Valley Agricultural Software (VAS) is an AgTech company that specializes in providing a set of products for helping dairy farmers keep track of their cattle, their feeding, their performance and even the economics of their dairies.
It is one of the most important companies offering software for dairy farms worldwide and it manages over 5.5 million cows every day in the US alone.
In order to retain the prestige they had gained as pioneers and true leaders in the field, VAS thought that it was a good moment for modernizing their legacy apps. The goal was to move their legacy applications onto a modern infrastructure with an enhanced User Experience (UX), thereby providing better experiences for both current and new users.
They had a suite of dairy management products with more than 30 years of development behind them. There was an urgent need to modernize and converge into one single platform that could easily scale when new products would be added in the future.
The plan called for mimicking their existing systems while adding new features that were not available on the original, on-premise applications. We decided to boost their current team and leverage their existing skills. We did this by integrating more than 25 experts with their current staff to create a new, blended team of professionals.
Taking a long-term view of the client’s goals, we discussed possibilities of a connected ecosystem of apps that would serve their purposes. We’re extending and improving a set of products, which requires a different series of considerations and cautions.
We would have a web application as the new face of the product and the single place where users would be able to see all their products together.
Server Side Application
We would have a server-side application that could easily be broken into microservices if needed. It would be the central point of integration.
Finally, we would also have a mobile app that would help users in the field synchronize their work, aiding for cases in an offline mode.
On the client’s side, we had a partner willing to begin this modernization project but with a few common concerns:
A 30-year-old App vs. a New UX
We had to modernize these apps in a smooth way. It had to be easy to use for clients who had been using the old version of the product to avoid customer churn, and the rebuilt app had to ensure an improved UX for the new clients.
Migrating Data to the Cloud
In the old version, data was stored in an on-premise solution. Migrating tons of data to the cloud was our objective while providing security and avoiding unexpected migration issues during the process.
Offering a Cross-platform (iOS and Android) Mobile solution that could be used in the field whether in an offline or online mode. Dairy workers will stay productive even when they are without connectivity.
Our team of experts spent time visiting the dairies in order to immerse themselves in this new world. They traveled deep into the heart of the dairy industry in the U.S, imagining how, through an app, they could make their work better and easier.
Once data was generated, aggregated and analyzed, it was essential to build different experiences to target a multitude of users (dairy owners, dairy managers, consultants veterinarians, nutritionists, dairy workers, etc) on the different apps.
During the first two months, we were focused on delivering a proof of concept of how the current app could be translated into a modernized version. For this, we needed to fully understand the industry and make an extensive analysis of the current application.
We started by learning how the app worked so we wanted to see it in action. We spent a good amount of time conducting UX research in order to identify key points. This entailed:
- Interviews with stakeholders and users in order to identify different situations in which they interact with the app.
- Application mapping together with a journey map to detect the main pain points and improvement opportunities.
- An analysis of the architecture of the information.
- An analysis of Key Performance Indicators in order to understand how to measure the performance of the app. For this, we asked a dairy worker to join us as a consultant.
After gathering all this information, it was time to begin building our strategy. The goal was to translate the legacy app into a new, modernized app. We started by assembling the new user flows. We made rapid prototypes to test different alternatives to the different solutions and once we agreed on the solution, some of the main screens were translated into final mockups.
In order to bring VAS into the new age and to continue leading the industry, we needed to fully overhaul the entire software technology stack to create the most scalable and secure app for their users. First, we laid the foundations. Then we created management features and finally, we created the features that most users would use. We also created systems that would allow us to support all of this.
We got to work extensively with NetCore technologies since this project started right when NetCore, the first version, was made available. After careful consultation with the VAS team, we decided that it was a good investment and in hindsight, it definitely was. We decided to use Xamarin for the mobile version.
We knew we had quite a challenge in front of us: modernizing apps that thousands of dairies use managing millions of cows every day. It was important to overcome just a few cogs in the wheel:
Because this application would handle requests from several customers who would be out in the field, submitting tons of data every single day, it was important that the application performed well and was able to scale to the huge number of clients.
We achieved this by relying on good architecture practices and big cloud vendors such as Amazon Web Services.
Users do not use the application in the same way. This variability means that giving off-line support to all of them is complex and that monitoring the state of customer integration is a lengthy process.
We solved this by building monitorization tools based on business metrics that help us see how customers are working, like the timestamp of their data and their last contact.
After all this analysis we knew that we had a commitment to making the application secure, fast and professional. With these apps, we’re pushing to improve the current condition of the industry and continue making VAS a leader in the dairy management.
Dairy managers can now check, in real time, what it is happening in their dairies either on their mobile phone or in the web app. In addition, dairy workers are able to easily use the app in the complex working environment they experience. The new platform provides a web application for dairy managers to invite and manage users, see customized reports, create dashboards and more.
We revamped every app with a fresh new look that is still compatible with what they had before.
Our new version allows managers to see their dairy at-a-glance easily without the need to dive deeply into details.
It allows for customizable reports and multiple data sources.
It integrates multiple products into one. All the data is stored in the cloud (finally!).
We wanted to provide a user-friendly and fresh new design in all the different apps. Dairy managers now have a
correct and customizable use of the applications. They can now:
See information about their herd anywhere.
See information about the feeding schedule, ingredients and strategy for their herd.
See results from the milking process, per cow or in general.
Search for cows easily, with multiple criteria.
Continue to keep their data on-premise and now also have it backed up on the cloud.
Customize dashboards, manage users and permissions granularly.
Provide data access to third parties (veterinarians, nutritionists) without having them having to visit their dairy.
“Making Sense’s highly skilled professionals demonstrated care and commitment since day one, becoming a key strategic partner for VAS.”
KEVIN CALLIHAN, VP OF ENGINEERING
TAKE A LOOK AT THE NEXT CASE STUDY
Apps for an Effective Treatment Through Better UX
In order to improve the treatment of children with autism, we created for Opya a suite of apps to help clinicians and parents to have a better communication and a faster collaboration. Bringing everyone closer together enables patients to reach their goals faster than traditional treatment methods.