Citizen Developers in Government Agency Swiftly Modernize Legacy Apps Handling 1 Million Records

The end of mainstream support for SharePoint 2010 imposed a tight deadline on a UK government agency. It needed to move to the cloud quickly while redeveloping a suite of custom SharePoint applications that were end-of-life. This seemed like a tall order for its small team of citizen developers. But with OutSystems, the newly-formed low-code development team came up trumps. They escaped their SharePoint legacy and delivered improved functionality and accessibility to a suite of apps that help the agency improve efficiency and enhance casework quality.

Due to the agency’s non-endorsement rule, we cannot name the agency or individuals in this case study.

 

4 citizen developers

4 citizen developers

SharePoint 2010 migration

SharePoint 2010 migration

1 million records processed in first year

1 million records processed in first year

15,000 quality assessments—and counting

15,000 quality assessments—and counting

“With OutSystems, our team of citizen developers has been able to quickly modernize our applications, adding new functionality and accessibility that will enable everyone in the agency to work more efficiently and effectively."Senior Solutions Developer, UK Government Agency

Finding a Platform For Modernization

Challenge - Like many public sector organizations, this UK agency needed to take bold steps to keep pace with the demands of the digital age, but its legacy debt was holding it back.

So, as part of an ambitious IT modernization initiative, it decided to shift its systems to the cloud, including a move from on-premises SharePoint to Office 365. And that meant rebuilding the applications it had developed in-house.

A small in-house application development team had been using SharePoint extensions for app development, but the apps were starting to crumble under the weight of the data being fed into them.

“Not only did we have a two-year countdown to the end of support for SharePoint, but we also had to find a platform that could future-proof our apps.”

And not just any platform would do. The team in question was made up of people from across the agency—all of them new to development—so the chosen platform would need to suit people with little or no coding experience.

Low-code was the obvious choice for the agency, as they felt they had reached the limits of what they could do with their current tools and development skills.

“Of the many low-code vendors we considered, OutSystems offered the combination of usability, high-quality training, and professional support that would allow us to build quickly while adding to our development skills.”

New-Look Apps and New Capabilities

Solution - With no time to lose, the team got started fast. They had a long list of legacy apps to rebuild and needed to hit the ground running. So OutSystems provided a package of customer success services, including training, support, and architecture advice. The developers were also able to use the extensive on-line training that OutSystems provides for free.

“Within six months of having the platform, I’d built our first app on my own, including all the underlying infrastructure and integration with our authentication system.”

Another member of the fledgling low-code development team was working on a second app with the help of an OutSystems developer, who passed on lots of best practices and project knowhow that all of the development team now use.

The first app developed by the team helps the agency with its operational excellence and efficiency program. The app is used every day by 40% of the agency’s employees to capture and report on efficiency data, which managers then analyze to identify bottlenecks and best practices. Data entry is now simpler and faster in the new app, and whereas the old app lacked reporting capabilities, the new app has reporting built-in.

“Previously reporting was a monthly spreadsheet exercise. Now all the reporting we need is built into the app, giving our managers 24x7 real-time efficiency information.”

The second app built by the low-code development team also left behind the performance limitations of its predecessor. The app is essential to support the agency’s mission to deliver high-quality casework. The app helps the agency continually assess its 3,000 professionals on the quality of their work, including advice, case progression, presentation, and more.

The old app didn’t have the reporting and data visualization capabilities the agency needed. The new app delivers all the advanced data filtering and visualization that managers need to help them monitor and improve the consistency and quality of their work. The developer was able to build-in seven levels of role-based access for users across the agency. And the UI was significantly streamlined by reducing the number of screens from 25 to eight, making the app much easier to use. With OutSystems, the developer was able to achieve all of that in just 15 weeks.

More Capacity, More Accessibility, and More Skills

Results - In its first year of operation, the first app has processed around 1 million records, and 15,000 assessments have been completed on the second app, with no performance issues. Users are happy with the new apps, too—a survey after the second app rollout showed that 92% of users rated the app very highly.

Building apps in OutSystems has brought another crucial new capability: increased accessibility.

“With our previous development tools, we couldn’t do accessibility at all, but in OutSystems, we can ensure that all our apps meet very high accessibility standards. It’s been groundbreaking for us and for our colleagues who rely on accessible technology to do their jobs—now everyone at the agency can use technology in the same way.”

In two years, the new low-code team has launched nine apps, with another four in development, and they’ve been building their skills along the way.

“The support we get from OutSystems is invaluable. It ensures we don’t make mistakes, it helps us improve and add to our skills, and it gives us the confidence to do things we used to think were beyond us.”

Colleagues across the agency have been so impressed with the new apps that the new low-code development team has been inundated with requests. Having replaced their legacy SharePoint applications, the low-code development team is now focused on delivering new capabilities that colleagues are asking for, helping the agency to drive operational efficiency and enhance quality.

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