Steering Pall-Ex into the Future of IT with MyNexus
In November 2018, Pall-Ex launched ambitious new freight visibility software: MyNexus. This was aimed at taking the company’s IT offerings to the next level, yet the excellent feedback and benefits MyNexus brings to the business, its members and customers alike, was unprecedented.
One year since the launch, we interview Dave Dunhill, Director of IT at Pall-Ex. His pivotal role ensured that MyNexus has become an integral part of Pall-Ex’s day-to-day operations, providing a simple yet sophisticated way to track pallets.
Why was the MyNexus software built?
Essentially, MyNexus was built to provide end-users with the best in freight entry and enable customers to easily trade with Pall-Ex members, irrespective of their size and freight volume.
Dave explains, “Before I joined the business, some members and customers said that Pall-Ex was behind in terms of track and trace technology. We didn’t want customers to move their business, so we rose to meet the high expectations of the network as a whole.
“Pall-Ex knew they needed to tackle this issue, so they listened to the feedback of their members, and began their IT revolution.
The MyNexus software was the first step in the larger overhaul of Pall-Ex’s IT systems, which is called Project Nexus.
How did you ensure the project would be successful
“We had an internal Q&A team, and we followed a rigorous testing procedure. For software projects like this, you need to go through a process in terms of development, testing and then internal testing. We pushed it out to a few key users, and then it went live after this process – it was meticulously planned.
The backing from the business and directors have been instrumental. Kevin Buchanan, the Group Managing Director, trusts what we’re trying to achieve and it's comforting knowing the entire business supports the IT team and our developments.
“We also held focus groups, to ensure we’d not overlooked anything that needed to be included – this was helpful to establish what we wanted to accomplish, how long it would take and how much it would cost.”
How did you plan out such a large development project?
“We produced a series of wireframes, which went to the Pall-Ex board of directors, with exactly what we wanted to achieve. We used a specialist digital wireframe tool, which allowed it to be interactive.
“We made the planning a very interactive process, we would sit down and have meetings and conversations, talking through exactly what needed to change or be refined before we went to the development stage,” Dave explains.
Why was it important for Pall-Ex to invest and upskill their team as opposed to outsourcing?
Dave answers, “We wanted to take full control of the project, as our internal team understands the business and our members’ needs better than anyone else.
“Plus, the build required a certain skillset in terms of the relevant people – from my background, I’d had some horrendous experiences with developers! So, we built and upskilled our team.”
“I can’t say enough for the guys in the IT department. They’ve improved, progressed, and the new staff have made a huge difference. I’m extremely pleased with the results we’ve got for Pall-Ex and we strive to continue to get those results.” - Dave Dunhill, Director of IT
How many new jobs were created through the project?
“MyNexus was the starting point for Project Nexus, a major IT undertaking. That was the first element. I had a team of five, to begin with, and now it’s a team of nine.”
How did you upskill your team?
“We had a couple of existing developers who knew the development language we wanted to build in. We actively recruited people with that specific language, and all the developers learnt the new language together or improved upon their existing skills.
“Good developers are hard to come by! As such, we had a meticulous interview process. This included phone interviews, technical tests, and face-to-face interviews to determine character and aptitude, to ensure the perfect fit for the Pall-Ex team.”
What are the main differences between
MyNexus and Pall-Ex’s old systems?
Dave explains, “The MyNexus portal does everything in one place – we used to have a separate website portal for track and trace, and we now have a much more sophisticated key entry system.
“MyNexus gives full transparency not only to customers but to our members and partners. Anyone can see where a pallet is at any one time, which is a huge plus and keeps everything running smoothly.
“This really gives Pall-Ex members the edge over Pall-Ex competitors - the core operating system gives lots of answers to queries, merging everything together, which makes for a really good team effort, in all aspects of the network.”
Did you teach members how to use the software?
“We embedded a help centre with guides and videos. This, combined with the simplicity of the system, enabled users across the network to instantly understand the functionality and use the portal within minutes of logging in.
“Plus, whilst we had a lot of support from the Kevin and the whole board, key members had a hand in the process at all times, meaning they were at the forefront of the project from the beginning.”
What’s in store for the future of MyNexus?
We’re looking to deliver the next generations of systems for Pall-Ex, so we can continue to lead the way in terms of quality and technology
“MyNexus is changing and improving all the time. It’s currently being released to our European partners. It went live in the UK 12 months ago, it’s now gone live in Poland, shortly to go live in Spain, Portugal, France, Romania and Bulgaria.
“We’ve had to modify the system for specific market needs, we built in some extra functionality which we rolled out to the UK too, as it was so useful. Again, we always develop with our members in mind, asking them what they find most useful and what could be improved.
“We’re targeting June 2020 for a new, core operating system, termed Nexus. It’s a brand-new system, built from scratch. It’s the same development process, but a bigger project, so it’s taken us 12 months to spec it out.”
Are there any other pieces of software that you’d like to develop for Pall-Ex?
“We have additional modules such as scanning and the estimated time of arrivals that will follow on. We’re also changing our gatehouse system for logging in trucks. The team are also looking at enhancements to our proof of delivery system.
“Once the main Project Nexus is rolled out to Europe too, we will divide up the team to start developing those different modules, and we’ll follow the same efficient process.”