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Piaggio Customer and Dealer Management System – an EBSolute success story

Porting and Re-development of Customer and Dealer Management System for Piaggio Vehicles Private Ltd (PVPL) is a classic example to showcase EBSolute’s expertise in Microsoft technologies, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft SharePoint Services.

Disconnected Model - Piaggio Original System

The Client

Piaggio Vehicles Pvt. Ltd (India), producer of 3 and 4 wheeler vehicles, is a 100% subsidiary of Piaggio & C. Spa, Italy. It has around 300 dealers across the country. Piaggio developed an elementary Dealer Management System to help the dealers organize their way of working in 2003-2004. Through the Dealer Management System, Piaggio wanted its dealers to follow the set of practices that it had conceptualized, to do away with the mundane paper work and help service the customers efficiently, which would then lead to a better business for Piaggio.

The Challenge

The Dealer Management System by Piaggio was the first step towards total automation. With inputs from the dealers so as to understand their way of working, and also to incorporate certain business processes of Piaggio, the Dealer Management System was designed in a cost effective manner.


The Dealer Management System by Piaggio was the first step towards total automation. With inputs from the dealers to understand their way of working, and to incorporate certain business processes of Piaggio. The Dealer Management System was designed in a cost effective manner.
Piaggio decided to keep the technology simple by developing the application in ASP with MS Access as the database. The application was deployed as a standalone application at the dealerships. The dealers had to invest in a server and set up a local area network to allow the users to access the system.
The original Dealer Management System had some known design constraints. Coupled with the limitations of MS Access database such as limited database size, easy to tamper data; it was not possible to continue using the system for a long time. Security concerns were also present due to the distributed environment in which the application was deployed.

Due to separate applications installed for each dealer, it was virtually difficult for Piaggio to track the daily work of the dealers. The only inputs they got were from the dealers themselves through emails. Hence, Piaggio wanted a system wherein they could track the dealers and boost their business

Technology

ASP .Net 2.0 with MVC architecture, .Net Framework 3.5, Microsoft SQL Server 2005/2008, AJAX, JQuery, LINQ, Microsoft SharePoint Services.

EBSolute’s Solution

In 2006, EBSolute offered its expertise in application development and migration to Piaggio.
EBSolute suggested a two-phased approach to Piaggio. The first phase would involve the porting of the application with the data migrated to a single database in a centralized model. This would act like a standby application until EBSolute developed expertise and understand complete functionalities and needs of the system. The second phase would involve a complete redevelopment of the application. The new system would incorporate the new needs of the dealers and the management at Piaggio and address the issues previously faced by the dealers.

Centralized Web Application based Model implemented by EBSolute

Porting of Dealer Management System to Internet Dealer Management System

EBSolute decided to go in for a web application based model to ensure the system be scalable yet stable.

EBSolute decided to use Microsoft SQL server 2005 as the database in the centralized system because of its robustness and scalability features.
Data migration from MS Access to SQL Server 2005 was a challenging task as there was no assurance that the data in the Access file was error-free. Instances of data mismatches proved that the data had been tampered. It was necessary to standardize the data used by the application.
A special tool complete with graphical user interface (GUI) was developed by EBSolute in VB .Net especially for migration of data. This tool helped EBSolute and Piaggio support staff migrate the data in correct format as required by Piaggio. The data from the MS Access database was moved to an intermediate database with the necessary changes done. This data was then approved by the concerned dealer before it was migrated to the central SQL server.

EBSolute was aware that network connectivity issue would be an issue in this centralized system. EBSolute decided to rewrite the parts of the code, which were heavy on the client side in ASP 2.0 along with some Visual Basic dlls. This ensured that only minimum data would flow between the server and client. This also helped in creating user-friendly screens especially for complex screens.


The IT head of Piaggio has acknowledged the data migration work and applauds the way the EBSolute team has worked towards a problem.


The original Dealer Management System had no reporting feature. Reports for the dealers and the Piaggio management were developed as per their needs. The reports were created using the client-side reporting feature of SQL Server Reporting Service (SSRS). Some reports were developed using .Net technology.
A complete new module was introduced especially for people at Piaggio to view and monitor the dealers and their daily tasks. Through this module, they could generate reports on the dealers using various criteria.
Role and time based security was introduced. SSL certificates were used for authentication of the users.

