With Large Workforce in the Field, Source Refrigeration Selects an Agile Platform-Aproach to Mobile Apps Design and Delivery
Source Refrigeration Selects Agile Mobile Platform
Approach for its Large In-Field Workforce
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how a nationwide company has harnessed the power
of mobile applications to increase the productivity of its workforce.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BrieﬁngsDirect interview, coming to you
from the Kony World 2015 Conference in Orlando.
I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout
this series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility. We're
here to explore advancements in mobile applications design and deployment
technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating
Our next innovator interview focuses on how Source Refrigeration and HVAC
has been extending the productivity of its workforce, much of it in the ﬁeld,
through the use of innovative mobile applications and services.
We'll delve in to how Source Refrigeration has created a boundaryless enterprise and reaped the
rewards of Agile processes and the ability to extend data and intelligence to where it’s needed
To learn how their successful mobile journey has unfolded, please join me
now in welcoming Hal Kolp, Vice President of Information Technology at
Source Refrigeration and HVAC in Anaheim, California.
Hal Kolp: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: Good to have you with us. It’s interesting to me, as I look at different use cases for
mobility, how important the advancement is for organizations like yours with that mobile
It’s my understanding that there is something on the order of several hundred ﬁeld-based service
and installation experts serving the needs of 2,500 or more customers nationwide. Tell us a little
bit about why mobility is essential for you and how this has created better efﬁciency and
innovation for you?
Convert to electronic
Kolp: I'd be glad to, Dana. Source started to explore mobility back in 2006. I was tasked with a
project to ﬁgure out if it made sense to take our service organization, which was driven by paper,
and convert it to an electronic form of a service ticket.
After looking at the market itself and at the technology for cellular telephones
back in 2006, as well as data plans and what was available, we came to the
conclusion that it did make sense. So we started a project to make life easier
for our service technicians and our back ofﬁce billers, so that we would have
information in real time and we'd speed up our billing process.
At that time, the goals were pretty simple. They were to eliminate the paper in
the ﬁeld, shorten our billing cycle from 28 days to 3 days, and take all of the
material, labor, and asset information and put it into the system as quickly as possible, so we
could give our customers better information about the equipment, how they are performing, and
total cost of ownership (TCO).
But over time, things change. In our service organization then, we had 275 guys. Today, we have
600. So we've grown substantially, and our data is quite a bit better. We also use mobility on the
construction side of our business, where we're installing new refrigeration equipment or HVAC
equipment into large supermarket chains around the country.
Our construction managers and foremen live their lives on their tablets. They know the status of
their job, they know their cost, they're looking at labor, they're doing safety reports and daily
turnover reports. Anyone in our ofﬁce can see pictures from any job site. They can look at the
current status of a job, and this is all done over the cellular network. The business has really
Gardner: It’s interesting that you had the foresight to get your systems of record into paperless
mode and were ready to extend that information to the edge, but then also be able to accept data
and information from the edge to then augment and improve on the systems of record. One
beneﬁts the other, or there is a symbiosis or virtuous adoption cycle. What have been some of the
business beneﬁts of doing it that way?
Kolp: There are simple beneﬁts on the service side. First of all, the billing cycle changed
dramatically, and that generated a huge amount of cash. It’s a one-time win, whatever you would
bill between 3 days and 28 days. All of that revenue came in, and there was this huge inﬂux of
cash in the beginning. That actually paid for the entire project. Just the generation of that cash
was enough to more than compensate for all the software development and all the devices. So
that was a big win.
But then we streamlined billing. Instead of a biller looking at a piece of paper and entering a time
ticket, it was done automatically. Instead of looking at a piece of paper, then doing an inventory
transfer to put it on a job, that was eliminated. Technician’s comments never made it into our
system or on paper. They just sent a photocopy of the document to the customer.
Today, within 30 seconds of the person completing a work order, it’s uploaded to the system. It’s
been generated into PDF documents where necessary. All the purchase order and work order
information has entered into the system automatically, and an acknowledgement of the work
order is sent to our customer without any human intervention. It just happens, just part of our
That’s a huge win for the business. It also gives you data for things that you can start to measure
yourself on. We have a whole series of key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards that
are built to help our service managers and regional directors understand what’s going on their
Do we have customers where we're spending a lot of time in their store-servicing them? That
means there is something wrong. Let’s see if we can solve our customer’s problems. We look at
the efﬁciency of our technicians.
We look at the efﬁciency of drive times. That electronic data even led us into automatic
dispatching systems. We have computers that look at the urgency of the call, the location of the
call, and the skills necessary to do that service request. It automatically decides which technician
to send and when to send them. It takes a work order and dispatches a speciﬁc technician on it.
