Polymath Labs Introduces Integrated Portal Development™
February 12, 2021
Polymath Labs Integrated Portal Development™ connected NYBC disparate systems and automated business-critical workflows. The organization saved time, money and reduced risk, with less data loss and increased workflow auditing.
NYBC needed to transform key workflows, eliminate disparate systems and simplify reporting silos.
NYBC went through a period of rapid growth during which it acquired a number of other blood centers, and over time, the org had to address the inefficiency of managing legacy technology from their acquisitions and data systems that didn’t speak to each other. The integration was inherently difficult, as these systems were developed in silos at different times, each with its own data implementation leveraging disparate products and platforms. As a result, NYBC business stakeholders were forced to login into different sites to access data and consolidate it through manual data entry!
NYBC’s Enterprise Data Analytics Initiative was launched to improve and standardize how business stakeholders accessed business-critical data. In an effort to provide an integrated cross-business unit solution, NYBC developed an internal proof-of-concept web application, which was an instant hit. At that point, it became clear to NYBC that it was time to bring in an expert development partner to build a production-ready and scalable application. This partner was Polymath Labs.
The absence of an integrated solution handicapped the organization’s ability to improve and automate its workflows. There were business-critical workflows being managed in Excel through manual data entry, with high risk of both data loss and versioning errors when files were emailed back and forth. Business stakeholders requested improved workflow functionalities, including the ability to:
Assign or reassign work tasks
Monitor and report on task progress
Automate task approval or rejection and make it traceable and auditable
Integrating its workflows with an industry-regulated system, would have rendered the project unrealistic due to the associated cost, time (in years) and compliance hurdles.
NYBC has five (5) different divisions that align to the different blood centers it acquired over the years, each having its own data governance methodology. Alignment is critical; it’s problematic when a “donation” means one thing to Division X and something very different to Division Y. NYBC needed an integrated portal to enable a data governance program that introduced standardized and repeatable processes with a data dictionary eliminating confusion about what certain data types mean.
Leveraging our Integrated Portal Development™ (IPD) approach, we developed a web portal, which consisted of integrated but loosely coupled business unit modules, all leveraging a shared identity, as depicted in the abstract diagram below:
We developed an integrated web portal with standardized User Experience (UX) across all business unit functions. Where the data was originally scattered across different systems, each with its own login, the new web portal offered cross-organizational data access, with a single login. The new portal login integrated with the organization's Active Directory compliant Single Sign-On (SSO) solution, not requiring the users create another identity, in addition to allowing the web portal to have access to the user's organizational hierarchical data for a more standardized security model.
Workflow transformation represented one of the portal’s greatest business outcomes and achievements. Prior to the integrated portal, data and associated business functions were managed manually in Excel and over email, which was problematic because of limited visibility into how a function was carried out (and by whom). This meant critical steps like approvals or a rejections weren’t neither automated nor audited. The portal allowed data to flow seamlessly from one module to the next, introducing end-to-end workflows for the first time. This included advanced workflows like approvals, which were especially impactful to the organization’s business operations.
Data security was a top priority to NYBC, so we developed a simple, yet flexible authorization model wherein permissions were assigned automatically based on the user’s role in the organization. Upon being granted a corporate login account, employees had access to a standard set of permissions within the portal and were granted additional permissions via portal administration as needed. In addition to group permissions, we also developed the ability to define data level permissions, providing the ultimate flexibility to restrict portal functions and data access based on a dynamic set of rules.
Our Integrated Portal Development™ (IPD) allows us to help orgs rapidly build microservice-based solutions with independently developed and deployed business modules, all integrated into a standard portal. For NYBC, the portal’s modular architecture allowed us to develop one module at a time, and now permits NYBC to develop and maintain such modules in parallel by different teams with little required coordination.
We also developed several widgets allowing the portal to integrate with a Microsoft PowerBI server, rendering interactive data analytics dashboards. Integrating the dashboards directly on the portal allowed any business stakeholder to retrieve permission-driven analytics and reports without knowledge or understanding of PowerBI. Leveraging our Microsoft Partnership, we identified and implemented a specialized license solution, instead of a per-dashboard-user license required when accessing PowerBI directly.
Addressing the data governance needs, we developed an IPD™ Portal module that offered a well documented, vetted and approved data dictionary to all users, and the capability to manage the same data dictionary through a sophisticated group approval workflow for NYBC's data governance team.
A single corporate identity across all business functions means one secure login for users and a single source of truth for IT. Adding new NYBC users to the portal when they join NYBC, or revoking access when they depart, is now implicitly part of the standard IT process. Identity management procedures (e.g. forgot password, email changes, etc.) now adhere to unified IT processes and policies.
A consistent user experience now reduces the need for additional training, thus reducing mobility costs. As employees switch roles or receive additional responsibilities within the organization, the User Experience (UX) remains familiar across any and all additional portal functions they gain access to, thus reducing transition friction and the need for additional training.
Prior to the portal, generating certain reports would take up to 3-6 months. Stakeholders would have to login to various systems to collect, export, and import data across systems before beginning analysis. Precious time was wasted emailing data files back and forth among report collaborators. The reliance on manual data entry and transfer invited risks of data inaccuracy, corruption, or loss. The portal reduced reporting time from months to hours by unifying access to the data warehouse, and improved data trust through auditable and traceable permission-driven workflows.
Before, access to analytics (PowerBI) was limited to a handful of employees due to licensing costs and the required expertise. By taking advantage of the simpler, less expensive licensing option, NYBC can now offer data analysis and interactive dashboards to any business stakeholder at no additional cost. Simplifying PowerBI's less user-friendly UX by abstracting it into standardized widgets reduced employee training significantly. Our work on the portal became the foundation of NYBC’s Enterprise Data Analytics Initiative.
The portal replaced manual error-prone processes in Excel with fully auditable workflows. Nothing could be sent to a customer without proper approval. The addition of an audit trail allowed NYBC stakeholders to spend more time creating value instead of managing cumbersome, scattered processes. Today, the portal remains core to NYBC's success, navigating the complexity of their business with flexibility across current and future use cases and acquisitions.
NYBC VP and CIO Michele Scaggiante describes our app development expertise, “We sought the help of Polymath Labs in developing a custom Portal to complement our Enterprise Data Analytics initiative. Polymath Labs delivered complex modules across business domains, collaborated with our internal IT teams, implemented Agile and DevOps processes - all with a lean budget.”
If you’re a leader interested in Integrated Portal Development™, please contact us so we can customize an approach for your org.