Exponential-e, a UK-based managed IT service provider, came to us with an interesting challenge. They wanted their operational teams to be able to make use of several business applications in parallel without having to switch between interfaces. This would save them substantial time and resource in their day-to-day work.
They also wished to be able to make information from the same operational tools accessible to the sales and finance teams. Giving other teams direct access to the operational tools would have incurred significant extra cost in the form of SaaS software licence fees.
Consistency and familiarity are key to creating a good user interface and too often business applications neglect these areas. We wanted to create a great user experience and so a significant portion of our efforts focussed on creating a common design language. The user-centred design approach we use means the design language and user experience would quickly become familiar across the business.We required a front-end framework that was:
The sales and finance teams were also given access via a simplified version of the same user interface without incurring any extra licence fees. The user interface was tailored to show only the specific information required by each team, and ultimately tailored to individual job roles.
The entire system was built to be accessible on desktop and mobile, significantly enhancing workforce mobility.
As always, JDLT were keen to understand the problem in depth and as the project was all about multiple users, we began by speaking to them and gathering their requirements.
End-users were also fully involved in the UI sign-off process. They were also able to test the UX and use the Client Hub to feed back directly to the developers. We were then able to quickly tweak the design to fit their process.
Since the initial implementation, the same user interface has been applied over several other internal and cloud-based systems, tailored for the differing uses of employees, customers, partners and suppliers.This solution encourages Exponential-e’s various users to adopt and make full use of their systems with limited training overhead. Familiarity with the interface tends user interactions with the system to be rapid and accurate. Andthe value to customers of a simple, intuitive and consistent user interface may be hard to overstate, as most of the world’s best-known technology brands have taught us.
The success of this project has been reflected in further engagements between Exponential-e and JDLT, including development of entirely bespoke software around some of their core business functions.
JDLT were able to use the APIs of various operational systems to present collated information, in real time, via a single unified user interface. Where API’s weren’t available - as in the case of some legacy systems - we were able to create an API layer over the top of the pre-existing databases which we could then interface with in the same way.
One of the biggest challenges came in maintaining the internal security controls within each system whilst giving users of the new user interface appropriate access rights.
A bespoke identity and access management layer was developed to sit across the top of all other systems. This layer interacts not only with the individual systems’ security layer but also enables consistent single sign-on, multifactor authentication and secure API-based access for 3rd parties
The architecture built by JDLT relies upon a network of serverless microservices and a GraphQL -based API layer. The API layer governs data flow between all internal systems and the central user interface.
One of the fundamental principles used by JDLT was that of keeping each microservice discrete and stateless. Each system maintains its own data and copies of that data should not be held anywhere else. This has several advantages:
Once these integrations had been completed and the new user interface built, it quickly became apparent that the principle of a single user interface across multiple internal systems was one that could be applied to many other areas of the business. A side-effect of the API-first approach is that we can, with very little extra work present a similar API to partners and suppliers allowing them to easily interface with Exponential-e’s operational systems where appropriate.get started