Jet sales and acquisition services require a personalized approach when it comes to custom business software development. Often, the associated value for customized software and understanding of the tool’s capabilities isn’t fully recognized until the technology is implemented internally. The jet brokerage industry struggles with effectively utilizing technological solutions and off-the-shelf business automation tools.
Our valued partner and subject-matter expert in the jet sales market, Ryan Crawford, shared the results of developing a custom ERP solution for aircraft acquisition services at Soljets with the GBKSOFT team, and the insights the company received after the implementation of their custom business software.
From the very beginning, Soljets’ leadership wasn’t sure about the necessity and benefits of custom ERP implementation for their processes, however, there were numerous challenges they struggled with due to manual business operations.
A: What industry problems did your company struggle with, which actually caused the need for custom software implementation?
R: The industry wasn’t very tech-forward. It possessed an old-school way of doing things like utilizing Excel data analysis reports. There weren’t a lot of resources to gather and present the information that we were trying to do. So we fundamentally transformed that concept.
The custom platform allows us to be outgoing and say that we are changing the landscape of the way that the industry operates. We’ve seen a lot of outside interest from other parties and received really good feedback from people who are starting to expect this type of user experience when they are looking for an airplane.
A: Why do businesses dealing with retailing expensive/specific products like yours need a custom software solution? How does the market benefit from using custom business apps?
R: Most companies do not realize they need it until they develop and have it, and that is where we were. We had a sales team that didn’t see the value of custom software development.
I had to fight a lot to continue the development and it was probably close to 18 months without being able to show them anything tangible. So what they saw was a bunch of money being spent on something that didn’t exist. Now fast forward from the start of the project two and half years later, the value is so obvious, it’s not even funny.
You don’t know until you begin to use the software and then see how it really transforms your business. You need somebody within your organization to recognize the need and to be a champion to fight for its implementation. It needs to be well-thought-out and well-designed, and then with those requirements, it can be a strong success – but it is a long road before you see that.
The analysis of problems Soljets faced in the daily processes resulted in the decision of looking for a reliable software development partner with relevant experience in building complex custom ERP systems.
A: What was your initial goal when you were looking for a software development partner?
R: The need for a custom application was in the marketplace and we decided to undertake this effort to transform the way we conduct deals. Nothing existed in the market that was available to decline to use. We saw this opportunity and we didn’t know if it was going to be successful or not. We also didn’t know if it’d be well-received in the industry.
So we needed a software partner that we could go down that development path without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars right off the bat. We needed an affordable development solution and we also needed a team of engineers who would bring a creative, innovative, and scalable development style to the product.
A: How did you define that our company has relevant experience for your request? Maybe you had your own criteria for the selection.
R: We didn’t even know in regards to GBKSOFT’s experience so we flew out to Kyiv to meet with the team and get a feel for the personality types and understand the technical capacity. There’s always going to be a language barrier, but I wanted to know if there were free lines of communication that didn’t have this hierarchy and bureaucracy. I wanted to make sure that there was somebody on point to get the direct answers.
In general, it is really about personality, technical background, and cost. Cost is always helpful, especially very early on, with the limited budget. But it was also about trust, expertise, and the creative process.
A: What kind of information on the GBKSOFT website has shown that the company suits all your requests?
R: On the website itself, I`d like to see more really good samples of projects that have been done, but I guess that goes for all clients. I understand not all data can be shared due to confidentiality, but the understanding of the case studies and their requirements could be presented. Also, the concept about the duration and scope of the project is valuable to know in regards to how much time the development of a research platform like ours can take.
Overall, a wide array of portfolios is needed showing the interface tools that were used to design each project as this information is not easy to find and it takes a long time to extract from the developers.
A: What concerns and risks did you face when you came up with the custom software development?
R: There were evolving specs. We didn’t know what we were building so we needed a team that is good at inferring to accomplish the tasks without knowing exactly the technical requirements.
- The first risk was whether or not it would work or it would be a valueless development effort.
- The next risks were also related to our clients and whether or not they would even need it or if we made the wrong architectural decisions early on by not extracting the information we would need later. The cost was also a big risk.
It was a big grand undertaking overall. There was a lot of time, investment, and money spent not knowing if it would be well-received.
The true review about the partnership from our clients with whom we have gone through such a long-term, but nevertheless, successful cooperation is of great significance for our development team. Ryan provided feedback about the experience he and his company received working with GBKSOFT.
A: Was it easy to work with our team? How often did you communicate with the team?
R: It had its ups and downs. Early on, we worked with Anastasia being in the right developers and in scope, she was very good. So we were very close to the GBKSOFT leadership at that time (4 years ago), and then it went very well. We had several project managers throughout and they all have been good, listening to what we need.
Overall, it’s been exactly the way I’ve seen many development projects go throughout my career. I was quite pleased, especially with the back-end development side. So from a technical standpoint, I`ve always been impressed.
A: What do you remember most about working with the GBKSOFT team?
R: Getting up at 5 am every morning to do status calls. It was always a good dialogue with the fluidity and flexibility that GBKSOFT has. There’s been an accommodating factor to us, not knowing exactly what we wanted. It can be black and white with different software development companies, but that was not our experience with GBKSOFT which I’m grateful for.
A: Would you choose exactly our development team if you would have a chance to turn back time before we started our cooperation? What processes would you like to improve working with our team?
R: If I go back, I will still choose GBKSOFT, I don’t have any regrets in that regard. Talking about changes, I would probably change the application design a little differently from the ground up just because after four years post-development, the app design trends have changed but it continues to suit us well.
A: How are things going after the release? How did custom ERP change your internal processes?
R: It went from manual and sales style of organization to a more holistic team-oriented approach to every conversation. We became a data-forward company, we’ve even changed our tagline to reflect that we are a data-first company and that is all the result of this custom platform development.
After 18+ months of development, 8-9 of which was only the specifications collection, we have successfully deployed and integrated a custom, highly-functional ERP system, and upgraded design within the Soljets website.
So let’s find out how it is going now, 2 years and a half after the project release.
A: How did your business grow and what processes were improved after the custom ERP deployment?
R: We have grown by about a factor of 2x, and 3x from our revenue standpoint. Processing things became way more efficient so we could work in a much different and distributed way. We were working within the same interface, the same platform, the same data points, and we were able to collaborate in a meaningful way. Our time to turn deliverables has been shortened drastically allowing us to work on additional efforts.
A: Does the finished project match all your business needs, requirements, and your expectations? Do you think of improving its functionality?
R: This is never going to be done. There is always going to be a need to continue the development in some way, shape, or form. Whether it is growing: the data points that we collect, the functionality, the calculations, or the workflows. It definitely has met our initial expectations of what we’ve been looking to accomplish. It far surpassed our expectations of success too. When we talk to clients, it’s now become a piece of Soljets, not just an add-on idea.
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