from our competitors by leveraging technology.”
– Daniel Custodio, Business Analyst, Ply Gem Building Products
At the end of this phase of work, Ply Gem had its price book wizard: an application, available in both of Canada’s official languages, with a custom admin section that allows for fast and easy management of users. Best of all, the app takes mere seconds to produce an accurate price catalogue for salespeople.
The price book wizard worked its magic on Ply Gem’s initial priorities, but the company now sees new opportunities to use the technology.
And all we have to do is wave our magic wand.