Astadia worked with a company recognized as a leader in the Right of Way Acquisition industry to envision and develop tablet based functionality and data automation for landmen. The company provides trusted, expert negotiators for land management clients needing to work out easement contracts with property owners, lease holders and interest holders across the country. The company embraces innovative technology throughout their organization, as evidenced by their creation of a custom web-based, GIS enabled desktop application—built in-house specifically for Right of Way agents. Given that much of the work done by Right of Way agents is in the field. The desktop application was destined for the iPad. And because the company understands the power of technology to improve work productivity. They decided to work with Astadia.
The company came to Astadia with a powerful desktop application with useful features like data mapping, asset management and project tracking, and asked us to create an iPad version with the potential to revolutionize the Right of Way industry. A challenging project from many angles, the endeavor wasn’t simply a porting of the desktop app into an iPad app. (What works on a desktop doesn’t necessarily work on a tablet, and vice versa.) With its simplicity and ease-of use, the iPad demands thoughtful interaction design and flawless execution. At the heart of project were three overarching challenges—how to keep the functionality of the original desktop app intact while bringing it into the realm of touch; how to merge two very different technologies—iOS and GIS; and how to effectively integrate the app with ESRI GIS mapping platform which, at the time, wasn’t very iPad-friendly. Oh, one more challenge: a fully functional prototype was promised to existing users and potential customers three months from the start of the project.
An Astadia project team was assembled with an Interaction Designer, Art Director, Digital Strategist, iOS Developer, GIS Architect and Project Manager. To address the first challenge of transforming the desktop app into an iPad app, the Astadia team worked closely with stakeholders to identify the core mechanics of the desktop app, both front-end and back-end, and to become experts in the area of Right of Way management. Instead of simply porting over the desktop app, Astadia developed a new user interface (UI) with re-designed creative elements that maintained the original application’s functionality expressed in a simplified, touch-friendly execution. After user flows, wireframes and templates were created, the technologists at Idea faced a looming tradeshow deadline and the daunting task of combining disparate technologies. For the app to be successful, Astadia’s lead iOS developer and lead GIS architect had to learn each other’s skills and master a new platform in little time. The technologists then had to figure out how to merge two databases, GIS info and text info, from ESRI, the industry-standard GIS mapping software provider. At the time of development, it was rather uncommon to extend such data heavy web interfaces to a mobile app. Without direct access to the ESRI databases, the Astadia team had to coordinate with the client team to create a custom web-service to help integrate the ESRI Application Programming Interface (API).
Success to us means a happy client and a happy team. While the Astadia team may have been exhausted by the end of the project, they learned a great deal about the Right of Way industry and became knowledgeable about practical work flows associated with the business of a landman. Since the tradeshow,the app has been distributed to the field agents who are enjoying the full freedom that comes with a well-designed iPad app—the heavy laptops and cumbersome land maps stay in their trucks. With a wealth of data at their fingertips, the field agents are enjoying realtime graphical project status reports and quick access to easement locations, documents, field notes and survey and construction provisions. All of which makes it that much simpler to share data and findings with landowners, clients and service providers wherever business needs to be done. All thanks to an investment and a belief in the power of technology and great design to move us forward.