Encore Event Technologies is the leading provider of unique, creative and innovative in-house audiovisual services for hotels, conference centers, and resorts throughout North America, Asia, and Australia. Encore Productions, the production division of Encore Event Technologies, is a full-service production and A/V equipment rental company, helping clients tell their stories around the world.
Encore is known for supporting massive events such as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a new products and technologies expo that’s attended annually by over 170,000 people.
Encore is a single, global brand—a leader in its industry as the result of combining smaller, regional brands into one unified team. The challenge for Encore's leadership was to unify the company's digital tools, enabling teams to deliver an unparalleled customer experience.
It’s a challenge many growing digital companies currently face: How do you combine multiple outdated systems into one seamless experience? Other questions loomed: How do you do know that you’re building the right thing? How do you figure it out without the process taking years?
The buildup of scattered legacy systems was the result of years of tribal knowledge—many brands, countless home-grown systems. These systems had serviced smaller business volumes for discrete geographical areas, serviced by brands that would later join to become Encore. Encore's goal was to combine its legacy systems with a single responsive web application that could meet the breadth and depth of the needs of teams on the ground. In building the application, Encore wanted to completely rethink how its enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform worked.
Frustrated after an unsuccessful never-ending, three-year development effort that resulted in decreased productivity (and morale), Encore brought in Devbridge.
Companies shackled with legacy systems often face the challenge of having scattered, old systems that only a few individuals are trained to maintain. One benefit of modernizing these legacy systems is that, when they are refactored and moved to the cloud, organizations have an easier time hiring developers to support their modern systems.
To build a successful partnership, Devbridge set out to better understand Encore's processes and goals. The aim was to transform Encore's One System into a tool that supported the business, rather than a tool the business was required to support. The resulting product was designed to match the unique way Encore does business.
This pivot required a shift to design thinking, where business needs drive the development process, not IT.
That process began with a heuristic analysis and technical evaluation. Both activities helped identify areas for improvement, shedding light on what at times could be an overwhelming and confusing user experience. Based on this analysis, Devbridge provided a strategy to stabilize the existing feature set and enhance the system with features that better aligned with Encore’s key objectives. Those included:
- Stabilizing multiple systems by addressing performance and usability
- Establishing a cadence for small, incremental modernization of its new systems while sunsetting old systems
- Increasing profitability by making smarter equipment selections and providing better visibility to labor costs
- Reducing the time spent on administrative tasks to allow the sales team to focus on customer experience
- Facilitating employee mobility and growth opportunity by providing a single global tool
After evaluating the needs of the application, Devbridge constructed a design strategy: Streamline data-heavy pages by focusing on manageable tasks, give the user with better, more meaningful feedback, and prioritize the most commonly used fields.
To validate the design strategy, Devbridge used rapid prototyping to produce working prototypes in 60 days or less for key workflows. Prototypes were used throughout the process to help shape the future vision of the final product, create alignment between teams, and help Encore make informed decisions on the needs of the final product.
These prototypes also allowed for continuous user testing. By executing regular remote and on-site user testing sessions, Devbridge teams were able to validate assumptions and focus on the needs and goals of the end user. User acceptance testing (UAT) surveys occurred after each release, helping to ensure that teams were building the right product.
Hundreds of employees from the first legacy business unit have now been fully migrated to the new ERP tool, EOS. In the coming months, users in Las Vegas, Canada, Mexico, and Austrailia will be trained on EOS and begin using the tool to manage their business.
By redesigning the system in sections and pushing changes in two-week sprints, Devbridge was able to stabilize old systems, demonstrate success quickly, reclaim user support, and continue building value-driving features. That value was reinforced by user feedback, which was then incorporated into subsequent sprints, resulting in the rapid fine-tuning of a user-centric product.
The resulting product showcases the value of user testing. By making the small up-front investment of researching with users, companies can avoid the much costlier mistake of building something users don’t need—or want—only to return to the drawing board months later. Testing with users throughout an iterative, data-driven design process builds team confidence. You know you’re creating something of value that users want. That knowledge fosters a joint sense of ownership in the resulting product.
Encore is a demonstrative success story of how a company can successfully navigate a digital transformation by focusing on the people using the product. By utilizing design thinking in an iterative, agile approach, Devbridge and Encore were able to quickly build a user-centric product that enables Encore to be nimble in how it adapts to user and market needs. Shedding the chains of legacy code may seem like a daunting—if not impossible—task, but Encore is proof that digital companies can see immediate, measurable business value by focusing on their users.