With Covid-19 induced lockdowns globally, Work from Home became the norm for back-office staff in all industries. Making sure that frontline employees follow Standard Operation Procedures became a massive challenge for organizations who were still using pen and paper. There was also added pressure on the management to ensure that workers followed the ever-changing Covid-19 protocols. As the lockdowns opened, businesses realized that technology was needed not just for compliance and operational efficiency but most importantly to ensure the frontline creates a delightful, consistent experience for Customers. We built a Teams app called Proceso that could tackle all the above issues head-on.

What it does

Proceso is a Built-For-Teams No-Code platform where various recurring processes used by the frontline like Checklists, Recordings for Data Collection, Surveys and Assessments can be automated by the business team. Building a separate App for each Process and then governing it is challenging for large organizations

Proceso solves this by letting business users configure complex processes with multi-step forms and workflows. It brings down the time and cost for automating operational processes and improves compliance resulting in a high quality and consistent Customer experience.

Secondly, an average employee today, whether in the field or on a desk, needs to perform a wide range of tasks most of which are repetitive, and time bound. So, organizations have is to ensure work gets completed at the right time, on the right location, by the right person on a secure device. Proceso ensures this by delivering tasks, reminders, and escalations on a BOT in Teams and in Channels created by role or by factory or by retail store. These high visibility notifications ensure tasks are not missed. Task notifications in the channels ensure quick conflict resolution. Geo fencing ensures the frontline is where they need to be. Lastly the underlying identity and security of O365 takes care of the identity and device compliance.

Proceso is made available as two Apps.

1. Proceso App

  • An app with 3 tabs for Frontline i. Announcements – Company videos/media released specifically for the frontline ii. ToDo’s - The daily task dashboard iii. Process Insights – reports of Task submissions done by the frontline that they can view or export.
  • The same App is used for Approvers to review the Task submissions and provide feedback in the case of processes that have approvals within sections of the Process or at the Process level.

2. Proceso Analyst App This is used by process excellence teams to configure/modify/assign processes, a one-time job. A process can include tasks for multiple functional teams like Managers, Cashiers, Customer Service teams and can also be configured to be used for specific locations like Retail stores in a specific city or for a specific brand. The platform is completely configurable, and admins can

  • Configure new processes or edit existing ones
  • Set up multi-level hierarchies of zone wise retail stores, hospitals, manufacturing centers etc
  • Assign multiple attributes to each location like Brand, Company Owned, Channel etc.
  • Create users and map to locations
  • Define user roles and other configurations
  • Review real time progress of processes
  • Raise escalations

Overall Proceso is an easy to learn and adopt collaborative solution that ensures Time, Location, Device & Identity Compliance. Most importantly, the business managers can keep a track of compliance to SOPs or‘Processes’ through intuitive real time visualizations with drill throughs to discover bottlenecks and take timely action. Making this a single window for all TODOs in the day of a frontline employee and for supervisors and managers for all approvals.

How we built it

  • Built as a service hosted on Azure, delivered in Teams to keep it 100% scalable and affordable for all Customers segments.
  • Using a Scrum Approach. We used Azure Boards to have complete control over the build test and deploy cycle.
  • Mobile First. Since our primary audience is the frontline.
  • Using technology that would guarantee high performance as well as scale well since we were clear we were building a product from day one. We used .Net Core, deployed on Azure Services.
  • Scalable Azure blobs for evidence that is uploaded as videos and images
  • We first built it as a single app and then later decided to split it into 2 apps to keep the Frontline app navigation very simple and to provide a separate App for backend Process Excellence Teams who need to configure and set up the one -time Processes.
  • Used Power BI to build real time monitoring dashboards for the Process Excellence or backend Operations Teams
  • It needed to be simple to use for the frontline we used the default Teams UI initially to get the initial iterations going and to learn these aspects of what we could do with Adaptive cards. Later got a professional agency to user experiences for the notifications in the Chat, Channels and the Apps and these have been implemented partially, the complete revamp is still on
  • Making this a single TODO in the life of an employee for all approvals from across multiple systems and hence easy support for integrations with other platforms
  • Keeping hooks to let the product scale beyond Teams to include email and SMS notifications

Challenges we ran into

Proceso was incredibly challenging to build due to three reasons.

  1. We wanted to use our domain knowledge of Retail to make it fit any kind of Retail business. We could upfront visualize use cases for other domains and so it needed to be configurable in all aspects to adapt to other Customer journeys.
  2. Technology - We were building a product, so the architecture and technologies needed to be scalable and to create hooks for new features and to scale to large user and data volumes. We had to find solutions on how to support Location compliance, QR and Barcode scanning and e-signatures within Teams on iOS as well as Android versions
  3. Third and most important, the target audience is the frontline, so it needed to be very simple to use.

Teams Apps did not support access control on the Tabs so we had to initially build another layer of navigation to restrict features for the frontline. Later we decided to solve this by splitting the App into a simple app for the frontline with just 3 simple tabs for

  • Announcements - Announcements for the frontline
  • MY ToDo’s - The daily task dashboard
  • Process Insights – reports of Task submissions for the frontline

We still have a few challenges to resolve here such as downloads on iOS, Azure security restrictions for data export where workarounds have been implemented.

Accomplishments that we are proud of

We are very proud of how Proceso has turned out and how it is continuously evolving as we are discovering more and more use cases and adding new features to our roadmap.

We could get a first Customer in Retail to Pilot it as soon as our Beta was ready and then very quickly, we could get another 2 top retail brands to Pilot it. This gave us great insights into market needs and helped shape the product.

We feel proud that our customers clearly see value proposition in 4 areas for Proceso:

  • Cost savings - Considerable reduction in the cost of process automation and change management, on a NOCODE platform. Cost savings as it ensures timely compliance reducing the cost of follow ups and delays, saving management bandwidth
  • Time savings - The app improves efficiency as it connects all roles in the organization through Teams where high visibility notifications ensure awareness and timely action
  • Improved accountability at the frontline– Workers must be at the right place at the right time to submit the process. Data fudging is not possible as the application demands photo/video proof and does not allow to upload photos from the smartphone gallery.
  • Improved business productivity – Real time business outcomes monitoring.

We are today doing POCs across industries like Healthcare, Telecom, Field Sales and Service, Aviation and Pharma.

What we learned

  • Start small but architect for scalability.
  • Be agile as products demand that as they evolve.
  • Keep a close watch on how the underlying Teams Platform is evolving. We have been working very closely with the Partner Engineering team and they also helped keep us continuously updated on how Teams was evolving so we could accordingly adapt.
  • We learnt how to integrate the backend with Teams Chat and Activity Feeds and simplifying the experience.
  • The App Store submission and validation process. We got good suggestions from the validation team.

What next for Proceso

  • Build an AI module for image analysis using Computer Vision. This would be used to start with for use case such as comparing designed planograms and actual ones, Visual merchandising for Retail. Would also be used for analyzing Camera feeds for pilferage
  • Building APIs for ready to use integrations with common line-of-business applications as well as with POS systems (Service Now, Remedy, Success Factors, LMS…).
  • We need to get the app certified for Microsoft 365 App Compliance
  • Address all feedback from a VAPT test we carried out
  • Create a transactable version for AppSource.
  • Create subscription model for SMB Customers.

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