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CREATING A DIGITAL *SOLUTION*
FOR AUSTRALIAN GROWERS

How we used Design Thinking and an Agile approach for Viterra

Who is Viterra?

Viterra operates a storage and handling network spanning key growing regions in South Australia and western Victoria with a total storage capacity of over 10 million tonnes. They provide a range of services including storage and warehousing, receival and elevation, quality assessment, logistics and accumulation, quality control and food safety, electronic transactional services, and much more.

Viterra service more than 5,000 grower customers with grain purchases happening directly through the Viterra system. 

They wanted to make it easier for growers to do business. They wanted to integrate their website and online portal into one convenient mobile app for their growers, to make it easier for growers to check cash pricing, site information, transfer stock, view stocked tonnes in warehouses and receive push notification on key information during harvest.

We work Agile.

The Agile approach refers to the software development principle-centered around the idea of iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between Digital Noir and Viterra. The ultimate value in Agile is that it enables teams to deliver value faster, with greater quality and predictability, and greater ability to respond to change.

Design Thinking

Viterra works very closely with their grower customers to really understand their needs. This synced really well with us at Digital Noir, with our Design Thinking approach. Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be immediately obvious.

Vittera were very switched on, they gave us a lot of knowledge about their industry, the intricacies of grain, and their current technology. We were well-acclimated into their world, and we really needed to be in order to create products that truly spoke to their growers.

We talked directly with the growers. We were able to identify what was most important to growers and what wasn’t, where and when growers would use the app, other apps growers used and liked. This was a major key to success, based on these findings we were able to set an ideal strategy to design and structure with the user’s needs in mind.

With the ideal strategy in mind, we proceeded with design.

Among UI & UX requirements Viterra also had some integral development requirements.

One challenge we encountered while planning the Viterra app backend system was integrating the variety of systems they have set up over the years into a neat little package that our app could use along with any other future systems they would be looking to develop. We worked closely with Viterra to integrate these systems which included their current user management system, transaction system and site system along with their tight server, infrastructure and security requirements. The final solution we developed included multiple internal and external servers and databases to make up a fully integrated custom app and push notification management system to power all of the apps needs.

As with most online systems, server load and connectivity need to be taken into account to provide the best possible experience and Viterra’s system was no different. With so many users and transactions being made throughout the year and massive spikes during peak times, we heavily optimised the server-side and in-app caching down so that the app users could continue to use the app without any interruptions. We went as far as to specify caches and lifetimes for individual database records to get the most out of the system. Without this users could run into problems when trying to access the app from remote areas with limited internet connectivity and slow response server response times when there are many users using the app.

Problem-solving through development

One problem Viterra had was that they were sending a significant amount of SMS messages to their customers resulting in huge costs. This limited their customer communication due to the time and costs involved in this form of communication. By implementing a robust, flexible and reliable push notification system we solved Viterras SMS issues by significantly cutting overall costs and resources required to communicate with their customers.

We loved working with Viterra and much like us, they were a passionate team of individuals who challenged assumptions, put in research and worked hard to make people’s lives easier. The feedback from growers across the state has been overwhelming and we look forward to many great things to come with our partnership with Viterra.

 

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