Introduction

ProposalsFactory was founded in 2012, with their base of operations in Kalmar, Sweden. They are a small company with a goal to transform eSourcing and eProcurement through the use of highly innovative - but easy-to-use - eSourcing software.

But instead of simply creating what they thought their customers needed, their approach has always been to build a relationship with their clients, understand their needs, and build a solution that addresses those needs. The ProposalsFactory solution allows procurement consultants to setup and run eSourcing events in four straightforward steps, replacing the traditional approach that relied on email and Excel spreadsheets.

ProposalsFactory is cloud-based, which eliminates the need for customers to install custom software, along with all the considerations that involves. Within minutes of registering an account with ProposalsFactory, new customers can begin streamlining their eSourcing process, making it more transparent, and leading to savings in two things critical to the success of any business: time and money.

ProposalsFactory software

Photo credit: ProposalsFactory

The Challenge

While the team were keen to drop the need for Excel spreadsheets, they realised early on in development that spreadsheets still offered the most natural and efficient way of presenting - and working with - large collections of data. Early testing involved running an eSourcing event which included hundreds of line items, and an analysis of the test event from launch to finalisation highlighted the problems that followed not incorporating spreadsheets. As noted earlier, it is a very efficient way of presenting large amounts of data in a way that supports both narrow and broad overviews. And then there is the familiarity offered by spreadsheets, with millions of people around the world already familiar with them, whether they are using Excel, or Google Sheets. This not only enhances the user experience, it also lowers any learning curve associated with using new software solutions.

But this realisation was not an easy one to accept. The team understood that implementing spreadsheet-like features could have a significant impact on both layout and performance, particularly when it came to scenarios involving thousands of data cells. They had to consider how they could fix rows and columns, keep everything synchronised, and have a layout that easily supported panning left, right, up, and down. Their goal was still to streamline the eSourcing process, not make it more complex.

Their initial response was to try building a custom solution, but after building a proof of concept with limited functionality, they had to concede that a custom solution was not workable, both in terms of time to develop, and in performance. Tight, almost impossible deadlines are the norm in all fields of the tech industry, and more so when your company is still small. Which means implementing somebody else's solution into your project is sometimes the best approach, even if the engineer inside of you is just getting excited at the prospect of the a new challenge. For ProposalsFactory, this meant looking at existing spreadsheet libraries they could integrate with their eSourcing solution. It isn't so much a shortcut as it is a way for you to continue to focus on the core product you first set out to build.

ProposalsFactory software

Photo credit: ProposalsFactory

The Solution

Whenever you integrate a 3rd-party solution with your own app or software, it should never have a negative impact on the development process, the performance, and the user experience.

The team researched many spreadsheet library solutions, before compiling a shortlist of potential solutions. These were all assessed based on feature set, documentation, user experience, performance, along with trust from - and involvement in - the development community.

Handsontable's rise to the top of their shortlist was swift. First through the extensive availability of high-quality demos on their website, which perfectly showcase capabilities, and then through the inclusion of a fresh and responsive user interface.

Data in true spreadsheet cells is not static, but is entered and changed by users. This is a standard feature in any spreadsheet library. However, what the team did find was that not all spreadsheet libraries support the entry of data of almost any length, including multiple lines of content in a single cell. This was a very important requirement for them, and with Handsontable able to support this, it easily became their preferred solution.

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One of the most valuable features of Handsontable is certainly an ability to handle large tables with hundreds of rows. The performance is one of the keys to the customer's satisfaction. Nobody likes to wait.

Once they started working with Handsontable, they discovered that integration with their web app was seamless. It worked with a minimal wrapper, and no need for any hacks or workarounds. Handsontable gave them:

  • a familiar, Excel-like UI,
  • data types that mapped perfectly to their built-in field types,
  • built-in cell editors for a variety of data types,
  • virtual scroll functionality, which allows users to scroll through large data sets without affecting user experience,
  • support for filters, making it easier to find and sort relevant data,
  • a rich and flexible API, and
  • a rich set of features that can be enable within minutes.
ProposalsFactory software

Photo credit: ProposalsFactory

Results and Plans for Future

Through the use of Handsontable, ProposalsFactory was able to provide their customers with flexible - and familiar - Excel-like tables that they are able to customise according their own needs. It also helped speed up development by allowing the team to focus on other aspects of the eSourcing solution, ensuring they were able to deliver a product that met their customers exact needs.

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If you are in need of a quick integration of an Excel-like table into your software without having to build it from scratch then Handsontable is the way to go.

Handsontable will continue to be an important part of ProposalsFactory, with support for formulas in tables being part of the team's future development roadmap. They continue to receive valuable feedback from their customers, including the implementation of Handsontable, which they also use to make continual, incremental improvements to their system.

Oleg Gumeniuk

Oleg Gumeniuk

Product Manager & Software Engineer
at ProposalsFactory