Transportation logistics and supply chain solutions provider Landstar developed an app for Windows Phone that enables its independent business capacity owners (BCOs) to search for and view detailed information on available loads, submit status
updates, and view contact information. Landstar also adopted Windows Phone for internal use to help employees be more productive—through a phone that integrates easily with the company’s existing IT infrastructure.
Landstar relies on its network of 8,000 independent owner-operators—called business capacity owners (BCOs)—to move customers’ freight. The company must ensure that BCOs have self-service access to information on available loads. “We don’t dispatch loads
over the phone,” says Patrick Wise, Vice President of Advanced Technology at Landstar. “Rather, we provide tools to help BCOs review available loads and find the one that best suits them—such as a new load with a pickup location that’s as close as possible
to where they’ll be dropping off their current load.”
In early 2011, when an upgrade to the mobile website used by BCOs failed to work correctly in some mobile browsers, Landstar decided to augment its tool set with custom mobile apps. “We’ve always viewed mobile technology as a strategic enabler,” says Wise.
“And with smartphones so common today, we knew that we had to have our own mobile apps as a means of doing all that we can to serve our BCOs and customers.”
Wise also realized how modern smartphones could make Landstar employees more productive. Until recently, only BlackBerry devices had been available to employees.
Landstar worked with iMobile3 to develop a custom app for Windows Phone, in addition to apps for iPhone and Android. The design phase began in May 2011, development began in July, and, by September 1, the app was into the final quality assurance process.
||If you’re a Microsoft shop like we are, the way that Windows Phone integrates with existing IT infrastructure is a huge plus.
Vice President of Advanced Technology, Landstar
Launched in November 2011, the Landstar Mobile App for Windows Phone was developed using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate development system and Microsoft Expression Blend design software. It enables BCOs to search for and view detailed information
on available loads, submit status updates for a load, and view key contact information. The app takes advantage of built-in location services to let users automatically set search criteria and in-transit location.
Landstar demonstrated the new app at its annual BCO Appreciation Days in January 2012. “BCOs are a vocal group, and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” says Eric Geller, Director of e-Commerce at Landstar. “We had several mobile providers at the
event, and quite a few BCOs with older phones took the opportunity to upgrade to a new one.”
With the release of Windows Phone 7.5, code named "Mango," Landstar also added Windows Phone to its list of approved phones. “We keep our IT environment tightly controlled, and we need to balance the desire for improved mobility with issues such as security
and integration with existing infrastructure,” says Wise. “I expect more and more BlackBerry users will want new smartphones with greater capabilities, and Windows Phone 7.5 enables us to meet that demand with a device that’s enterprise-ready.”
Both Wise and Geller now use a Windows Phone to connect to the company's Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 environment and access their email, calendars, contacts, and tasks. They can also connect to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, and can use Microsoft Office
Mobile to view, edit, and comment on Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Both also have recently begun to use Microsoft OneNote Mobile, which works with Windows Live to make the notes they take accessible
from their phones, from Microsoft OneNote 2010 running on their PCs, or from the OneNote Web App running in a web browser.
With Windows Phone, Landstar is giving its BCOs and its own employees powerful new tools to help them work more productively. Key benefits include:
Rich user experience. Landstar and iMobile3 took advantage of unique Windows Phone design features to deliver an app that’s both feature-rich and easy to use. For example, with Windows Phone panoramas, instead of jumping in and out of different
screens, users can just flick left or right to switch from a search to a status update to an agent lookup.
Rapid, cost-effective development. Even though most of its prior experience has been in building apps for iPhone and Android, iMobile3 delivered the app for Windows Phone slightly faster than the iPhone and Android apps it built for Landstar.
“When it comes to building enterprise mobile apps, Windows Phone has other mobile platforms beat,” says Matt Bishop, Vice President of Technology at iMobile3. “The development environment provides a wealth of native controls and made it very easy to connect
the app to Landstar’s services interface.”
Powerful new productivity tool. Landstar’s adoption of Windows Phone for internal use is helping employees be more productive. “Windows Phone doesn’t require any training, and its design and features make using it a high-productivity pleasure,”
Integration with existing infrastructure. Adopting Windows Phone did not require new investment or modification to the company’s infrastructure. Users connect to Exchange Server and SharePoint Server by entering the same credentials they
use on their PCs—access that system administrators granted by adjusting a few Group Policy settings. Landstar can also use Group Policy to “lock down” its Windows Phone devices, such as whether a password is required and the duration of inactivity after which
phones automatically lock.
“By embracing Windows Phone, we’re helping both independent operators and employees to be more productive,” concludes Wise. “If you’re a Microsoft shop like we are, the way that Windows Phone integrates with existing IT infrastructure is a huge plus.”
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