The shift to remote work has led many companies to resolve digital challenges with low code development platforms. Forty-four percent of U.S. workers are now working from home five or more days a week, up from 17% before the pandemic.
Typical coding requires knowledge of a programming language. Low code development environments simplify the app creation process by providing a drag-and-drop interface so that employees, even those with little to no coding knowledge, can create digital tools to solve real business needs. This helps companies complete a digital transformation without the cost of rewriting legacy software that is otherwise integral to day-to-day processes.
Unshackling employees from desktop-only legacy software and capitalizing on the ubiquity of mobile devices are benefits offered by low code development platforms. Powwow Mobile, a Softjourn client, offers such a development environment. Here’s how Softjourn helped Powwow bring their idea to life.
Organizations can use low code development platforms to bridge process, productivity, and personnel gaps.
Transforming Legacy Software to Meet Remote Work Needs
Powwow and Softjourn began working together in 2012, when Powwow’s co-founder and CEO Jonathan Kaplan saw a need to bring desktop enterprise applications to mobile devices simply and quickly — and with a totally native feel that would enhance both adoption and usage.
Powwow wanted to resolve the issue of bringing Windows-centric desktop applications to mobile, without having to rewrite those applications. They designed a cloud-based platform to run Windows-based applications on mobile devices without a port and chose Softjourn as their development partner.
As with many of Softjourn’s customers, the collaboration started with a pilot project. This involved implementing gesture integration on existing iPad apps for previously transferred enterprise applications. The Softjourn team supported swiping to change slides, pinching to zoom in or out of application documents, and so on.
After a successful pilot project, Powwow decided to move to a dedicated team of Softjourn software engineers, QAs, and a project manager.
“The team in Ukraine is so closely integrated with us, they understand what we are trying to achieve,” Kaplan said. “Distance is not an issue; it is the opposite, in fact. It means that Powwow never sleeps!”
Initially, Softjourn’s expanded scope of work focused on adding new functionality to Powwow’s Virtualization system, which made Windows-centric applications available via mobile. Users could upload MS Office documents from their email and immediately edit them on their mobile devices.
As marketing trends developed, Powwow turned to Softjourn to meet new customer demands. Softjourn assisted in adapting enterprise solutions (i.e., Windows, Java, SAP, etc.) into fully functioning mobile applications that run natively on any Android and iOS device.
Eventually, instead of building apps manually, Softjourn assisted in the creation of Powwow’s low code development platform. Softjourn then switched to building customer applications using the low code platform entirely.
“Softjourn’s team stepped up and were drivers of working on our product,” Kaplan said. “The team seized on the app building piece of it. They didn’t just develop the tool; they ended up using the tool as well.”
Meeting High Expectations with Low Code
Powwow’s SmartUX Studio offers users the ability to quickly create hybrid applications via a drag-and-drop interface. Since these applications are hybrid, they work across multiple operating systems without the need for multiple code bases.
Customers can use the default setup and off-the-shelf templates to develop their own applications in-house. Or the platform can be customized by a development team for unique requirements. Another tool in the SmartUX Platform called SmartUX Explorer also allows businesses to easily link legacy web or Windows apps to mobile applications, either with or without APIs.
Such tools can help businesses rapidly develop applications that support remote work. For example, an IT service management app allows employees to submit IT service requests from anywhere — not just from a desktop. HR, executives, and sales, as additional examples, can all also benefit from low-code developed apps by providing communication on shared data requests. This can save time, money, and increase employee satisfaction.
“Powwow’s software allows companies to solve the issue of legacy enterprise applications by transforming it with no rewriting,” said Taras Romaniv, Softjourn team lead on the project. “It runs legacy apps under the hood and provides a UI that mirrors the user behavior.
“For example, you click a button on your mobile app, and the platform makes a connection to the underlying legacy application. It also sends data from that legacy app to your mobile application.”