Gardner: So you've become data-driven and then far more intelligent, responsive, and agile as a
result. Tell me how you've been able to achieve that, but at the same time, not get bogged down
in an application development cycle that can take a long time, or even ﬁnd yourself in waterfall-
type of affair, where the requirement shift rapidly, and by the time you ﬁnish a product, it’s
How have you been able to change your application development for your mobile applications in
a way that keeps up with these business requirements?
Kolp: We've worked on three different mobile platforms. The claim in the beginning was to
develop once and just update and move forward. That didn’t really work out so well on the ﬁrst
couple of platforms. The platforms became obsolete, and we essentially had to rewrite the
application on to a new platform for which the claim was that it was going to survive.
This last year, we converted to the Kony platform, and all indications so far are that that platform
is going to be great for us, because we've done a whole bunch of upgrades in the last 12 months
on the platform. We're moving, and our application is migrating very quickly.
So things are very good on that side and in our development process. When we were building our
new application initially, we were doing two builds a week. So every couple of days we do a
little sprint up. We don’t really call them sprints, but essentially, it was a sprint to add
functionality. We go into a quick testing cycle, and while we're testing, we have folks adding new
functionality and ﬁxing bugs. Then, we do another release.
At the current stage where we are in production really depends on the needs of the business. Last
week, we had a new release and this week, we're having another release as we ﬁx some small
bugs or did enhancements to the products that came up during our initial rollout where we are
making changes. It’s not that difﬁcult to roll out a new version.
We send an alert. The text says that they have got a new version. They complete the work order
that they're on, they perform an update, and they're back in business again. So it's pretty simple.
Gardner: So it's a very agile, iterative, easily adaptive type of development infrastructure.
What about the input from those people in the ﬁeld. Another aspect of agile development isn’t
just the processes for the development itself, but being able to get more people involved with
deciding features, functions, and not necessarily forcing the developers to read minds.
Has that crept into your process? Are you able to take either a business analyst or practitioner in
the ﬁeld and allow them to have the input that then creates better apps and better processes?
Kolp: In our latest generation application, we made tremendous changes in the user interface to
make it easier for the technicians to do their job and for them to not have to think about anything.
If they needed to do something, they knew what they had to do. It was kind of in their face, in
other words. We use cues on screens by colors. It’s something that's required for them to do, it’s
always red. If there is an input ﬁeld that is optional, then it’s in blue. We have those kinds of
We also built a little mini application, a web app, that's used by technicians for frequently asked
questions (FAQs). If they have got some questions about how this application works, they can
look at the FAQs. They can also submit a request for enhancements directly from the page. So
we're getting requests from the ﬁeld.
If they have a question about the application, we can take that question and turn it into a new
FAQ page, response, or new question that people can click on and learn. We're trying to make the
application to be more driven by the ﬁeld and less by managers in the back ofﬁce.
Gardner: Are there any metrics yet that would indicate an improvement in the use of the apps,
based on this improved user interface and user experience. Is there any way to say the better we
make it, the more they use it; the more they use it, the better the business results?
Kolp: We're in early stages of our rollout. In a couple of weeks we'll have about 200 of our 600
guys on the new application, and the guys noticed a few things. Number one, they believe the
application is much more responsive to them. It’s just fast. Our application happens to be on iOS.
Things happen quickly because of the processor and memory. So that’s really good for them.
The other thing they notice, is that if they're looking at assets and they need to ﬁnd something in
the asset, need to look up a part, or need to do anything, we've added search capability that just
makes it brain-dead simple to ﬁnd stuff that they need to look for. They can use their camera as a
barcode scanner within our application. It’s easy to attach pictures.
What they ﬁnd is that we've made it easier for them to add information and document their call.
They have a much greater tendency to add information than they did before. For example, if
they're in their work order notes, which for us is a summary, they can just talk. We use voice to
text, and that will convert it. If they choose to type, they can type, but many of the guys really
like the voice to text, because they have big ﬁngers and typing on the screen is a little bit harder
What's of interest?
Gardner: We are here at Kony World, Hal. Did anything jump out at you that’s particularly
interesting? We've heard about solution ecosystems and vertical industries, Visualizer update,
some cloud interactions for developers? Did anything really jump out at you that might be of
interest for the coming year?
Kolp: I'm very interested in Visualizer 2.0. It appears to be a huge improvement over the original
version. We use third-party development. In our case, we used somebody else’s front-end design
tool for our project, but I really like the ability to be able to take our project and then use it with
Visualizer 2.0, so that we can develop the screens and the ﬂow that we want and hand it off to the
developers. They can hook it up to the back end and go.
