Vermont Electric is helping power the state with a low-code app building platform

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At VB’s Low-Code/No-Code Summit, the discussion centered around the way no-code solutions are enabling enterprise agility in revolutionary ways, changing the dynamics coding, from how we write it to who can develop applications. One session revealed how low code literally helps power the state of Vermont.

Vermont Electric Power Company (VEPC) uses a number of internal apps for its employees and contractors, explained Jarrod Harper, application developer and integrator with the Vermont Electric Power Company. They’re primarily designed to assist field personnel to help keep them safe in the field and to track their locations in the event of an accident or an injury. When their technology aged out of date, they turned to Volt MX to help them migrate their existing apps and build out a new set of applications based on requests from employees and updates and improvement requests from contractors.

The major technical challenge was integration, bringing in data from third-party APIs like weather and from SQL servers, Harper said. They were also integrating that data with the GIS web mapping platform used in the control center. The system and the applications needed to work seamlessly together, and the Volt MX platform by HCL Digital Solutions gave them the no-code solution and partnership opportunity they needed.

“We have a studio process, where we bring customers in to talk about their unique business problems and then help them navigate to the art of the possible,” said Andrew Manby, VP of product management at HCL Volt MX. “Jarrod, I would say, is pretty typical of most customers. They have a vision, and once they get to grips with the tool and the experience, what we want to do is shorten that period of time to enable them to see, this is what you could actually build, and then help them with their first application. Then we can keep helping them with education or mentoring to enable them to build the second or the third app.”

On the human side, the challenge for VEPC with their apps has always been adoption, and asking their people to work differently, Harper explained. His team had to prove to their personnel and their contractor resources that logging in to the crew tracking app every day really was intended to improve their situational awareness and their safety while working in the field. Within 18 months to two years, they saw a 75 to 80% adoption of their new mobile apps by field personnel, and upwards of 95% adoption by contractors.

“It’s good that they’re seeing the value of what we’re able to produce, and the quick turnaround that we can achieve with our low code/no code platform, with Volt MX,” Harper said.

In fact, that speed became essential at the start of the pandemic, when the company’s human resources and safety department reached out to the application development team for a way to better manage the required daily health screenings.

Within 60 hours of total development time, which spanned approximately four days from the time they were contacted, they delivered a fully functioning mobile web application, he said.

Inside the Volt MX platform

Aimed at professional developers, the Volt MX platform also allows companies to bring all of their standard best practices around DevOps and testing to bear, as well as bring in advanced capabilities and sophisticated technology into the application in a much easier way, explained Manby.

One of VEPC’s current applications in development requires some heavy math to run some models, and while Javascript is a good programming tool, it doesn’t have a robust math engine. They purchased a product that allows them to build math models which can be deployed as a REST API. The user simply clicks their “Generate Ratings” button for a particular piece of equipment in the system, and the request is managed seamlessly. Foundry sends the request to the math engine, the results of the math is sent back as a . JSON response that’s integrated into the app seamlessly. And it’s efficient. The old app, based in Foxboro, would take more than a minute to run some calculations. Right now, those calculations have gone down to around 15 seconds.

“The customer, the user of the app, it doesn’t really matter to them where the math is happening as long as the answer is correct,” Harper said. “The performance improvements, the way the user is interacting with the app now, it’s so much better. It’s vastly improved. Our customers are really enjoying what they’re seeing out of the product we’ve developed.”

Why low-code/no-code?

There are two major drivers for the adoption of no-code/low code solutions, said Andrew Manby, product manager for HCL Digital Solutions, part of HCL Software.

From a technology standpoint, many customers are looking for acceleration, Manby explained. The CIO and the CTO are looking for the technology to build solutions that help them engage with customers, employees, or business partner channels, and to develop, build, and deploy their app quickly, whether it’s the first or the fifteenth. On the business side, CMOs and VPs are looking for new and innovative ways to express their brands, and to differentiate the company in the experience they provide to their key stakeholders.

“Using technology like this, whether you’re engaging with an employee, a contractor, or an end customer, there are lots of things you can do to make that experience exciting,” he said.

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