Propelics carves niche in enterprise mobile apps

The developer is bringing custom applications to a wide range of clients, including Payless Shoesource, Merck, Family Dollar, Wells Fargo and Hallmark.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

As the concept of downloading mobile applications from a central "store" continues to become status quo in the consumer world, developer and solution provider Propelics is bringing the same idea into enterprise organizations with large mobile workforces that are looking for a better way to manage -- and personalize -- the software that their employees are using.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company, established about two years ago, was formed by a team of IT strategists with extensive experience in customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. They were increasingly pulled into mobile engagements starting in 2008, and that's when they decided enterprises could benefit just as much from application "stores" and respositories as individuals, said Eric Carlson, one of the company's partners.

"We're looking for use cases that change processes and take advantage of a device on the employee side, which is extremely powerful," he said. "We're looking to change how they work with others."

To be clear: the applications that Propelics is developing aren't merely extensions of existing desktop applications. The company is focused moreso on rethinking existing manual processes that are probably automated today with paper -- or, maybe, not at all.

Carlson cites an example from one client, a large services firm (he can't share the name) with more than 300 delivery stations. Propelics dispatched some of its team members on "ride alongs" so that they could observe drivers on the job. During that process, it discovered that replacement drivers -- those deployed temporarily on the route -- took an extra four hours to get the job done. This was because they didn't have access to the shortcuts of the regular drivers, in terms of who to contact upon arrival or even different routes to take. 

"We realized there was $6 million to $7 million in overtime based on drivers not having street knowledge," Carlson said.

Based on that finding, Propelics proposed an application filled with tips and information about different routes to help streamline the process for replacement drivers. The cost to develop it was about $75,000, but it helped the company save far more than that amount, he said. 

Propelics lists some very high-profile companies on its customer list, including Payless Shoesource, Wells Fargo, Merck, Family Dollar and Hallmark. Its approach is finding particular resonance with companies that are managing a large number of retail locations, Carlson said. That's because the organization can test different ideas in pilot sites and then make them available to the other locations via an app store, as appropriate.

The company currently employs about 30 mobile specialists but expects to double in size over the next 12 months, Carlson said. 

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