From Apps to Architecture

The journey to evolve customer-centric software into high-value market-driven platform architecture has put Y3 Technologies on the path for accelerated business growth. INNOVATE@ISS investigates.

Dr Yap Chih Nam has lofty goals. Despite an impressive clientele that features global brand names like Dell, Motorola and Toshiba, the Assistant Vice President at Y3 Technologies, a home-grown company specialising in IT solutions for supply-chain management and third- party logistics providers (3PLs), aspires to do more.

"My challenge," Chih Nam says, "is to productise our domain knowledge and experience in the logistics and supply chain industry to capture a larger market share."

He was referring to the growing wave of local SMEs and retailers, many of whom lack the expertise and resources to develop made-to-order system platforms for their logistics, warehousing and transport management needs.

Levelling up: Designing Smarter Solutions

While Y3 is synonymous with customised software solutions, the market potential for developing higher-level systems architecture is huge. From a business perspective, it could enable Y3 to deliver a greater degree of customisation and system intelligence, without the need for extensive programme modifications. It could also afford Y3 the much-needed scalability to bring its highly sought-after software solutions to the SME market.

"Modelling at the systems-architectural level allows our 3PL customers to build in more flexibility and comprehensiveness, as well as carry out predictive analysis using the rich data source," explains Chih Nam.

For example, customers can utilise data analytics to gain deeper insights on supply chain patterns and market behaviors. They can also input a range of business logic and criteria, such as price information or trending consumer tastes, to plan or refine their manufacturing forecast.

Knowing where to prioritise resources and make the right inventory cuts could mean huge cost savings to these customers. "In the past, this was all done at the application level. Just imagine the number of ifs in our coding statements!" he laughs.

According to Chih Nam, there are also plans to develop Y3's architectural platforms into more encompassing eco-systems. "By linking up with suppliers, merchants, financial institutions, last-mile delivery partners, as well as TradeNet under Singapore Customs, we can create a collaborative workspace that delivers stronger business value to our 3PL clients," he says, citing Y3's soon-to-launch Quick!E™ supply chain solutions platform.

Beefing up: Strengthening the competencies

It was just as well that Y3 could tap into Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's (IDA) Infocomm Productivity and Capability Services (iPCS) programme, which enables companies to leverage on packaged advisory services from pre-qualified consultants. The iPCS covers 50% of the cost of each pre-qualified packaged service.

The company then took advantage of three service packs offered by NUS-ISS: the Product Management Roadmap,Software Architecture and Platform/System Architecture.

Working expediently between November 2014 and August 2015 with the respective NUS-ISS lead consultants, Gloria Ng, Vincent Lau and Lee Chuk Munn, Y3 got down to reviewing its existing applications, identifying an area where productisation could occur, and defining the problem statements to modularise the complex systems.

From left: Vincent Lau, CTO, Paywhere Pte Ltd, Yap Chih Nam, Assistant Vice President, Y3 Technologies, Gloria Ng, Chief, Startups & SMEs Practice, NUS-ISS, Lee Chuk Munn, Member, Software Engineering & Design Practice, NUS-ISS

"The NUS-ISS team understood our challenges well and contributed both theoretic and practical expertise that helped frame the relevant issues and leapfrog the productisation process. We shifted from thinking about custom-built solutions to market-driven products to serve many customers. By cloudifying our systems, we also can transition to a highly scalable solution."

"Thanks to Chuk, we now have a deeper appreciation of the "multi-tenancy" model in software architecture. As a result, our new architectural model in productisation aims to capture not just the customers' supply chain, but also that of their whole organisation, as well as their customers'. Not many trainers have the experience to drill down to such details," Chih Nam expresses.

Following up: Ensuring effective outcomes

Y3's Electronic Proof of Delivery (EPOD) is one example of the productisation achieved through the engagement. "This is a software application that allows back-end offices to activate the billing process based on acknowledgement data captured on mobile and uploaded via 3G or 4G," says Chih Nam.

The efficiency and productivity gains over the manual system of signing and scanning hard-copy delivery orders are obvious. "For smaller SMEs operating overseas, where delivery runs can take up to 14 days, the EPOD could help avert potential cashflow problems."

To lend weight to the implementation of the service packs, many Y3 senior managers had been personally involved in the face-to-face interactions with NUS-ISS. "Capability development has been far more than just education or a training session to Y3. It matters that senior management support for the alignment and development of IT strategies to business outcomes is there," observes Gloria.

On its part, ISS also involved staff and adjuncts to support Y3's initiatives, where relevant, "We are fortunate to have Vincent join our team, as he spirited a Start-up approach to the engagement, energising a restart possibility in SMEs," Gloria adds.

"NUS-ISS has increased our imagination in terms of what successful platforms and software applications could look like. Given the chance, we'd like to do more with Gloria and team in the area of Agile development," Chih Nam adds.

To learn more about NUS-ISS Consultancy and Advisory Services, please click here.
To find out more about IDA's initiatives for SMEs, please click here.