For as long as I’ve been with GreatVines a common question from suppliers surfaces: “What do you have to offer to help me manage my pricing?” In my former role with a supplier like those we serve today, we built multiple iterations of a pricing tool in house, and also examined industry solutions over the years. When the time came for GreatVines to tackle this issue for our clients, we of course used our existing tech stack when it came time to build something. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail right?
With our first iteration out and making clients happy, I’ve arrived at a point where I can reflect a little on the process now, versus the process we had then, given the vast difference in tech stacks and solutions available. Read on for the story of how our revolutionary pricing product evolved in step with the underlying technology.
Back in the day, we built a Microsoft Visual Basic app, eventually succeeded by VB.net app in later versions. The UI we wanted led us to developing a thick client, which required coding from the ground up. We of course used lots of available controls to minimize the process where we could. I remember even spending a minor amount on a “grid control” to give the tool some spreadsheet-like capabilities. But all the same, there were literally man-years of coding involved to get from “login” to “enter and save data.”
We also had the deployment issues that come along with a client app, using Citrix for some users and distributing code to others. Using the app required a live connection to the host server via VPN, as we couldn’t possibly build all the security needed to tunnel over the Internet in a secure fashion. We also had to provision a server and a SQL database, build server sided components; all the rigamarole that is associated with that type of project. In the end, other than the fact that it was expensive to build and difficult to deploy, it was a pretty good application for it’s time.
Fast forward to 2015. Force.com provides the server component, open APIs, and a user interface. It has workflows, basic reporting and anything you can accomplish can be done in hours if not minutes. Grid Control? We opted to write managed code on top of a Google Sheet and provide users a spreadsheet interface with a flexible UI and a centralized database. Advanced reporting? Let’s use GoodData to accomplish that goal as well. It was all reasonably simple to build, there are no deployment issues. Rather than creating things like login UI code, we stood on the shoulders of others to build just the more advanced parts of the application.
And now, even if we were to write no further code, the solution would still evolve and improve as Google, Salesforce, and GoodData add more capabilities over time. We do plan to evolve the pricing application further though, as we continue to hear more customer requirements. It’s exciting to see just how fast we can get from idea to execution when there are so few technical barriers standing in our way.