Case StudyWeb Portal

OneView - A customer portal for a managed IT service provider (MSP)

OneView screenshot - Service desk reporting

The challenge

Exponential-e are a UK-based IT . They came to us during a major digital transformation 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 wanted to make information from the same operational tools accessible to the sales and finance teams. Giving other teams direct access to existing operational tools would have incurred significant costs in the form of SaaS software licence fees.

The solution

The solution involved creating an online portal accessible by multiple internal teams, their customers and their partners.

Consistency and familiarity are key to creating a great user experience. Too often business applications neglect these areas. A significant portion of our efforts were thus focused on creating a common design language. The user-centred design approach we use means the user interface and experience will quickly become familiar across the business.

We required a front-end framework that was:

  • Flexible to allow us the freedom to create a tailored experience
  • Consistent to quickly become familiar and intuitive to users
  • Simple to allow updates and changes to be swiftly applied
  • Responsive to be easily optimised for both desktop and mobile devices

The sales and finance teams were also given access via a simplified version of the same user interface without incurring any extra licence fees. We tailored the user interface to show only the specific information required by each team. Ultimately, it was tailored to individual job roles.

We built the entire system to be accessible on desktop and mobile, significantly enhancing workforce mobility.

OneView screenshot - Microsoft CSP dashboard
Microsoft CSP dashboard

The process

As always, the JDLT project team strategy was to gain as deep an understanding of the problem as possible. As the project was all about multiple users, we began by speaking to them and gathering their requirements. Spending time speaking listening to and working directly with end-users often gives great insight into the limitations of existing platforms, processes and workflows.

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.

The value

Since the initial implementation, the same user interface has been applied over several other internal and cloud-based systems. It's been 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. As the world's best-known technology brands have taught us, the value of a simple, intuitive and consistent user interface is hard to overstate.

The success of this project has been reflected in further engagements between Exponential-e and JDLT. This includes development of bespoke software around some of their core business functions.

OneView screenshot - Channel partner sales portal
Channel partner sales portal

The technology

JDLT were able to use the APIs of various operational systems to gather and collate information. This was presented in real-time, via a single unified user interface. Where API's weren't available - as in the case of some legacy systems - we created API layers over the top of pre-existing databases. We could then interface with them in the same consistent way.

One of the biggest challenges came in maintaining the internal security controls within each system. This had to be done 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 with the individual systems' security layer. Crucially, it 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 shouldn't be held anywhere else. This has several advantages:

  • Data presented in the user interface is live
  • There are no data silos to be kept in sync and no conflicting data stores

Once these integrations were complete and the new user interface built, it 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 great benefit of the API-first approach JDLT take is that we can, with very little extra work present a similar API to partners and suppliers. This allows them to easily interface with Exponential-e's operational systems where appropriate.

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