Kao Beauty deploys enterprise sales system to mobile employees

Salon products distributor chooses Mendix to build enterprise sales system to distribute to mobile employees via iPads

Kao Beauty, a distributor of salon product brands such as John Frieda and Goldwell, has deployed an enterprise sales system to its mobile employees to help them to sell goods.

The organisation worked with Dutch software development firm Magnus to build a mobile application using the Mendix platform, that enables Kao’s roaming sales staff to view customer details and product offers, and make on-the-spot orders when in the field.

Kao’s workforce was using a laptop application to place orders, but it did not have real-time access to the company’s back-end SAP system, so sales staff would use paper to note orders down and process them later, which could take up to two hours.

This process was inflexible, and sales teams needed a way to check stock and enter orders wherever they were. The application also needed to work offline as well as online.

“The sales team wanted a simple order-entry system and they needed it right away,” says Dan Gordon, application group manager at Kao.  

A decision had to be made whether to keep the current system and build in the connectivity it needed, or choose something new.

“We were looking at a lengthy and expensive project, so we evaluated a number of app platforms and integration toolsets and selected Mendix,” says Gordon.

Matthias Bartels, business application leader at Kao, says several other software providers were considered, including SAP, but when it came to development, some suppliers could not deliver what they had promised.

Rapid application development

Because of delays, the project started two months late, but was delivered on time because of the rapid development techniques used by Mendix.

Interfaces were created to collect global master data on customers, orders, status updates and credit information. This is stored using SAP, then transferred to the Mendix cloud to create an updated data set for sales representatives.

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The application, which is used by 500 Kao sales staff on iPads worldwide, including 48 employees in the UK, was developed by Magnus using Mendix’s rapid application development platform-as-a-service (RAD PaaS) methodology.                

Each of the app’s 12 interfaces were developed in about three days, compared with the 30 days it would have taken using traditional software development techniques.

This seemed the best fit for Kao, as previous approaches were expensive to build on if changes were needed.

“When I first heard of Mendix, it sounded like a fairytale,” says Bartels.

“Only now I’ve seen it in action, seen how fast and flexible it makes development, do I truly believe it.”

The applications are developed iteratively using a pre-developed platform, enabling users to create apps without needing to have coding skills.

The agile development nature of the system makes it a lot easier for changes to be made if salespeople are having problems.

“It’s a living application,” says Bartels. “Sales teams and managers feed us ideas for improvement and we then develop the app in step-by-step iterations, gaining user feedback along the way. This enables us to quickly deliver on what our users need.”

Bartels says the project was so successful because of the ability to adapt an application and develop it based on user need.

“We got a platform for creating our own solutions in a rapid way,” he says. “Ask your guys what they need to be successful in the market and then realise those requirements.”

Software at the core

Johan den Haan, CTO at Mendix, says: “Software is becoming ubiquitous, I can’t come up with any business innovation that has no IT involved. Companies need to become software companies to be able to compete in today’s market.”

He cites businesses such as Netflix and Uber as examples of businesses whose use of software is at the core of what they do.

“Enterprises are wanting to do the same thing,” says Haan. “We call this trend the ‘digital enterprise’, the need to become digital. They need to have software at the core of the business.”

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It's great to hear about this technology being realized. Aside from at the apple store, a sign-in at a local company and a wireless iPad app to order wine on cruise ships, I really haven't seen much use of iPad apps for sales. I suppose a lot of the uses are backoffice and warehouse and such, which is why I don't see them.