Supply Chain Partner (SCP) is a supply chain specialist and consultancy. It works with its customers to integrate systems, people and processes to generate supply chain efficiencies, financial savings and benefits like improved compliance.
Based in Centurion in South Africa, SCP has customers across Africa, including Nedbank, Compass Group and Royal & SunAlliance. Its wide-ranging services and tools include source-to-pay systems, contract management, supplier information management, cataloguing, business strategy, process optimisation and behavioural change, to mention just a few.
For SCP, however, there is a particular opportunity to do more for its customers by developing bespoke software platforms that can precisely deliver for its SME clients – tools that until now have been available only to corporates purchasing on a bigger scale.
To unlock this, it has begun work on a supplier management tool – and, further out, also has plans for a procurement tool, a sourcing tool and more.
SCP’s in-house developers are all well-versed in Microsoft .NET, but director of technology Schalk Burger’s detailed analysis found Ruby on Rails to be most suited to the planned projects.
“Initially we left it to our team to get up to speed with Ruby on Rails via e-learning. We hoped to see the project get underway on that basis, but we soon found we simply weren’t making enough progress,” says Burger.
“Coming up short focused minds quickly”, he adds. “We knew we needed support from a trainer who could get our .NET-minded developers to start thinking like Ruby developers – not just understanding the fundamentals of Ruby coding but also how to put together a complex project in the best way.”
Burger found that the requirement couldn’t be met by a training outfit in South Africa, but realised the best option would be to engage with Framework in the UK.
“SCP has relationships in the UK, which made it a familiar marketplace, but it was also clear from the start that Framework had the experience and the attitude to make the project work.”
Framework developed a course based on SCP’s specific needs and committed to flying a trainer to South Africa to run the sessions. The trainer also shifted the focus of the curriculum less than two days into the training to take account of the issues emerging from the developer team in the course of their learning.
“This was the single biggest benefit in many ways,” says Burger. “Adapting on the fly, because the trainer understood where we were with our learning, added so much value.”
Once the initial, intensive training was over – targeted as it was – Burger and his team also realised there were gaps that remained to be filled.
“To address this, we have had the trainer on hand to undertake review of our progress and issues on most days – normally 30 minutes to an hour of support. This is such a boon because we are developing a commercial product and it needs to stay on course. We get help not just with Ruby coding but with designing the Ruby way. Whenever you learn a programming language, you still need to assimilate the best approach and structure – and it takes time. You need your methodology and design thinking to be spot on or you get into trouble very quickly.”
Burger says SCP made more headway in a week with Framework’s support than it had managed in the two months before bringing Framework in – and progress has continued ever since.
“This is a big, multifaceted project. It can be hard to gauge how far we’ve come, but we are pushing on and making big calls with confidence now. I even redeployed some of the team onto another projects because I could see their talents would be a better fit. Learning like that is crucial; it comes from the confidence we now have in all our development projects being a success.”