The Surprising Secret To Stericycle's Digital Transformation

The Low-Code/No-Code movement will disrupt all application development from the largest enterprise applications to small, throwaway apps, but this disruption is so dramatic that it is experiencing pushback from several camps – that is the conclusion of my recent article, The Low-Code/No-Code Movement: More Disruptive Than You Realize.

To add more color to this story, I recently spoke with Martin Dowdall, Vice President and General Manager of ExpertSOLUTIONS at Stericycle . Stericycle is best known as a medical waste destruction firm, while its ExpertSOLUTIONS division offers product recall services to automobile manufacturers and other firms that have to deal with unexpected, potentially catastrophic product recalls.

There are many steps to a recall process, but among the most important is the initial outreach to affected consumers. “A lot of what we do is communications,” Dowdall said. “Our key issue is getting people with their car into the dealership to get it fixed.”

Meeting this communications need for each recall required a different application for every event. “Whenever we get a new recall event, there’s always something people want to do differently,” Dowdall explained. “We needed unlimited configuration.”

However, as recently as a few years ago, ExpertSOLUTIONS faced a substantial roadblock. Since the company had grown through several acquisitions, its IT department was a mess.

Dowdall was forthcoming about the company’s challenges. “Our legacy environment has grown through buying companies,” he explained. “We have a hodgepodge of telephony systems, Notes, Domino, 12-year-old .Net apps, Microsoft SQL, Access, Excel – you name it, we got it.”

This all-too-common heterogeneity impacted ExpertSOLUTIONS’ ability to maintain existing applications, as well as to build new ones. “We tried to rewrite a legacy .Net app twice,” Dowdall continued, “And it failed both times.”

Product recalls require one-off apps: a perfect no-code use caseJason Bloomberg

Product recalls require one-off apps: a perfect no-code use case

Choosing No-Code

Dowdall and his team decided to try a no-code platform for building the one-off applications specific to each recall. After an informal selection process, they settled on Zudy’s no-code platform Vinyl, which at the time was new to market.

Vinyl quickly proved its value. “Our original use case was a throw-away app for a specific event,” he pointed out. “But integration into the phone system was key.”

While many no-code platforms facilitate the creation of stand-alone apps, Vinyl supported integration with various call center systems – a more advanced capability that few no-code platforms offer.

The result was the ability to pop up consumer information on the call center rep’s screen, even though each of the consumer-facing apps was essentially a one-off specific to the given recall event.

The power of the Vinyl platform quickly made Dowdall a fan. “I always thought no-code platforms were like ‘paint by numbers,’” he admitted. “I soon realized it’s more than that. We can create masterpieces, still without writing a line of code.”

Next on the agenda: updating the legacy hodgepodge. “Now we’re replacing all of our legacy product recall apps with Vinyl,” Dowdall said. “We even retired Lotus Notes.”

Dealing with Pushback

For line of business personnel, the challenge was less about pushback and more about a necessary change in mindset. “We have to get the business people out of the mindset of ‘get requirements in now and wait a year,’” Dowdall explained. “Now we deliver new functionality on a daily basis.”

For IT personnel, in contrast, the pushback was very real. “There was pushback from IT,” Dowdall explained. “We definitely needed executive sponsorship.”

The primary concern among application developers was whether the company would continue to require their expertise if it moved to a no-code platform. As it turned out, however, such resistance was short-lived. “There was resistance initially from developers, then acceptance, and now they are flourishing, because they see the business value of the work they do,” Dowdall said.

Perhaps the most significant lesson the ExpertSOLUTIONS organization learned about adopting a no-code platform like Vinyl was how it transformed both IT and the business, aligning their respective efforts with customer needs better than before.

At the center of this change: how Vinyl facilitated cross-organizational collaboration. “With Vinyl, the developer sits down with the business SME [subject matter expert] and they develop the app together,” Dowdall said. “There’s no longer a need for a project manager between development and the business.”

Vinyl’s impact on the IT environment was similarly dramatic. “Vinyl is in the call center now. We’re also replacing fulfillment and distribution apps,” Dowdall said. “Vinyl challenges everything else to be faster – everything.”

Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, Microsoft and Zudy are Intellyx customers. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers.

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