I just like having the ability to have that control, and now we've done the heavy lifting. For the
most part, understanding your data, data ﬂow or the ﬂow of the application is usually where you
spend quite a bit more time. For us to be able to do that ourselves is much better than writing on
napkins or using PowerPoint or Visio to generate screens or some other application.
It’s nice because ultimately we will be able to go use Visualizer, push it into the application, take
the application, push it back into Visualizer, make more changes, and go back and forth. I see
that as a huge advantage. That’s one thing I took from the show.
Gardner: With this journey that you've been on since 2006, you’ve gone quite a way. Is there
anything you could advise others who are perhaps just beginning in extending their enterprise to
that mobile edge, ﬁnding the ways to engage with the people in the ﬁeld that will get them to be
adding information, taking more intelligence back from the apps into their work? What might
you do with 20-20 hindsight and then relate that to people just starting?
Kolp: There are a couple of things that I’ll point out. There was a large reluctance for people to
say that this would actually work. When your business says that you can't mobilize some
process, it's probably not true. There's this resistance to change that's natural to everyone.
Our technicians today, who have been on mobile applications, hate to be on paper. They don't
want to have anything to do with paper, because it's harder for them. They have more work to do.
They have to collect the paper, shove the paper in an envelope, or hand it off to someone to do
things. So they don’t like it.
The other thing you should consider is what happens when that device breaks? All devices will
break at some point for some reason. Look at how those devices are going to get replaced. We
operate in 20 states. You can't depend upon the home ofﬁce to be able to rush out a replacement
device for your suppliers in real time. We looked pretty hard at using all kinds of different
methods to reduce the downtime for guys in the ﬁeld.
You should look at that. That’s really important if the device is being used all day, every day for
a ﬁeld worker. That’s their primary communication method.
Simpler is better
The other thing I could say is, “simpler is better.” Don't make an application where you have to
type-in a tremendous amount of data. Make data entry as easy as possible via taps or predeﬁned
Think about your entire process front to back and don't hesitate to change the way that you
gather information today, as opposed to the way you want to in the future. Don't take a paper
form and automate it, because that isn't the way your ﬁeld worker thinks. You need to generate
the new ﬂow of information so that it ﬁts on whatever size screen you want. It can't be a
spreadsheet or it can’t be a bunch of checkboxes and stuff, because that doesn't necessarily suit
the tool that you are using to drive the information gathering.
Spend a lot of time upfront designing screens and ﬁguring out how the process should work. If
you do that, you'll meet with very little pushback from the ﬁeld once they get it and actually use
it. I would communicate with the ﬁeld regularly if you're developing and tell them what's going
on, so that they are not blind-sided by something new.
I'd work closely with the ﬁeld in designing the application. I'd also be involved with anybody
that touches that data. In our case, it's service managers. We work with builders, inventory
control, purchasing people, and timecards. All of those were pieces that our applications touch.
So people from the business were involved, even people from ﬁnance, because we're making
ﬁnancial transactions in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
So get all those people involved and make sure that they're in agreement with what you're doing.
Make sure that you test thoroughly and that everybody signs off together at the end. The simpler
you can make your application, the faster you can roll it out, and then just enhance, enhance,
Add a new feature if you're starting something new. If you're replacing an existing application,
it's much harder to do that. You'll have to create all of the functionality because the business
typically doesn't want to lose functionally.
Gardner: Well great. Thank you for that. I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there.
We've been learning about how advancements in mobile applications design and deployment
technologies are bringing new productivity beneﬁts across the growing spectrum of edge devices
And we've seen how quality, speed, and value are rapidly increasing, thanks to the Kony
Mobility Platform for such innovators as Source Refrigeration. So a big thank you to our guest,
Hal Kolp, the Vice President of Information Technology at Source Refrigeration and HVAC in
Anaheim, California. Thank you, Hal.
Kolp: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And a big thank you to our audience for joining us for this special podcast series
coming to you from the Kony World 2015 Conference in Orlando.
I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of
Kony sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect IT discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.
Transcript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on how a nationwide company has harnessed the power
of mobile applications to increase the productivity of its workforce. Copyright Interarbor
Solutions, LLC, 2005-2015. All rights reserved.
You may also be interested in:
Kony gives enterprises the means to make mobile development a force multiplier for
Panel tackles how to make mobile devices as secure as they are indispensable
Five ways to make identity management work best across hybrid computing
As the digital economy ramps up, expect a new identity management vision to leapfrog
Mobile enablement presents challenges, opportunities as enterprises retool apps for the
Standards and APIs: How to best manage identity and security in the mobile era
Microsoft SharePoint at a crossroads — opportunities and challenges abound for users to
Siemens Brazil blazes a best practices path to deliver work ﬂow applications on mobile
Why HTML5 enables more businesses to deliver more apps to more mobile devices with