When creating new apps is key to winning new business, you need a flexible, reliable, and secure platform for development. Derek Clarke, Systems Development Manager at Morrison Utility Services (MUS), tells us how his team creates new apps faster with Salesforce Platform to support its work with water, telecoms, and electricity providers across the UK.


What kind of apps do you develop at MUS?

Our work primarily involves installing, maintaining and upgrading essential UK utility infrastructure, working with long-term frameworks on behalf of regulated asset owners across the electricity, gas, telecommunications and water sectors.

Each day, approximately 80% of our workforce is on the highway working on essential upgrade and maintenance. Ensuring that these works are well managed and that disruption is kept to a minimum is essential, and scheduling is critical; and that requires lots of smart IT systems in the background.

We need customised, integrated apps that simplify the flow of data between us and the utilities clients we work for. In fact, it’s now often a key requirement of a contract. Being able to build apps quickly is vital not only for securing new contracts, but also for delivering effectively on existing ones.

Our apps facilitate collaboration, increase efficiency, and help us gain insights into service delivery so we can drive continuous improvement.


How do you develop your apps?

We’ve been using Force.com since 2009 to create modular apps that can be customised and re-used to meet the requirements of different client contracts. We can build and update apps up to 40% faster with Salesforce which means we can keep up with the pace of change.

Our clients often update their own systems or add new requirements, and we have to ensure that our apps respond to these changes. Salesforce is pretty easy for new developers to pick up. Even if they don’t have specific Salesforce training, a Java developer can quickly familiarise themselves with Force.com. It also plays well with other platforms, which is key, as integrating with our clients’ systems is increasingly necessary.


What was the draw of a cloud-based platform for you?

We were one of the first in the industry to go to the cloud. With Salesforce, we can focus on development without having to concern ourselves with maintaining infrastructure, updating systems or adding more capacity. We can also tap into a constant flow of new features. The development tools can be accessed anytime and anywhere by our team which means we can respond quickly to customer requests. Security and resilience are also really important but with Salesforce we don’t have to worry about that.


Why is security so important?

As we work in the utilities sector, most of our clients are heavily regulated and must be able to demonstrate data security. As a partner, we have to prove we’re not a weak link. Even where contracts don’t have tight security stipulations, any loss of data, no matter how small or insignificant, could have major reputational consequences for us and our clients. Force.com is an important pillar in our security credentials. 


What advice would you give to other organisations when assessing development platforms?

Make sure that it offers the development features and tools you need for the specific processes that you’re going to support and apps that you’re going to develop. It’s important to understand any limitations, such as any unsupported interface protocols, as the cost and effort of work-arounds could be significant.

Also look at the level of technical support on offer. With Salesforce, we have great relationships and the team are always willing to help with any issues or challenges. We can also tap into the wider Salesforce community – there are hundreds of organisations out there doing great things with apps and they can often provide advice on development queries.


How has smarter and faster app development changed the business’s perspective of the IT department?

Previously, the delivery of business systems to support contracts was seen as laborious, complex, and time-consuming. Now the business has much more confidence in our ability to provide apps that meet contract requirements quickly. As well as making our lives easier, it makes theirs easier too. With a centralised platform that guarantees stability and security, we’ve also cut down on disparate systems and reduced shadow IT.

With the right development resources, organisations can meet business demands faster, better, and at a lower cost. Read more about how MUS is enabling greater collaboration, efficiency, and business intelligence with its Force.com apps here: Morrison Utility Services wins and delivers on more customer contracts with Salesforce Platform.