adBlocks Rewrites adSails In Record Time With ServoyadBlocks is the premier developer of workflow automation solutions for the advertising sales industry. Founded in 1994, its Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution, adSails, maximizes efficiencies and drives incremental revenues for the ad sales operations of some of the largest media companies in the world, including: TimeWarner Cable, Comcast Spotlight, and Charter Media. adSails has become a solution for over 60% of the cable industry and is now used to sell outdoor, internet, magazine, and digital media advertising.
As adSails matured, adBlocks began to discover significant limitations to its database development environment. Two issues emerged as priorities: adBlocks found it increasingly difficult to extend product functionality in its chosen programming environment; and even more critical, the company discovered that application stability suffered as adSails added more users. With operations departments at some of its biggest clients demanding a true enterprise-class application built on SQL technology, adBlocks knew it was time for a change. But the prospect of rewriting such a broad application from the ground up in a new database environment was daunting. adSails organizes every aspect of the sales process for its clients -- from account executives to the VP of Sales. The application incorporates a unique Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module that describes the complex entity relationships of the advertising marketplace. It also generates and tracks orders, from pitch to close to execution. At the heart of the software, is a sophisticated rate system designed specifically to maximize the value of advertising inventory. Finally, adSails generates a variety of metrics, such as sales activity reports; dollars pitched; dollars closed; sales-to-budget comparisons; and pacing reports. adBlocks hesitated to rewrite the application until it discovered a development tool that would allow the company to do the job with a reasonable investment of time and resources.
Servoy was the rapid development environment adBlocks needed. Using Servoy, a team of five adBlocks developers reengineered in three months much of what had been done over a decade of continuous programming. "There is simply no way we could have done this without Servoy," according to adBlocks' president, Michael Phelps. "In fact, Servoy turned out to be a more rapid and powerful development platform than I had imagined." The module-based environment allowed four programmers to work on different parts of the application simultaneously without stepping on one another's toes. Servoy provided the necessary design guidance for the developers. "Servoy was very responsive throughout the development process. Whenever we ran into what looked like a roadblock, they were there to suggest a solution," said programmer Matt Frizzell.
The development work streamlined the application substantially, greatly simplifying documentation and opening the way to future projects. One of the key features in the adSails user interface, is a system of dynamic contextual menus. The previous design required that menus be coded individually in different parts of the application. "The maintenance required was excessive, and it was easy to get the syntax wrong," observed Frizzell. Servoy produced a plug-in to allow for this functionality and delivered it before adBlocks had even scheduled the development work. Using Servoy, adBlocks centralized its menu system, making even the most conditional choices database-driven.
Servoy also helped adBlocks to design a new reporting structure that produces complex layouts using HTML. The new design allows adBlocks to make highly targeted changes to reports without changing forms. The changes actually expand the scope of the available reports, and at the same time makes them easier to manage and customize. adBlocks also leveraged the knowledge of the growing Servoy community. Initially, adBlocks aimed to recreate adSails without changing the existing functionality at all. But some of the Java beans, created by members of the Servoy community, were too powerful to ignore. adBlocks added a calendar feature that dramatically extended the functionality of the CRM module with minimal effort from its programmers.
The most important result of the development work is that Servoy has allowed adBlocks to respond to the market demand for a more robust, stable application built on commonly accepted technologies. For the first time, adSails is truly platform-independent and database-agnostic. One of the most important benefits of the new version is its stability: "We were really struggling to deliver the larger deployments that our marketplace increasingly demands," said COO Jon Safford. "Now, we have a truly scalable solution." Servoy has also slashed adSails' deployment costs. One of the best features of the Servoy-based adSails is that its client-server architecture eliminates the need for application serving. Citrix licensing and hardware was adding substantially to the cost of ownership for adBlocks customers. With the Servoy Java client, adBlocks can deliver a hosted database solution to their customers that is maintenance-free on the client side -- without Citrix. The implications for deployment cost savings are considerable. adBlocks now anticipates new customers who were previously priced out of the market.
Phelps is enthusiastic about future development in Servoy. "It's a totally new way of approaching our design and development. Once we finish the initial rewrite, we expect to add functionality that will significantly expand our user base and drive new revenues for the company."
Check out an online video of their new Servoy-based product.