Developing a strategic partnership
Identity and strategic applications
Strategic partner for HouseMark, developing Identity and web solutions.
Excellent experience working with Rock Solid Knowledge, I have complete faith in them delivering.
Arturo Dell, Director of Technology and Innovation
Founded in 1999, HouseMark is a company providing services to the housing sector.
They provide products that allow housing organisations to benchmark themselves against others in the sector and so helps them to drive performance and best practice internally.
Arturo Dell is HouseMark’s Director of Technology and Innovation. He joined the company in 2015, having previously been the Head of Business Intelligence at the London Borough of Camden.
At the time he joined, the company’s platform was showing its age and he set out, as his first priority, to bring the HouseMark infrastructure and applications up-to-date with current practice.
A new identity system
As a B2B services provider, companies (rather than individuals) sign up for HouseMark products.
Each company has a number of users who use HouseMark’s systems. However, the existing identity system was based on Domino and was very much siloed in its own world.
It did not use modern protocols such as OAuth2 and OpenIdConnect. Because the way identity is handled in an organisation is fundamental to a lot of other processing, updating the identity system was at the top of the list of changes HouseMark wanted to make.
HouseMark’s plans meant any identity solution needed to be able to handle in excess of 200,000 users.
It was key, therefore, that not only should the system be able to scale but also not get prohibitively expensive as more users were added. Arturo started to look at various options.
I came across a YouTube video of Dominick Baier, one of the creators of IdentityServer, talking about this powerful open source tool. He kindly accepted our call.
IdentityServer ticked the boxes in terms of modern open standard support and cost implications. However, how to verify it could handle the workload?
Dominick then referred us to Rock Solid Knowledge stating that they would be the best fit to implementing what we needed. We had concerns that the product wouldn’t be Enterprise grade because it was Open Source. So, we decided to run a risk assessment by partnering with Rock Solid Knowledge to federate with Microsoft SharePoint. This was a huge success and was an excellent experience for both parties. It provided me with the trust needed to replace the old existing identity Infrastructure.
Having proven that IdentityServer was up to the job, HouseMark and Rock Solid Knowledge then implemented a complete replacement of the old Domino system and, due to the flexibility of IdentityServer, the way Domino modelled identity was able to be broadly replicated to ensure there was not a huge cascading change required when the switch was pulled to move to the new system. From start to finish the project took under three months and was the starting point of an ongoing relationship.
Smart data entry
Now with the identity side of things resolved, it was time to look at the core business of HouseMark: data entry and reporting.
Housing organisations enter data about their own operations, at varying levels of detail, based on performance indicators and costs. This data is then aggregated and the organisation can see how their performance and costs compare to other organisations in their region or sector.
This not only helps them understand what they are doing well in comparison to their peers but also where they have room for improvement. They can see which organisations excel in places they want to improve and this helps drive the overall performance of the housing sector. The performance and cost data entered by organisations can be complex and so HouseMark wanted to provide as much guidance as possible, that evolved, as organisations entered the data. They wanted to improve the user’s experience by spotting potential data entry issues automatically.
In addition, by providing calculations and wizards, they could help ensure the users could enter the data as efficiently as possible. On the basis of the success of the identity project, Arturo again approached Rock Solid Knowledge to help them build this sophisticated web application. This project was delivered in phases as certain parts of the data entry have to be done at specific times of the year. For example, some data is entered quarterly while other aspects are entered at year end. By phasing the project, Rock Solid Knowledge ensured that the right functionality was available in time for each round of data entry. The new data entry was christened Nexus and has proven very popular with HouseMark’s customers.
Now the users had a new data entry system, it was time to look at the system used to produce the benchmarking reports.
The existing system, while comprehensive, did not provide much control for users and there were a number for usability challenges.
Working with ourselves and a UX specialist, HouseMark designed a streamlined reporting site that gave user’s control over the format and content of their dashboards and allowed them to define custom reports.
Once again, we ensured the delivery was phased so that the most commonly used functionality was available early and less used functionality delivered in subsequent releases.
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