It is no coincidence that Eric Pfaffmann discovered the startup Matterway at DB mindbox – the programme was developed precisely for this purpose. "DB mindbox is a source of digital inspiration and the ideal place to mine for digital gold," says the Vice-President of the Digital Customer Interface at DB Cargo. New companies have the opportunity to present their innovative technologies and solutions, and to test them jointly with DB business partners to see if there is a need – the DB Group then reaps the benefits. "We have already had a positive experience collaborating with Userlane and using their solution," reports Eric Pfaffmann. This software also emerged from DB mindbox; their solution provides customers with interactive user assistance in the link2rail customer portal. Matterway is also sparking his interest. "Matterway's solution shows the potential to simplify computer workstations at DB Cargo," explains Eric Pfaffmann.
DB Systel, the Group's digital partner, is also convinced. Initial contact with Matterway was followed by implementation of a proof of concept (PoC) in the sales division within DB Cargo to assess the potential for possible use. "When we received the integration proposal, we checked whether we were already using a similar service or whether we could develop it quickly ourselves," says Mohamed Bourimi, Presales Consultant in the Transport & Logistics sales network. "We concluded that Matterway brings innovation potential to the table in the short term and we would like to collaborate together in order to leverage this for our customers."
An assistant for data research
For many years now, DB Cargo's Customer Service (CS) has been using IT applications (e.g. for order or wagon management) to provide excellent customer service. Over time, however, the system landscape became more and more complex, with employees using data from very different sources. An analysis revealed that the highly diverse source systems do not allow for demand-oriented and fast availability. "We have identified various challenges," says Eric Pfaffmann. "For example, there is no uniform user guidance and the various systems are not interconnected. To transfer information from one system to another, Customer Service employees may need to copy data manually from one application to another."
Matterway provides a user-friendly option to seamlessly integrate a sidebar assistant into a target web application. The software solution is placed on top of existing web-based systems. The assistant can read, enter, search and display content more easily – it can even calculate. Employees can do their work faster because they do not have to deal with different interfaces, nor do they have to copy data manually. With the sidebar assistant, workstations can be configured for specific roles. Moreover, function and information dashboards can be added seamlessly. Workstation functions can be continuously advanced and automated in order to optimally support day-to-day business. The functions provided are known as "skills"; they implement scenarios, workflows or specific use cases.
Skills can be minor and specific, or they can be more complex. The assistant recognises what employees are working on and automatically displays the skills it can assist with. So far, eleven skills have been developed at DB Cargo, and further use cases are being planned at present.
Thanks to the smart solution from Matterway, this is not necessary. "For order processing, for example, information is stored in various Excel files," explains Anthony Hsiao, Founder and Managing Director of Matterway. "Previously, filter settings were used to laboriously search for the data. Now, it can be displayed in just a few seconds. For example, up to three systems are involved in locating wagons. This tool finds the info and brings it together."
This is made possible by a sidebar assistant that provides both pragmatic and economically viable support to the Customer Service staff without having to rebuild the entire application landscape. This seamless, user-friendly and simple integration supports automations directly in the browser. "Our software interface does not replace the old system," says Anthony Hsiao. "We are simply placing a small assistant on top of existing web-based systems. Despite some complex specifications, we succeeded in doing this in a reasonable amount of time, all thanks to DB Systel." When compared with the technologies currently in use throughout the DB Group, this is a cost-effective and simple implementation. "20% usage has an 80% impact."
Supplement existing systems instead of replacing them
This application currently fills a gap in DB Systel's portfolio: "The system is not only of interest to DB Cargo but also other business units," says Mohamed Bourimi. "It is precisely these scaling effects that we want to produce, similar to Userlane, which is now being used in other business units besides DB Cargo."
Integrating the software into BKU workstations and DB Cargo's IT system landscape is an example of an ideal digital partnership between various specialist departments within the customer and DB Systel organisation, as well as collaboration with DB Group Purchasing and external companies. Numerous technical, commercial and governance requirements must be taken into consideration here. This can prove highly complex and have a negative impact on the implementation timeline. However, this was not the case with Matterway and Userlane, thanks to the positive partnership between DB Cargo and DB Systel. This is precisely why dedicated teams from DB Systel offer onboarding services for startups participating in the DB mindbox programme.
Close collaboration between business units and new companies from DB mindbox helps to serve customer needs in a more targeted and competitive way. Startups like Matterway facilitate more rapid progress in relation to digitalisation. "We have evolved from being purely an IT service provider to now being an integrator, enabler and innovator," explains Mohamed Bourimi. "This is the only way to serve customer needs in a more targeted and competitive way." This is exactly what has been achieved. "Customer Service employees who use the tool on a daily basis are impressed. It makes their work considerably easier," says Eric Pfaffmann.