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2008: Decision Year for RIAs - October 20-22, 2008 San Jose


New AJAX and RIA-Based System with Visual WebGui Rolled Out in UK
"Using the WebGui approach meant that in spite of our small team we could quickly create an industry leading solution in house"

Overview
Craegmoor Healthcare was founded in 1995 and has since grown substantially over the years. The organization boasts a national coverage of over 250 care homes, supported living units, independent hospitals, day care centers and further education colleges across England, Wales and Scotland and is the UK’s largest independent provider of care and support to adults with a range of specialist needs. These include learning disabilities, mental health problems, physical disabilities, dementia and nursing care for older people.

Craegmoor Healthcare currently employs 6,500 members of staff who are trained professionals, dedicated to enabling service users to recognize and develop the skills needed to live fuller and more independent lives. Craegmoor works closely with local authorities, Primary Care Trusts and NHS Trusts and therefore is committed to building partnerships focused on constant service improvements which meet the needs of individual people and which are in line with regulatory requirements and best practice.

The organization is an appointee for many of its service users and has a legal responsibility to keep accurate records and provide users with the facility to view statements. A client monies team was dedicated to perform this function, so an in house application using MS Access front end was developed. This application was showing its age and was also constrained to head office use. Since there is still no commercially available tool that enables the team to manage the accounts robustly, it was decided to enhance the existing tool.

Business Needs
Since Craegmoor operates residential homes throughout the UK, it was clear that a web based solution was needed so access can be granted to the different users across the UK via standard web browsers. Many of Craegmoor staff are also home based and need access to key applications.  However, any web based solution that would be chosen for that purpose would clearly have to be secure.

In addition, future growth and simplified processes were two key drivers in implementing a new technological solution. The distributed nature of Craegmoor's business means that web based solutions offer the greatest flexibility, whereas traditional head office based systems result in a much additional work as the data coming from the homes has to be sent to head office for processing.

Other key requirements were to build upon the intuitive user experience of the existing system. The plan was to replace the existing solution with a more flexible system that would give much faster data access times, allow full integration with Reporting Services and at the same time, should be web based and secure. It was also important that the development team would be able to quickly rebuild and enhance the existing MS Access solution.

The Solution
Craegmoor has a small IT team dedicated to supporting its IT infrastructure, so producing robust and secure web based applications was believed to be a challenge. The team considered bringing in external consultants, but this idea was rejected because it was not viewed as a cost effective measure and one that would carry much greater associated risks than an in house approach.

Therefore, the team needed a solution that would allow them to concentrate on meeting the business needs. The team found that Visual WebGui provided the ideal platform and would allow to convert the existing MS Access based client monies system. "Using the WebGui approach meant that in spite of our small team we could quickly create an industry leading solution in house according to the requirements which resulted in significant cost savings," said Team Leader Ewan Walker

Replicating the out of the box functionality that MS Access provides was initially challenging and required a degree of lateral thinking. However, with Visual WebGui simplicity and flexibility, the team was able to build in to the solution links to the organization's reporting services based management information system, thereby creating a one stop shop for users.

"WebGui provides a flexible toolset that can be easily extended; hence it was relatively easy to convert the existing MS Access client monies application to a professional web based one that was robust, secure and easy to use.  In fact we learnt C# at the same time!" Ewan Walker.

Benefits
Using the Visual WebGui technology to enhance the existing desktop MS Access based tool, provided the new solution with access through a standard Web browser which requires no plug-ins or other client-side software, virtually eliminating installation and IT support time. The improved application speed and response has resulted in an end user satisfaction and an overall improved process management which increased client and customer confidence as the full integration with legacy applications removed the need for reconciliation between systems and work in line with agreed business practice.

Visual WebGui allowed the Craegmoor IT team to create an industry leading solution in house quicker and more cost-efficiently than with any other solution. The in house development not only saved the IT team development expenses but also means that maintenance should cost less and the response to any changes in legislation can be very quick.

The Visual WebGui based solution provides all those business benefits in a secure, interactive, user driven environment.

Screen shots

About Marissa Levy
Marissa is a technology writer based in Jerusalem, Israel covering the local software, wireless, and start-up markets. Prior to her coverage of Israeli hi-tech, Marissa worked as a reporter in several English language news outlets. Her writing has been featured in prominent publications such as USA TODAY, FOXNews.com, and the Jerusalem Post. She holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. She can be reached at marissa@ncsm.co.il.

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