The next step

The application was successfully ported and deployed in 2007. By then, EBSolute had enough domain expertise and understood the functionalities of the system in totality.

The Redevelopment of Internet Dealer Management System by EBSolute

EBSolute used the Waterfall Development methodology for the complete software development of this application with a little customization to garner maximum gains. EBSolute first contacted Piaggio and the dealers to know their requirements in totality. All the requirements were taken care in the design stage itself. A prototype was then shown to Piaggio for approval. Necessary changes were incorporated before the actual development started.

Software Development Life Cycle

EBSolute redeveloped the application in .Net 3.5 along with the Model, View, and Controller (MVC) design pattern. EBSolute made sure that the data flowing between the client and the server was reduced to minimum. The load on the client side has reduced drastically with most of the transactions occurring on the server. Due to this, the time taken to load and reload a page has decreased drastically. A notable point to make is that there is a response time of only 2 seconds to load a page which has more than 25,000 records to display after a query run on the database.
 It was decided to shift to Microsoft SQL server 2008 for the database. The database design went in for a complete change so that data was stored in an efficient manner. Care was taken that data was not duplicated unless required.
LINQ to SQL was used to access the database. This helped in improving the performance of the application. EBSolute leveraged the integration functionality of SQL server (SSIS) to migrate the data of around 300 dealers from SQL Server 2005 to SQL server 2008 successfully.


EBSolute could successfully migrate around 160 GB data from Microsoft SQL server 2005 to 2008 with complete change of database design in less than 48 hours including taking the backups and other processes associated with actual migration.


Authentication for the users in now implemented customizing the ASP .Net role membership provider along with ASP .Net forms authentication. SSL certificates are issued manually to the users in a deliberate attempt to prevent misuse of the certificates if issued automatically.
Validation framework was developed in Ajax to make the system user friendly.
GUI was simplified so that the user does not need to spend more than 2 minutes to fill data for a single complex form. Prefilled information, highlighting the mandatory fields etc makes the GUI user friendly.
EBSolute has built Business Intelligence in to the Customer and Dealer Management System to help the dealers serve their customers in an efficient manner.
Reports and analysis are provided to the Piaggio management and the dealers as per their needs using server side reporting feature of Microsoft SQL server. Heavy reports are created offline and shown to the users using the reporting service of SQL servers. It was decided to do away with the stored procedures used previously for reporting and use LINQ (.Net Language Integrated Query) to SQL.
A call register application has been developed using SharePoint services. The application is complete with a workflow in place. The application is useful for the dealers and Piaggio to register defects in the Customer and Dealer Management System.
Reminder service for certain processes has been implemented through Short Messaging Service (SMS) and emails.

Manual entries for the spares/vehicles received/sent were to be created by the dealer in the original system. The Customer and Dealer Management System capture all this data from the SAP of Piaggio and a nightly batch file updates the system. This saves the time of the dealers in manual entry and prevents errors in entering the data. An error management system is also in place in case the data received from SAP has errors.

Benefits

The new Customer and Dealer Management System have ensured that the work of the dealers is completely automated with minimal human intervention. Piaggio can now track the dealers and their business through the various reports and analysis. This has seen a boost in their business.


Piaggio is completely satisfied with the efforts of EBSolute in this project. They are 100% satisfied with the results obtained from using the system. The dealers are also realizing the benefits of the system and are using the system out of choice and not by force.


Customer satisfaction has also been achieved through the use of the new Customer and Dealer Management System. The dealers have also benefitted tremendously as a proper workflow has come into place and they are able to garner maximum benefits in terms of sales and service by using the Customer and Dealer Management System.

With a centralized system in place, data tampering has been averted; also, the system ensures that the users cannot manipulate information in the system as was previously done.

Roadmap

Load balancing for the servers will be introduced in the next release. This will ensure that the system performance is not hampered due to the increase in the number of users as the number of dealers increase.
Provision of Analysis and daily trends needed by the Piaggio management and the dealers has paved a path for the future requirements from Piaggio to provide dashboards to all their executives.
Piaggio also has plans to automate the process of dealer selection along with building Business intelligence for the criteria of dealer selection. Piaggio also plans to automate the process of dealer monitoring on certain pre-defined criteria. This will help Piaggio with increase in business as the dealers will be forced to perform.

Plans are also afoot to create a complete business process management system with workflows and rules in place for the system.