With customer service and convenience core to its values, WowNow Hire is continuously looking to the future, and a digital transformation drive has been top of the agenda in recent years. “We already offered our customers certainty and reliability, but we also wanted to increase the ease and speed with which they can deal with us,” explains CEO Jonathan Holley.
This meant providing tighter and more automated connections along the company’s supply chain, and across all of WowNow Hire’s customer-facing channels – phone, desktop internet and mobile.
Previously, the company had relied on a business software system designed for traditional commercial hire businesses – those which hold and manage assets. WowNow Hire’s model is different – it doesn’t keep stock, but acts as an intermediary for a supply chain spanning the whole of the UK and into Europe and beyond.
“The software had been bent to fit our needs, but it still didn’t really work for us,” Jonathan says. “We’d had to create many workarounds and ultimately people were still running round with bits of paper, which wasn’t ideal. And because the old system was owned by the software vendor, it could take nine months to fulfil a change request – and, naturally, the vendor had different priorities to ours. To scale and grow, we needed a new platform which we could control for our own purposes.”
I requested an external technology audit and the feedback I got back was excellent – that One Beyond really stood out. I’d go so far as to say they know our business better than we do now. They’re brilliant guys, and the quality is exactly what I had hoped for.
Coming from a background in IT and software development, Jonathan had a clear idea of the qualities he was looking for, both in the new platform and in the company that would build it.
“I knew that I wanted to find a genuine partner and blue-chip developer that we could work with into the future,” he says. “One company we looked at was offering to build something based on Salesforce, but that wasn’t right; and another was offering an architecture that did not suit us. After an evaluation of the respective technologies, we decided on Microsoft. When I looked for a Microsoft developer, I found One Beyond who quickly emerged as the ideal choice.”
As well as being conveniently located, One Beyond has won awards for Microsoft development, Jonathan adds. “We found they are top of the league in the technologies we rated. They were also by far the most professional team we’d come across. I met with the MD, Nick, and took to him straight away.”
The brief from WowNow Hire was for a new digital platform based on the latest technology which was fit for the business and would see it through at least the next six years. It needed to be cloud-based, and connect easily to the systems of WowNow Hire’s supply chain partners and customers.
“Proper task management was critical,” Jonathan says. “We also needed the architecture to integrate with our existing cloud-based VoIP telephony system, our Sage business system, and our custom supply chain management system – and support the evolution of software over time, accommodating APIs for suppliers and customers. It also needed to support credit card processing and general e-commerce facilities – even blockchain and other future options including AI and machine learning, as our business model is ripe for that.”
One Beyond, a Microsoft Gold Partner, used the latest Microsoft technologies to build the new platform, known as Momentum, which is hosted in the Azure cloud. One Beyond used a version of its own Waterloo Rapid Application Development Toolset, with C#/ .NET core at the back end and VueJS at the front.
Jonathan notes that this toolset was a major factor in WowNow Hire’s decision to partner with One Beyond. “I loved it,” he says. “It improves the development process in a pragmatic and repeatable way that really counts, without a big software overhead. It’s very impressive.”
Significant custom development work was also required to provide all the functionality WowNow Hire needed. The intricate, task-based system, now live, manages the company’s complex daily operations, from varied hire enquiries from customers, sourcing equipment from third-party suppliers, and invoicing customers on a recurring basis.
The Momentum platform, which Jonathan describes as the essence of the company’s digital transformation, will now provide the basis for a new chapter in WowNow Hire’s growth.
“We aspire to be pioneers in our industry, and this takes us to the next level,” he says. “We’re making rapid progress and expect our digital capabilities to really stand out within 18 months.
“Our ethos is to be able to provide all hire requirements for any business with certainty and reliability, and our goal now is to automate more of that process. We want to be as easy and quick to deal with as Amazon and, thanks to One Beyond, we estimate that some parts of our business will be up to 50 per cent faster – because everything can be done with a few clicks.”
For WowNow Hire, the new platform promises both effective scalability through automation, and the ability to roll out new, impressive online services to help keep customers loyal.
“We’ll be able to offer a more immediate and more personalised experience now,” Jonathan explains. “For instance, if there’s a customer doing work for retailers across 20-40 sites, we’ll be able to offer them a personalised catalogue with the particular supplies they need and the pricing, so all they have to do is allocate them per site.
“It will also make it easier for customers to place orders directly from a building site as we support the full choice of channels,” he continues. “And once they’ve set up their own personalised online ordering service, customers will be able to use this as an internal planning tool, for additional convenience.”
I loved it (Waterloo). It improves the development process in a pragmatic and repeatable way that really counts, without a big software overhead. It’s very impressive.
WowNow Hire expects the partnership with One Beyond to continue long into the future. “I wanted to work with a developer that would be mutually engaged towards the same goals, and One Beyond have embraced that really well,” Jonathan says.
“I requested an external technology audit and the feedback I got back was excellent – that One Beyond really stood out. I’d go so far as to say they know our business better than we do now. They’re brilliant guys, and the quality is exactly what I had hoped for.”