“Tangent Solutions understood our needs from the start, from the functionality needed to the integration complexity. The Tangent team had proven and testable solutions and toolsets, along with the relevant expertise and skills that would make the project seamless. Additionally, Tangent had a host of specialist IT services to leverage to ensure we were set up, trained, and offered guidance for long term success in the digital modernisation landscape. In the end, we knew we were getting serviced by an award winning and reputable business who had been in the business for over a decade, meaning we had less to worry about, and it shows in the product,” says Gary Bowler.
Ceramics Industries is an established South African manufacturer of tiles and bathroom ware. With manufacturing bases in South Africa and Australia, the Ceramics Industries group supplies major South African retailers. Ceramics Industries has won half of the South African ceramic tile market share and competes in European markets.
Ceramics Industries approached Tangent Solutions with a three-pronged problem, namely:
2. Client connection
Ceramics Industries presented Tangent Solutions with its vision to create an application that could support all these areas of need.
Ceramics Industries were determined to modernise the administrative flow to better support their sales representatives, who found the administrative burden and travel burden they carried exceeded the work hours assigned to such tasks. They also wished to provide the sales representative managers with better visibility over representatives’ effectiveness and performance.
Ceramics Industries required its application to support a “Floor Walk” for on-site interactions with managers at the various retail outlets. Specifically, the following functionality was required:
– A pre-meet “walkthrough” to prepare the sales representative
– A post-meet summary to consolidate the meeting points covered in the on-site visit
– A mechanism to pass, and communicate around this summary
Additionally, the managers required monthly overview reports providing total and aggregated metrics of their sales representative’s performance, e.g.:
– Contact metrics such as distance travelled, visits conducted, and calls made
– Outcome metrics such as the value of orders facilitated and linked customer complaints
2. Client Connection
A core responsibility of the Ceramics Industries’ sales team is creating effective client connections. To support this, Ceramics Industries required that sales representatives must be able to resolve all stock related enquiries and issues while they are on-site with the store manager.
Ceramics Industries maintains its stock control within SAP, an enterprise-level software solution that assists businesses to manage operations and customer relations. Rather than further customise SAP, the requirement was to empower the sales representatives with real-time data derived from SAP.
Ceramic Industries required that the “Floor Walk” application should optimise information flow between SAP, the sales representative, and the client; specifically:
– A clear summary of the client’s current credit facility
– A client overview report, including:
– all current orders and their status
– year-to-date spending
– backorder report
– The ability to place orders based on real-time stock control data
– Packaging details for potential orders, such as dimensioning and cost of shipments
3. Merchandising Compliance
Merchandising compliance within retail stores is often a highly variable factor. With properly executed retail displays offering a significant sales lift, ensuring that store managers comply with promotion display guidelines and enforcing quality assurance is vital. Ceramics Industries required that the “Floor Walk” function should optimise their marketing strategy; specifically:
– A mechanism to record images taken in-store of mock-ups and promotional displays
– A system to record quality assurance commentary and suggestions for improvements
– For these records to be included in the post-meet summary
Tangent Solutions collaborated with Ceramics Industries to clarify their requirements and proposed a two-part solution:
1. Android App and tablet to support the sales reps
2. Web App for high-level reporting to managers
SAP integrations require a strong element of technical innovation. Tangent Solutions applied a REST API written in .NET to extract and transform the XML data derived from SAP. The solution implemented a JSON output, simplifying further aggregations. This transformed data was then passed to Syncfusion to support the charting and graphing of the customised reports.
The Android App was developed in Xamarin and distributed via dedicated tablets that were assigned to each sales rep. Tangent Solutions undertook both the training of existing reps and the user documentation to support the onboarding of new reps.
The team applied DevOps best practices throughout the development process, ensuring that quality gates were implemented throughout the pipeline. QA of the code was verified with SonarCloud, ensuring that all commits were reviewed before integration with the main branch. Unit tests were developed and deployed, ensuring consistent functionality of the App.
The production App was deployed using Microsoft’s Visual Studio App Centre. To ensure that Ceramics Industries had visibility over their project, they were provided with access to App Centre’s diagnostic reports providing real-time metrics on usage, crash analytics, and error tracing.
To support the monthly reporting cycle for the sales rep managers, Tangent Solutions implemented SOTI. This enables managers to access reports secured with SSO from their browser.
Ceramics Industries now possesses a robust, custom digitised solution that supports their modern administrative system, providing:
– Optimised Administration, e.g.:
– significant reduction in the administrative workload of sales reps
– auto generated monthly rep performance metrics
– Improved Client Connection, with:
– real-time stock data
– real-time client relationship data
– Better Managed Merchandising Compliance, with:
– detailed records of the QA of brand representation
– detailed records of recommendations to improve
The optimisations to the sales process and marketing strategy mean that Ceramics Industries is well placed to increase its market share. And, by digitising and automating its sales rep management, Ceramics Industries is well placed to expand its sales team, confident that they have full access to all their relevant KPIs to support such an expansion efficiently.