TradeStream has successfully developed and delivered its automated and integrated international supply chain solution. In its first iteration, it is supported by business services to enable transaction execution, management by exception and value chain optimisation.
It is also operated as a service to several large clients, and was created with the help of a software development team from DVT.
The successful development project has led to its deployment at several customer sites, including Continental Tyre, Super Group Auto Parts, which owns Mica South Africa and Mica UK, DCD-Dorbyl, Johnson Controls, Shoprite, Massmart, Edcon, New Clicks Holdings, and Eurolux.
Massmart and Super Group have extended their contracts by five years.
Its success stems jointly from DevStream's development skills, of which the DVT team was a part, and the fact that TradeStream's executive team has varied and extensive experience in the industry. For example, MD Brendan Furness worked for Massmart. Other key personnel have covered buying, warehouse operations, logistics, treasury and more in the international trade arena. DevStream also has a team of 65 experienced developers.
TradeStream's executive team developed a clear understanding that businesses conducting international trade needed, at the very least, an integrated software solution to assist them and, at best, a provider that would operate a full transactional service to manage their shipping departments against a specified service level agreement (SLA).
"International trade tends to be a weak spot for many organisations since it is not core to their operations," says Furness. "What compounds the issue is that it's often not identified and when it is, it's not accepted. What organisations need is to migrate from executing a collection of disparate and isolated tasks to a single, integrated solution that enables them to cut across all dimensions of their structures, activities and geographies. That means they must be able to access, capture, retrieve, store, interactively enrich and distribute vast quantities of data and decision-making information, in realtime, across the globe."
It's a complex environment even for the most hardened developers, yet seven years ago TradeStream accepted that challenge.
Part of the Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) stable, TradeStream developed its trademark solution through a wholly owned subsidiary, DevStream. The solution was developed while servicing the international trade flows of blue-chip corporate clients in South Africa that facilitated an effective proof of concept, research and development market.
Development commenced in 2000 in conjunction with the company's first client, a major JSE-listed retailer. During the next six years it extended its client base to a total of six blue-chip companies, and completed the first and second phases that included scoping, designing, building and deploying the basic functionality of the TradeStream solution. It has now also scoped the third phase, which constitutes optimisation requirements, and delivered that functionality.
The suite now offers realtime status of international trade transactions, including financial impact of changes to orders, such as cost versus profitability per product and treasury effects, shipments and failure to meet transaction execution time lines. It also underpins the end-to-end package with specialist international trade business services.
It achieves this through a number of tightly integrated software modules combined into industry-specific systems. Modules include Buyer Support, Logistics, Billing, Clearing, Quota Management, Master Data, and many more.
DVT's team developed the international trade document management module.
"Although every software development company claims not to be a body shop they generally are," says Furness. "DVT proved that they're not, that they can strategically partner with their clients. I can confidently say that DVT has proven that they're capable of moving from boardroom strategic partnership to fulfilment. They take control, ownership and reduce the risk to deliver."
Furnss admits that TradeStream was sometimes a difficult customer.
It is accepted practice to minimise scope creep on software development projects as much as possible. Scope creep means new requirements are added to the project without making additional time, resources or budget available to the development team. It's the number one cause of development failure.
But in some cases scope creep, is not only unavoidable, it's desirable.
"We allowed as much scope creep as was necessary in developing TradeStream," says Furness. "Although our mandate was to deliver a solution to specific customers, TradeStream owns the IP and we wanted to ensure that we met broader industry needs, which sometimes meant developing additional functionality over and above what the agreed specification called for."
It led to a more complete solution with all the requisite functionality.
"Ultimately, considering the scope creep, DVT met the three tenets of good software development: they delivered the right quality on time and within budget," says Furness.
TradeStream also insisted on taking an agile development approach.
"DVT fitted in with our approach. In the end it was a very successful project and they ensured that they slotted into the agile environment," says Furness.
"The document management module that our team developed takes care of the letters of credit, invoices and all the other document types associated with international trade," says Jaco van der Merwe, director at DVT. "There are 40 different document types and the module stores them all for later retrieval and highlights for users which documents they must add to progress through each trade. That's based on built-in rules using an element of workflow that triggers alerts for necessary information."
DVT's development team applied its standard processes to the project. That consists of an iterative project approach, reduced risk and design and architecture confirmation.
"We are strong on process," says Van der Merwe, "which means that we manage the risks up-front through a risk reduction phase before we start delivering the product. Part of that process sees the team code the most critical and complex components first to prove that the architecture and design is sound before we deliver the remainder of the solution. The alternative is a waterfall approach that sees developers fully code the solution before they deliver it to the customer or business. That's essentially very risky because all the time and effort is put into something that could be wrong for their needs."
Iterative development means that the team could correctly predict delivery to a far greater extent, ensure that it met requirements, that there were no overruns and deliver the highest possible quality on time and within budget.
"The focus on quality for this development effort was exceptional," says Van der Merwe.
TradeStream has fully commercialised the DevStream business and also offers TradeStream as a managed solution.
"The risk profile increases significantly the more transactions you run on behalf of clients," says Furness. "We couldn't allow any deviation from the extremely high quality levels that we set for the development team."
"The iterative approach and best practice software development has the greatest impact on reducing risk," says Van der Merwe. "Correctly translating the customer requirements into a software solution is also critical. Using the latest development environments only improves the chances of technical success and ensures that the customer's product is up to date and will more easily integrate into customers' environments. This product required every opportunity to be a success. Since it's become a packaged solution the opportunity to recover from any bugs or errors is marginal. You have to get it right the first time."