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Rapid application development using Azure services

by Stuart Robertson : Innovate : Government Agency

The Problem

European Union member countries must notify the European Commission under certain circumstances during the normal course of government. One of the IT systems provided by the EU to do this will become unavailable to the UK in the event of a hard Brexit.

The Solution

Under the direction of a major government department a project team was formed consisting of consultants from a third party who carried out a discovery phase and Deltascheme consultants to build an initial minimal viable proposition (MVP) followed by GDS review and development of the final solution.

The MVP quickly established an appropriate platform for the solution being an Azure document database (Cosmos DB), Azure functions and SharePoint online to act as a portal. Other approaches that were discounted during this phase included using Microsoft Dynamics (too inflexible and insufficient functionality) and SharePoint lists with a forms package (insufficient scalability given the 2000 plus fields of the application).

The choice of Azure Cosmos proved to be very useful at the early stages for agile development. It removed the need to build a database schema thus producing a significant effort reduction shortening the overall project timeline. The users are presented with a form built using SharePoint Framework Extensions with WebParts. The technology layer is ASP.Net MVC web application framework.

Users are typically competition lawyers and their experience is carefully managed with appropriate interfaces for the creator, recipient, case site, examination decision authority and granting authority. The workflow must support detail such as supplementary questions and case routing. Furthermore, there is a public transparency search function which supports Freedom of Information requests through to notifying award results. Annual reporting of the activity of the granting authority is also supported.

The outcome is the solution has been completed within the tight timescales and is ready for use as and when the UK leaves the EU.