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Building A Secure Cloud-Based Platform On Microsoft Azure To Create A New Customer Portal

Ellis Whittam: A Case Study

Ellis Whittam engaged cloudThing to build a secure cloud-based platform on Azure to create a new customer portal with modernised and integrated legacy applications working in this new environment. 

Who are Ellis Whittam?

Ellis Whittam give real-time, specialised turnkey solutions that work exceptionally well, within the fields of health and safety, human resources and employment advice.

 

Established since 2004, Ellis Whittam operate out of an eco-friendly head office situated in a green, leafy suburb of Chester in the North West of England.  

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At Ellis Whittam we believe that, by having a dedicated qualified adviser who truly understands your business, we can give you the highest quality service.

That means personal, pragmatic and practical support for a fair price, with no hidden costs or nasty surprises

Pete Jones, Chief Technology Officer - Ellis Whittam 

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A big part of Ellis Whittam’s ethos is using technology to bring their customers closer to their experts.

They understand that building a close professional relationship with clients really helps them provide great service.

One way that they achieve this, is through their online portal.

Customers can access advice from their experts and access various tools to check compliance and upskill their staffs knowledge on various subjects.

When Ellis Whittam first started talking to cloudThing they did have an existing portal but they were spending a lot of time maintaining it.

Trying to get new services to integrate with it was a challenge and they were aware that they wanted to make the most of the integration, scalability and security features available with Microsoft Azure

 

Ellis Whittam got in contact after hearing about our work with our other clients, making it clear they were looking for someone who could really move quickly (and efficiently) whilst integrating into their already skilled team, becoming an extension of their current resources.

cloudThing spoke with them about what they were looking for and it was clear our organisations shared a lot of values around how we like to do business. We like to be honest, transparent and hold everybody to account, and so do Ellis Whittam.  

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I was really impressed by how cloudThing conducted themselves while we were looking at the project together. The quotes were well documented, well thought out and reasonably priced.

They weren’t the cheapest or the most expensive but everything they costed made sense and they were happy to talk through anything in more detail. Once I got speaking to the technical guys there like Fran and Piyush it was clear that they really knew their stuff and they were used to designing architecture for complicated cloud-based software projects.

Pete Jones, Chief Technology Officer- Ellis Whittam 

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What Needed To Change?

Ellis Whittam had been enjoying continuous growth in terms of customers and workload over several years. Although an excellent problem for the professional services company to have, it did create challenges for their IT team.

 

They knew they needed to provide scalable services from several suppliers and applications to their clients, all accessible in one place.

A fresh approach was needed to enable the organisation to keep up with the growing demand for third party professional services and empower end users to self-serve through a bespoke, beautifully designed customer portal. 

 

Ellis Whittam wanted to ensure they invested in a long-term solution which would integrate with any new services in the future, as well as ensure robust security was part of the design, to ensure clients could be confident accessing the service.  

Discovery Process

As part of the Discovery Process Ellis Whittam mentioned that they were keen to upskill their existing staff by having them work with cloudThing’s Developers, as well as our Business and Solution Architects to ensure everyone gained a good understanding of the new technology being implemented.

cloudThing work to an agile scrum-based methodology, meaning staff from Ellis Whittam were welcome to join any call they felt was relevant to them, even if it wasn’t their area of the project.

As a result of this co-sourced approach, cloudThing were able to help Ellis Whittam with the day-to-day management of the service thanks to our DevOps team.

The flexible way we work also meant that Ellis Whittam could turn ‘on and off’ the external Dev resource when they required any changes, meaning they had the peace of mind of a huge Dev resource ready to go, that they only paid for when it was required.  

The Solution Process

On the face of it, it may have seemed as though Ellis Whittam just wanted to upgrade from their existing system and whilst cloudThing did perform the upgrade, a much bigger part of the solution was a complete re-think for their entire platform.

This was done as the organisation was rapidly growing and a solution was needed that would be scalable and easily integrated whilst also being able to offer new third-party services to their customers, building for the future rather than for just current problems.

 

This needed to be done in a way that was cost effective, intuitive and functioning across multiple devices.

That’s why the decision was made that Microsoft Azure was the best choice to host the new software.

Azure’s Enterprise grade security and user-based access meant it integrated nicely with the technology that most businesses are used to using.

This software enabled Ellis Whittam to simplify their costs into one Azure subscription and worked seamlessly with other parts of the Microsoft ecosystem (such as Office 365) for better document storage.

This also offers great user-based access security for customers, suppliers and more, thanks to Azure Active Directory.   

 

Our Design and Dev-Ops teams then worked with Ellis Whittam to re-imagine and re-design user journeys and make sure that any type of user would find it simple to get what they need on any device.

By developing this directly on Azure it allowed for flexibility in hosting many different services within the portal whilst also enabled the testing of them all individually and quickly to make real time adjustments that resulted in the best possible version for Ellis Whittam.

 

Services like completing documents online or managing an employees’ absence became much more secure and could be scaled up or down depending on demand, thanks to being connected into just one cloud service.

This ability to scale up or down also meant more cost efficiency as they were only paying for what was used/needed in the cloud.   

 

The new portal was designed in line with cloudThings ‘Build Future’ ethos as a hub for an ever-growing host of services, including a legacy CRM system which was migrated to Azure, as well as various software-as-a-service offerings.

We also made sure Ellis Whittam had the ability to access new services as they become available through Azure, meaning that their client offering  could continue to evolve and become more value for years to come.  

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The integration benefits are really clear. Not only does it mean we can react to market trends, and quickly offer new services that will benefit our customers, it also means that we can save a lot of money when procuring new services. When we have integrated a new software into the portal, it’s worked out significantly cheaper than a standard installation because we already have the capability to provide it to our users through the cloud

Pete Jones, Chief Technology Officer- Ellis Whittam  

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More about the Ellis Whittam Project

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