Reimagining a Cost Analysis Tool

Our multinational Fortune 500 client used an Excel-based tool to look for cost savings opportunities. However, the tool was so complex that less than 10% of employees chose to use the tool. Recognizing that they were missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in potential savings, our client engaged us to reimagine the tool. Together, we created a desktop application that is far more usable than the large, complex Excel file it replaced. We incorporated intuitive features and workflows, so users can now use the app without having to recall training from months or years before.

What We Did

Collaborative Product Discovery, Desktop Development, Gamification, Visual Design, UX Design, User Research, User Testing, Story & Road Mapping

Tech Stack

C#, WPF, TestComplete, NUnit, ComponentOne


Our client used an Excel-based tool to look for cost savings opportunities in its materials, manufacturing, and distribution chains. The tool was created in-house and after years of use, had grown considerably in size and complexity. It had become so complex that it was a struggle for our client to achieve widespread adoption. Less than 10% of people trained continued to use the tool after the initial 3-day training. Recognizing that they were missing out on potential savings in the hundreds of millions, our client engaged SEP to reimagine the tool.


We started our engagement with a multi-day Discovery workshop to frame the opportunity and begin to dive deep into the future of the tool. At the end of the workshop, it was clear that we needed to build a more accessible, intuitive tool, but there were several ways to do it. The solution space was less certain, so we decided a Lean Startup-based approach would provide the best outcome for our client. The Discovery workshop resulted in a prioritized list of risks and unknowns to tackle with prototypes.

Early prototypes were validated and iterated on with users and internal stakeholders. We were able to quickly reject bad ideas and amplify good ones based on this early feedback. With a design in hand, we were able to focus on a target persona and initial features for an MVP. We worked with our client to create the backlog and begin design and development of the new desktop application. To ensure we were building the right thing, we broke the first release up into smaller, minor releases, getting user feedback along the way. These releases served as validation points to course-correct as the software came to life. Discovery is never truly finished. After the core application was in place, we focused our efforts on increasing user adoption.

We held a workshop to apply the concepts of Gamification to our client’s product. For years, the video game industry has focused on consumer engagement techniques. SEP has pioneered the application of these techniques at enterprise-level with our clients. After a one-day workshop session, we compiled the ideas from the workshop into a series of recommendations that were worked into the product backlog and roadmap.


Together we created the first version of the desktop application that is much more usable than the large, complex Excel file it replaced. With each release, more people are able to use the relevant features that create immediate value for our client. These iterative releases also allow users quicker access to the tool rather than waiting for one large release.

Since the app incorporates intuitive features and workflows, users can accurately use the app the moment they need it, rather than rely on training they received months or years before they needed it. This saves our client time and lowers the barrier for use. We will continue to work with our client to add new features to the application.

Our client’s long-term vision is to perform cost analysis using the app on every product they produce. We’re helping them get there in a focused and profitable manner.

Recent Case Studies

Replacing an Excel Solution with Custom Software

Replacing an Excel Solution with Custom Software to Wow Clients and Financial Advisors

We helped Valeo replace a time-consuming Excel solution with custom investment reporting software for their advisors.
View Case Study
vet examining small puppy

Implementing Enterprise DevOps Solutions

We helped our client reimagine enterprise DevOps by creating standardized development environments that reduced setup time from 30 days to 30 minutes.
View Case Study
corporate meeting in large board room

Driving Successful Project Outcomes with Dual-Track Agile

We implemented dual-track agile on this 401(k) enrollment module project, improving the application development process and user experience.
View Case Study

Let’s develop something special.

Reach out today to talk about how we can work together to shake up your industry.