The applications aren’t simply replicating the desktop experience in a browser window. Because they are hybrid, they can access native mobile features like location services, camera, voice calling, barcode scanning, biometric authentication, and speech to text.
“We worked very tightly with the Powwow team,” Romaniv said of the project, describing how Softjourn communicated frequently with the client to provide excellent service and superior coding efforts. “This was not just a project where we proposed a single solution and developed it; it was an ongoing process over several years.”
A Flexible Team for an Evolving Project
As Powwow’s vision for their product evolved, Softjourn provided continuous development support and suggestions for the most efficient implementation of new features or improving existing ones.
“As an example, we created an offline feature so that the application still works even if it’s not connected to Wi-Fi or other networks,” said Oleksii Horbachevskyi, full stack developer on the project. “We did deep research into the best way to add the feature to the existing mobile architecture and offered our client suggestions on implementation.”
“The Softjourn team was very flexible,” Kaplan said. “The new product apps have been crucial to our new direction.”
Another example of being able to pivot quickly was the onset of the novel coronavirus. As the pandemic swept over the globe, Softjourn assisted Powwow in creating proofs of concept for coronavirus-related features and off-the-shelf apps. This included an app for employees to self-monitor their health, report symptoms, and advise when to stay home.
Other features included tracking the number of people going in and out of a location, helping businesses meet local regulations regarding social distancing and capacity limits; and implementing high-priority messages from management to ensure employees were informed about changes in the company.
Softjourn supported Powwow for nearly a decade, pivoting as necessary to tackle new business-driven challenges as they arose. The development team was adjusted appropriately over time as they needed to scale up or down. The Softjourn team members worked on many different types of projects throughout their tenure, which allows them to bring new insight and experience to each.
“Since we’ve worked with so many different types of businesses throughout the years, our team members have a great collective knowledge to draw on when advising our customers,” said Lyubomyr Nykyforuk, former Softjourn project manager for Powwow. “This helps us come up with alternatives, suggestions, and more accurate requirements analysis.”
Upgrading to a Modern UI and UX
Softjourn developers and designers also worked in tandem with the Powwow team to provide customizations for end user customers. This included custom features for each customer’s needs and branded designs for the UI. Softjourn’s in-house designers are experts at understanding client needs, and translating those needs into an effective UX.
“ We created the workflow for the designs of the applications,” said Lidiya Boychuk, lead designer. “We focused on making them more consumer-oriented, which means we focused on creating user-friendly designs.
“We got a lot of feedback from developers, from clients, and implemented those changes so we could truly understand what did and didn’t work for each user.”
Over time, Softjourn designers created modern layouts for the Powwow app’s UI and UX, updating the apps to offer a consumer-oriented feel. This means that applications weren’t just functional; they met the modern standards of what a mobile application should look and feel like when being operated by an end user.
“Our apps now have a high-quality design,” Kaplan said of Softjourn’s work. “They play a part in every demo that we do for potential customers.”
Benefits of Working with Softjourn
- Long-term, high-quality software engineers, quality assurance folks, and other team members that didn’t simply take direction but also provided ideas and suggestions for the most effective end result
- Flexible team that was able to pivot quickly depending on changing market trends and company needs
- Deep expertise when it came to mobile application architecture, technology, and development
- Clear documentation to create milestones and timelines for reaching company goals
Softjourn developers drew on industry and in-house best practices to prepare a roadmap for the next version of Powwow’s low code development platform.
“We had a lot of conversations on where they wanted the platform to grow,” said Romaniv. “This was a really interesting project — it was the perfect example of a product company, and in this case the dev team, needing to use the tools it creates and prove to the market that they work!”
Low code platforms like Powwow’s SmartUX provides businesses with the benefit of getting a much-needed application out the door quickly, allowing them to meet and scale as needed with little to no technical involvement. This can help companies meet digitization efforts with fewer resources, especially when it comes to remote work-from-home jobs.