Het Waterlaboratorium

Info Support and EF2 Develop Modern Customer Portal for Het Waterlaboratorium

Het Waterlaboratorium (The Water Laboratory) is the hub of many a water research project. Drinking water companies, hospitals and sports facilities regularly place analysis orders with the lab. The organization processes these through the customer portal. This portal has been redesigned and secured. Het Waterlaboratorium called in Info Support and EF2 to do this.

Het Waterlaboratorium

Challenge

Modernization of the customer portal while maintaining existing data sets.

Target Audience

The water chain.

Result

A future-proof portal, tuned for optimal user experience and integrated with all existing data.

Modern customer portal with the latest security methods

Het Waterlaboratorium had been using an in-house developed customer portal for many years. From a strategic point of view, the need arose to redesign this portal. Simplifying the structure, switching to modern technology and security methods, and a professional design were important wishes. Van der Horst: “Very simply put, we took the first step ourselves, but lacked the knowledge internally to take the next steps. Info Support and EF2 then helped us and now we have a great product that we can move forward with.”

Internal ICT knowledge

In the first steps toward the new customer portal, the preference was still to rebuild an existing product with new technology. “That preference was the result of insufficient internal ICT knowledge. In early 2020, we then took another critical look together to see if we could simplify things. We also figured out whether we really needed to redesign all existing functionality,” Van der Horst says. The experience of Info Support also came in handy in determining what would help Het Waterlaboratorium further.

We wanted to realize a future-proof customer portal for Het Waterlaboratorium that is easy to maintain. Together we looked at what was needed to achieve this. They have the knowledge of the market and processes and we of the technology.
Rick Knijff, Software Developer at Info Support

More reporting capabilities

Van der Horst explains how Het Waterlaboratorium worked before the modernization. “In the old portal, each user worked with their own menu composition. The system behind it was set up almost on an individual level, projects could be viewed per person. This made it difficult internally to know what data customers could see. Therefore, a “simulate user” solution had been created for the employees. With this tool, they could choose a customer account and view reports based on that.”

In addition to the basic information visible to customers, Het Water now has more reporting capabilities. With Microsoft report services, it allows its own employees to select projects by company and select one of them. “In fact, we control more in the reporting tool than in the underlying system. Employees can filter by data sets and then create a report. With this, they create one report and not 20 or 30 at a time. This saves a lot of time and makes the work a lot more enjoyable.”

The necessary brainwork

The final product as it stands today was preceded by much thought and discussion. “We wanted to work according to the latest methods and standards anyway. A business analyst supported us in mapping out and recording the process. Info Support then started redesigning the portal based on that description. Simplifying a process is not very easy. After all, you look for reasons why something is the way it is and add opinions and experiences. Bringing structure to that is a challenge.”

Rolling out modern architecture

Knijff: “A modern proven infrastructure has been put in place, from the front-end to the back-end. Thanks to the choice for CQRS architecture, a good separation has been made in the software. If an update takes place but something does not go as planned, it is not necessary to adjust everything afterwards thanks to this separation. You thus reduce the impact of an update. There is a single page application that is modern and easy to upgrade. In addition, it is now possible to monitor the behavior of the application. In case of any problems with the application, this allows immediate action to be taken.”

Transferring the knowledge and experience of Het Waterlaboratorium employees to Info Support’s software developers was successful thanks to fortnightly sprints. “With that, we quickly got what we wanted to convey on track,” he says. The results of the changes include the rollout of a DevOps way of working, with OTAP lane. Knijff: “Thanks to OTAP street, we are able to test changes properly in an environment similar to the production environment before we roll out the application. We then know for sure that it works. In addition, the development and deployment process we have set up ensures that the deployment of the application is automated. With this, we minimize the chance of errors.”

Major professionalization effort

The difference between the old and the new way of working, according to Van der Horst, is mainly that there has been a major professionalization effort. “In addition, the design now matches that of the website. It looks like a whole and very professional. Security is also good.” The latter is not a luxury, according to Knijff. “In the area of security there was really still a battle to be fought. After an extensive scan we advised to put more emphasis on this.” Among other things, an identity provider was put in place for logging in. Access to the development environment is now secure.”

Behind the scenes, simplified management enables Het Waterlaboratorium to better serve customers and customer groups. “We can put an employee in his own company’s security group and thereby specify what this person is or is not allowed to see. Setting up a new account is also easier. Whereas before we had to set up separate rights groups for different functionalities, now we can easily attach these rights to a company. You simply retrieve a customer account, link it to a company and assign permissions.”

Modernization lays foundation for future projects

Van der Horst expects the new customer portal to lead to one or two more derivative projects. “Some preliminary work will precede this, but there are certainly efficiency opportunities up for grabs,” she states. “I can imagine that in the future we will let customers book orders without the intervention of our advisors. Before that happens, we need to map out this process and figure out which requests we do and don’t want clients to do entirely themselves. Now our advisors sit in between, for example to determine which analyses we can and cannot do. Sometimes several assignments fall together, and again it’s the advisors who keep track of that. But having clients enter a simple assignment completely and without intervention from our experts is something I can see happening in the future.”