Providing A “White-Glove” Experience for Executives and Vendors
Connecting Point Marketing Group (CPMG) hosts trade events for executives in a variety of verticals such as retail, healthcare, restaurant and hotel. Each event is optimized for strategic networking between executives and vendors in the form of both boardroom presentations and one-on-one meetings.
Prior to engaging with Ascendle, CPMG utilized multiple technologies for key event activities including registration, scheduling and event interaction. During the event, attendees used tablets to access a desktop application that housed these multiple and disparate programs.
Though somewhat functional, this approach often failed in large convention centers and hotels, where Wifi can be questionable or non-existent. Moreover, more and more attendees desired this functionality on their own mobile devices, whether they be Android or iOS.
In short, CPMG wanted to provide an interactive tool to use during events, optimized for both Android and iOS, that would be accessible even without internet access. Lacking in-house development resources, CPMG chose Ascendle to develop the new app, named CPMG connect!.
A Step-by-Step Design-Build Approach
Because CPMG had previously utilized a web app for this purpose, the Ascendle team was able to swiftly build a backlog of required features, prioritized according to user expectations and value delivered by each.
As the backlog was being developed, care was taken to determine which of the features would need offline functionality as well. This, juxtaposed with sophisticated business rules and user behavior, helped form a framework for what the app needed to do.
Meanwhile, the UI/UX design team – tasked with crafting a user interface that would be embraced by thousands of C-level executives – swiftly jumped into defining user needs and objectives, and then created wireframes to map out the user experience.
In parallel, Ascendle’s implementation team worked closely with CPMG’s existing back-end team to build an API that synced data across multiple devices. Using an iterative and incremental approach, the API was enhanced as needed, based on the demands of each feature.
This “staggered” approachallowed both Ascendle teams to swiftly deploy, shaving critical time off of the project.
Two Types of Users: One App
Early on, the Ascendle team recommended a cross-platform app, developed in Xamarin.Forms. As we’ve written about previously and extensively, cross-platform apps re-use much of the codebase across both Android and iOS, while still respecting the UI nuances of each.
Previously, CPMG offered only one type of tablet to their event attendees, no doubt guaranteeing that a portion of their audience found it to be non-intuitive, simply because it wasn’t what they were used to. By developing in Xamarin.Forms, the Ascendle team was able to deliver the experience that users expected, regardless of their device.
The “Killer Feature”– Offline Data Synchronization
The best apps tend to have a “killer feature,” and in this case, CPMG was looking for one that they hoped nobody would talk about.
Prior to launching CPMG connect!, users would stop by the event organizer’s desk throughout each day to complain that the app “wasn’t working”, when in reality the user was often in a region of the convention center with poor connectivity. Now, offline data synchronization ensured the most critical information was always accessible, eliminating questions and complaints from users.
What Else Was “Under the Hood?”
Like all apps, CPMG connect! came together through tight integration between several technologies:
The decision to use Xamarin.Forms was closely aligned with using MvvmCross, a popular framework, designed specifically for the former. MvvmCross provides architecture patterns, plugins, viewmodel to viewmodel support – all of which help to improve the maintainability of the code.
Because CPMG hosts a wide variety of events, but didn’t wish to produce a separate app for each, OAuth provided a simple solution. The first time users load CPMG connect!, they are asked for their corporate email address. This data is passed to their Salesforce instance, which records which events the user has signed up for and has access to.
Following agile philosophy, the app was rigorously tested throughout development. In order to write automated unit tests for the asynchronous code, we used both NUnit and NSubstitute.
Finally, Azure Application Insights was deployed as a way to both measure and monitor both app performance and usability. This information has been critical to evaluate and prioritize improvements to the app over time.
Results that Speak for Themselves
Today, CPMG connect! is used by attendees at all of their events. Recent innovations, many driven by the pivot to more virtual and hybrid events due to Covid, allowfor access by both remote and on-site users, across a variety of time zones.
The app enjoys extremely favorable reviews in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, proving Ascendle’s ability to develop a cross-platform app that delights both iOS and Android users.
We continue to be a strategic partner to CPMG, enhancing the mobile application and incorporating new features as needed. As in-person events segued to virtual and hybrid, we quickly adapted the app to meet the new requirements. CPMG connect! now has the features and flexibility to be used by in-person and remote attendees across a variety of time zones.