Combining Innovation and Efficiency to Deliver the Value of Time
How Ascendle Made a Seemingly Improbable Project Timeline a Reality
“In less than eight weeks, Ascendle built functioning, shippable, professional-level software, without cutting any corners.”
An Idea for Innovation
A business aviation and technology company wanted to offer something different to their clients. While their website application and mobile app already offered a solution for business aircraft charter companies to manage the logistics of their fleet and flight crew, they saw an opportunity to do more. Since so many of their clients frequently worked with vendors in the course of their travel — such as caterers, lodging, maintenance, fueling, etc. — they wanted to expand their existing payment system to facilitate these ancillary services.
Not only would the addition of a full-featured shopping marketplace platform provide added convenience to their customers, but it would also set their company apart from the competition. As added motivation, the company had plans to participate in an upcoming trade show — one of the largest in the aviation industry — which would provide the perfect opportunity to showcase this new offering.
When Time and Opportunity Don’t Align
While the idea was a game changer, the window of execution was extremely narrow. With the trade show just a few months away, the company feared they didn’t have the internal capacity to develop this new feature. Still, they knew this was a huge opportunity. By being the first to market this concept, the company would be able to connect with the biggest vendors and affirm their position as an industry leader. Despite the tight timeline, they felt a strong sense of urgency to prioritize development and stay ahead of the competition.
That’s where Ascendle came in.
“This was an opportunity to get ahead of the competition to significantly differentiate their services — if they could make it happen in time.”
A Simplified Solution
In June of 2019, the company engaged Ascendle to develop a strategy for delivering a complete, usable, demonstratable application of the shopping marketplace in time for the tradeshow in October. Initially, the concept was to build a full-featured, robust e-commerce platform from scratch. During the strategy phase, the Ascendle team sat down with stakeholders and representatives from the company to map out all the requirements for this system. We presented the results as user stories, representing the business value of each piece of functionality that had been identified. As the estimated size of the project became clear, we realized we needed a simpler approach.
Since much of the basic platform was standard to other solutions already on the market, the Ascendle team suggested starting with an off-the-shelf solution, then customizing it with the features the company wanted in order to create the minimum viable product (MVP). Once the strategy engagement was complete, only 10 weeks remained until the trade show. Strategically utilizing an off-the-shelf commerce solution quickly became the best solution with the given timeline. By recognizing the scope of the project and proposing an alternative course of action, we were able to pivot toward a solution that could meet the unique time constraints of the project.
Delivering the Necessary Efficiency
The Ascendle team evaluated several off-the-shelf e-commerce platforms and ultimately decided BigCommerce was the best match to integrate quickly and seamlessly with the customer’s existing platform. Because the customer’s engineers were busy working on other internal processes of the system to showcase at the trade show, they appreciated that we were able to choose a platform option without their involvement.
We got the green light to move forward with the proposed solution. While the product owner nailed down the most critical value-generating elements the company hoped to debut at the trade show, we got to work assembling a cross-functional team, setting up development/testing environments and continuous integration, and creating a “walking skeleton” framework to prove out the solution. Our work began on the critical high value-generating elements the company hoped to debut at the trade show.
After quickly completing the set-up, we began two-week long production sprints. With the tight timeline in mind, we knew we needed to work quickly and efficiently. In less than four full sprints, the Ascendle team was able to fully build, test and complete the project. This included the configuration and customization of a BigCommerce marketplace application and the development of a separate “connector” application, which linked the BigCommerce and client systems. Orders created in the BigCommerce store were instantly available in the client application, resulting in a seamless, integrated shopping experience for the end user. By disabling the standard payment types and creating a new payment type, shoppers were even able to pay with their existing account.
After pivoting and redoing the initial strategy, we had less than eight weeks to execute and complete the vision. Not only were we able to include every critical element that the company wanted to showcase in their new marketplace feature, but we were able to complete it within an extremely tight timeframe.
Demonstrating the Value of Time
At the tradeshow, the demonstration of the system went flawlessly. In fact, the company reported back that potential vendors were already discussing how they could work with the company to bring value to the marketplace. Without question, the purpose of the engagement was achieved, and the finalized product was a success.
“When it didn’t seem like there was enough time left to achieve the goal, Ascendle was able to get it done right and get it done fast.”
Beyond building a shippable, working product in a short timeframe, the Ascendle team was most importantly able to provide a seamless engagement for the client. While the innovation could have eventually been achieved by the company’s internal development team, they did not have the capacity to meet the goal by the tradeshow. Regardless of possible funding they could have found for the project, the timeframe was an impossible barrier. As one stakeholder put it, “We bought time from you.”
Further, the Ascendle team had the expertise and experience to operate independently of the company. While waiting on feedback or direction from the client, we continued to evaluate the options, make decisions and keep moving forward, so the project did not get stalled. One of the key stakeholders mentioned that not having to micromanage every decision made the engagement feel like “being on vacation.”
By partnering with Ascendle, the company was able to capitalize on an idea that provided a big opportunity to differentiate their services. Making their vision a reality — and doing it quickly, seamlessly and without issue — enabled Ascendle to not only deliver a high-quality product, but to do so within an ambitious timeframe.
Primary Technologies Used
- REST API
- Stencil (Graphic Design)
- Amazon Web Services
- Azure DevOps for pipelines