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Office 365 / Azure solution for property management

by Stuart Robertson : Move : Improve

Goodman

Goodman is a global integrated property group that owns, develops and manages real estate including warehouses, large scale logistics facilities, business parks and offices globally. Goodman also offers a range of investment property funds, giving investors access to specialist fund management services and commercial and industrial property assets.

The Problem

The problem facing Goodman’s UK Business Parks division was how to replace an in-house bespoke legacy system that was used to manage their legal documents and actions related to the properties they managed. This had a number of issues:

  • It was complex, and only a small number of its capabilities were being used
  • It was an obsolete technology
  • It had been heavily customised, and the people who had done this had since left.

Goodman’s objectives

  • To replace this with a more standard and up-to-date platform
  • Avoid requiring lots of new hardware to keep costs low (i.e. use a cloud-based solution)
  • The platform needed to be very reliable as the legal documents within it were critical to the business
  • To be able to share and collaborate on documents with other parties easily
  • To send email alerts to users based on metadata about a document.

Consequently, Goodman selected Office 365 as their preferred platform, and Deltascheme to help them in producing this solution and migrating existing documents into it.

The Solution

Goodman had quite specific needs regarding the metadata for their documents. Much of their data was hierarchical, so the use of SharePoint Managed Metadata taxonomies was necessary. This, combined with the volume of documents that would be stored in the system, necessitated the use of SharePoint Search. Index latency in search which can take a significant amount of time was also taken into account in the design of the solution.

The retrieval and presentation of documents to users was also a significant point for Goodman. A custom search interface was written in JavaScript for users which would return the results of a query in the structure that Goodman desired.
A diary of dates related to documents was implemented as a calendar list, including custom New and Edit forms which used SharePoint 2013’s Client Side Rendering.

Email alerts were also an essential part of the solution which needed to be sent when a document was updated but also in accordance with a diary. Both types of email alerts had complex rules regarding who should receive the alerts and it did not prove practical to implement these within SharePoint online itself. Instead, remote event receivers were used to communicate with a Windows Azure instance. Code deployed into the Windows Azure instance then implemented the business logic necessary, and emailed appropriate users.
Windows Azure was also used to implement the ‘timed alert’ functionality.

Benefits

The key benefits from implementing a SharePoint Online solution were:-

  • Reduce support costs. The need to maintain a legacy system that was becoming increasingly fragile.
  • Faster retrieval. There is a large number of documents in the system which was causing the old system to struggle. SharePoint online provides much faster retrieval of these documents.
  • Improved Search Experience. The standard SharePoint online search has been well received by the users of the system, but as well as standard search, the keyword enhancements provided by Deltascheme have proved to be very valuable.
  • Easier to use. SharePoint online has provided a much better user interface than the rather old-fashioned user interface in the legacy system.
  • Third party access. Third parties not on Goodman’s internal network can access the documents in a controlled manner.

"We were pleased to work with Deltascheme on this initiative—they had a professional, enthusiastic team who worked hard to understand our requirements and interpret them into a workable long term solution."

Sarah Lyne
Head of Project Services, UK & EU, Goodman Group