To deliver on its strategic objectives, Cintas sought to modernize the mobile application and development platform supporting its FAS Service Sales field employee-partners.
Cintas leveraged the advisory, design and engineering services of NTT DATA's Customer Experience offering in concert with Cintas' SAP investments to deploy a 4G mobile app integrated with an upgraded SAP Mobile Platform.
“NTT DATA helped us deliver a home run with our new FAS mobile app. The app is intuitive, fast and ensures that we have the operational efficiency to deliver great customer service. The response from the field has been amazing."
Businesses across all industries know that creating a safe workplace protects employees, increases productivity, boosts morale and lowers costs. Cintas Corporation's First Aid & Safety (FAS) field employee-partners play a vital role in that mission, ensuring that customers are Ready for the Workday® by visiting customer sites to deliver products and services that mitigate potential emergency events. A critical tool enabling FAS employee-partners to do their work is Cintas' FAS mobile app which connects them to real-time service and sales data necessary to fulfill customer needs wherever they are located.
Dedicated to continuous customer service excellence, Cintas sought to transform their mobile app and mobile app development platform to use arriving 4G wireless mobile technologies. As a result, Cintas partnered with NTT DATA to create a new mobile application for Android OS devices and upgraded its middleware architecture to the SAP Mobile Platform. Together, Cintas and NTT DATA accomplished this in 20 months, with no business disruption.
A day in the life
Industry-leader Cintas, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, operates 500 facilities in North America. The 1,700 field employee-partners in the Cintas FAS Division rely on a data-intensive service and sales mobile application to support the customers they call on.
Every Monday, field employee-partners download service routes, customer lists and orders onto their mobile app. Then, guided by the app, they tend to customer needs. “Our mobile app functionality is crucial," says Mohan Bukkapatnam, Cintas' director of IT Strategic Portfolios. “Field employee-partners deliver products, inspect equipment, input orders, check inventory and sell additional products, so the data driving those decisions must be instantly accessible. In addition, since our employee-partners are often in locations without connectivity, their mobile devices must work offline, too."
A fork in the road
In 2018, Cintas chose to take advantage of the speed and capacity of arriving 4G telecommunications networks. Cintas decided to not only modernize its FAS mobile app for use on 4G Android devices, but it also sought to transform its middleware architecture to improve the overall performance and responsiveness of the FAS mobile solution.
“Our existing app was a good starting point, but we wanted to make a lot of other improvements," says Vivek Yadav, manager of IT at Cintas. “Our legacy middleware that connected our mobile devices to our service and sales databases created data congestion and availability issues. Given our other investments with SAP, we chose to modernize the middleware architecture for the FAS mobile app onto the SAP Mobile Platform."
Mapping the way forward
Cintas issued an RFP for the mobile app modernization, ultimately awarding the project to NTT DATA. “We'd partnered with NTT DATA for several years for quality assurance and testing services," says Dorman Carney, project manager with Cintas. “When we looked to transforming the FAS app, NTT DATA invested time with us over a three-month blueprinting phase to help define the scope of the solution."
Sanjay Kumar, director of application services with Cintas, says, “As a result, NTT DATA came back with a strong statement of work in response to the RFP. We could see they really understood our business requirements."
“This was the first major implementation project we awarded them—a big step in our partnership," says Carney. “And that blueprinting phase was critical to our success."
NTT DATA brought its Customer Experience services expertise to the FAS app transformation, beginning at the blueprinting phase. In collaboration with Cintas' business partners, NTT DATA conducted advisory work in which it assessed the existing solution architecture and provided a future state architecture blueprint.
“Together, we created comprehensive specifications documenting over 21 business requirements for different functional areas, all the way from the visual design of the mobile app to detailed functionality of the SAP backend," Carney says. “That level of precision eliminated a lot of time we would have spent refining and developing requirements during execution—that's impactful for a project this big."
With a detailed roadmap defining requirements for both the front and backend of the transformed FAS mobile app, the execution phase could begin.
The power of a road trip
To ensure that the new FAS mobile app delivered an optimal user experience for Cintas' field employee-partners, Cintas and NTT DATA worked through a collaborative customer experience design phase. That design phase included journey mapping, research, mental models and an empathy map to gauge field employee-partner needs. To create this, NTT DATA went on ride-alongs with field employee-partners to gain insight into their workflow. That undertaking was critical, revealing how they interacted with their mobile devices, highlighting application inefficiencies and pointing to design improvements.
In the driver’s seat
With a solid customer experience design in hand, Cintas and NTT DATA moved forward with the engineering stage of the mobile Application Development & Modernization. For the app itself, the team was committed to delivering improvements to the features of the legacy application that FAS field employee-partners relied on while calling on customers, including customer information, route and service planning, inventory management, pricing, quotes and invoicing.
Cintas and NTT DATA also pursued value-added enhancements to further amplify field employee-partner efficiency and productivity. The development team added email capabilities to enable paperless document transmission to customers. The service planner, extended from seven to 14 days, gives field employee-partners greater insight into future customer visits and their requirements. The team added a training mode that allows new employee-partners to train with their mobile device without affecting live production data.
The modernized app promised improved functionality with better performance and greater ease of use. However, to fully deliver on that promise, Cintas and NTT DATA also needed to upgrade the solution architecture's backend.
Improvements under the hood
“NTT DATA has very strong mobile app development expertise, so it did 95% of that implementation with our team consulting, doing oversight, quality, testing, and assurance," says Carney. “Our team drove the development of the SAP backend. Collaboration was key, with each team playing to our strengths and continuously iterating since both the mobile app and the SAP backend were in simultaneous development."
Understanding the data requirements was crucial to effectively upgrading the SAP backend. Given no guarantee of online connectivity at customer sites, the FAS app had to retain nearly full functionality while offline. To do that, the device needed to store a complete and sizeable sales and service database and enable real-time updates during use.
“Before the FAS app modernization, mobile device set-up plus downloading the large set of service and sales data related to each employee-partner's work schedule used to take 30-60 minutes," says Yadav. "That happened frequently—any time devices change hands—and the process often timed out and might never happen for large routes."
To address that data congestion challenge, the Cintas development team upgraded their mobile app platform's middleware onto the SAP Mobile Platform. The platform upgrade, working in conjunction with the modernized mobile app on Android over a 4G network, reduced device set-up and data load times by 83%.
“Now it only takes five to ten minutes, and devices continuously communicate to our backend," says Yadav. “Real-time data access helps us deliver peace of mind to our customers tending to employee safety."
Cintas achieved an exceptional digital transformation. High engagement from the Cintas and NTT DATA teams enabled a balance of guidance and iterative course-correcting, which was vital to the strong partnership.
Bukkapatnam says, “NTT DATA's customer experience services helped us deliver a home run with our new FAS mobile app. The app is intuitive, fast and ensures that we have the operational efficiency to deliver great customer service. The response from the field has been amazing."
With the FAS project in their rearview mirror, Cintas and NTT DATA plan to modernize the mobile app used by the Cintas Fire Protection Division. “Leveraging the best practices and architecture we used for FAS will set us up well for that project," says Carney.