American Electric Plugs Into an Agile Framework

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2016-09-12 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A flexible software framework

The transition to solar created both business and IT challenges for this electrical contractor, which then adopted a more agile, flexible software framework.

Growing businesses face challenges that often extend far beyond ordinary IT issues. For American Electric, an electrical firm in Hawaii that's ranked among the top 100 solar contractors in the United States, the need to manage growth is paramount. When a wave of solar adoption spiked in 2010, the firm found itself facing the need to become more agile and flexible.

"We began dealing with homeowners rather than facility managers and engineers, and they have very different expectations," says Rehan Siddiqui, managing director at American Electric.

In fact, the transition to solar introduced an array of business and IT challenges revolving around a simple problem: The nearly 70-year-old company was set up to complete massive construction projects with timelines of several months—and sometimes years—but it now had to deal with as many as 50 mini construction projects each month.

"We were dealing with small-scale projects that require very different project management and financial tracking," Siddiqui points out. "Spreadsheets and emails were no longer adequate.

As customer service and satisfaction waned—and daily firefighting became a regular event—the company recognized a need to update its business and IT framework. However, conventional accounting and ERP solutions were too expensive and complex for the company's needs.

Adopting a Task-Driven Workflow and Communication System

Siddiqui surveyed the vendor landscape and opted to revamp accounting and operations workflows using a centralized task-driven workflow and communication system from kintone. The cloud-based solution delivered a framework for creating specialized applications without any coding expertise. "We needed a database that could keep everyone on the same page," he says.

American Electric rolled out the new system companywide in mid-2015. Since then, it has helped streamline a variety of functions and processes and has ushered in efficiencies and cost savings that wouldn't have been possible previously.

For one thing, all the company's data resides in a single place and is accessible via mobile devices. Checking on project status is a simple and straightforward task for the firm's employees.

"We used to have salespeople calling operations on a regular basis to check on projects and follow up on things," Siddiqui says. "That is no longer necessary."

In addition, it's possible to use kintone to update records from the field and automate tasks in a timely manner. In fact, Siddiqui estimates that the platform has driven a 30 to 50 percent improvement in response times.

Finally, American Electric now has the ability to use notifications and alerts to check on customers, based on specific criteria. "We are a lot more proactive, and, as a result, customers are happier," he adds.

The company currently uses the kintone platform for database and document management needs, as well as for coordinating tasks among warehouse staff, electricians, installers and salespeople. The environment supports menus in English, Chinese and Japanese—all of which aids in customer service and support.

Siddiqui says that American Electric will likely expand the use of the kintone platform. "We are now equipped to handle existing companies and future growth," he concludes. "We have a collaboration tool in place that allows people to work faster and better."



 
 
 
 
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
 
 
 
 
 



















 
 
 
 
 
 

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