Alpha DevCon Engineering Roundtables

Case Study: Glacier Water

Alpha Quenches Glacier Water's Thirst for Great Mobile Enterprise Apps




"Every now and then we run across a tool that is truly transformational. We've found that with Alpha Anywhere. It's a force multiplier. It lets your development team produce modern business apps much faster than they could otherwise, and deliver much more value to the enterprise."

- Tim Bochard, Director, Information Technology

About Glacier Water Services

Glacier Water Services Inc. owns and operates over 24,000 water and ice vending machines across North America. It's the world leader in water vending. For over 30 years, they've served as a valuable resource for great tasting, economical water in thousands of neighborhoods. Their water machines provide people everywhere with great tasting water that they refill themselves. For doing just a little work, their customers can save a lot of money. Now they also provide ice, using machines that handle production and bagging right in the store. Their customers can also feel good that, by refilling their own bottle with Glacier Water, they're helping to keep plastic waste out of landfills, and taking delivery trucks off the road. And buying ice from Glacier means they're reducing the number of refrigerated trucks required to stock ice in their store.

Situation

Glacier Water needed a cost-effective mobile-savvy application that could standardize and speed the process of qualifying, signing up, and onboarding new customers; and placing their water and ice machines in new locations. This custom workflow solution needed to improve the productivity for some 400 sales and field service staff that sell, install, and service its 24,000 water and ice dispensing machines across North America. It had to allow users to work in areas without broadband or WiFi networks. And it had to be compatible across mobile platforms without maintaining multiple applications or incurring costly maintenance and modifications expenses. Lastly, the cost of delivery and deployment had to be less than that of off-the-shelf workflow products.

Solution

Using Alpha Anywhere, Glacier Water was able to design, develop, debug, and deploy a new custom workflow application in a mere six months—about 5 to 10 times faster than was possible had they used Microsoft Access, Visual Studio, or another RAD platform. Alpha Anywhere's complete prototype-to-production IDE let Glacier Water rapidly create the enterprise-class app with one code base that can meet all the front-end to back-end requirements, including support for tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktops; and SQL Server. Adding sophisticated capabilities was easy using Alpha Anywhere's abundant collection of components, wizards, builders, and smart "coding optional" code generation. Each new feature dynamically adapts to the device it's being run on, without having to develop separate native front ends and back-end interfaces. Most importantly, Alpha Anywhere's built-in support for Adobe PhoneGap and disconnected operation meant Glacier Water's developers didn't waste thousands of hours programming these crucial abilities; and can natively integrate with iOS, Android, the App Store, and the Play Store.

Results

Glacier Water was able to affect true business transformation by using Alpha Anywhere to develop a sophisticated sales team workflow application with a highly responsive design. The application lets the sales team pre-qualify customers using a simple form that works uniformly on any device, whether that's a Windows PC or a mobile iOS, Android, or BlackBerry device. The application supports integration of attachments and other required items to the main form, which is then digitally submitted for approval. Using the same workflow app, the customer is reviewed, approved, processed, and delivered to the operational side so their new water vending machine can be placed. The new mobile app has "taken a lot of the non-value-add rework out of the process." And thanks to Alpha Anywhere's built-in disconnected capability, Glacier Water's salespeople will soon be able to work uninterrupted even when a mobile or other network connection is poor or lost. When the connection returns, the application will automatically synchronize changes in the cloud.