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Case Study

Security Watchdog: Candidate Application Portal Re-Creation

Design and development of a pre-employment background and security screening system that processes tens of thousands of candidates for thousands of medium to large enterprises. 

Who Are Capita Security Watchdog?

Established in 1998, Capita Security Watchdog (as they’re now known) were acquired by Capita PLC in 2012 and are now an industry leader of pre-employment screening and professional background checks.

Their aim is to provide their clients with the most accurate information possible around personal history screening and previous employment records.

Working in conjunction with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) they cater to the needs of more than 16,000 clients throughout England and Wales including Vodaphone, EasyJet and many other major companies.

Security Watchdog are also the industry leaders and subject matter experts in all areas of international pre-employment screening, background checks, criminality checks and risk consultancy.

Their candidate portal allows employers to collect all the information required for background checks for potential employees around previous employments, education, address history, convictions etc. in one place

Reasons For Change

Due to recent expansions, Security Watchdog’s existing IT systems were unable to support their current growth goals for increased staff, users and fulfilled requests.

However, being part of such a large organisation made it difficult to upgrade or improve their systems holistically or in one go.

This led to multiple features being added over time, causing some elements of the original candidate portal to become slow, unresponsive and no longer fit for use, with other features becoming ­­­­­siloed and inaccessible to many.  

As a result of all this, the business was experiencing lower levels of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction, with the skills of their experienced support team being spent fixing ongoing issues reactively, rather than working proactively towards strategic business and infrastructure improvements.  

It was clear Security Watchdog needed to invest in a new system which would quickly provide detailed and granular background checks in real time, to their customer base, with minimal effort from support staff. 

For this to happen in a speedy fashion they identified a need for a third party partner to help them rethink how best to use automation technology to achieve their goals, as they considered issues such as user access, automated reporting, self-service options, human resources and how to offer additional/generalised support for their line managers. 

Reworking the User Experience (UX) would be the key factor in achieving that goal.

The existing system had expanded to capacity and was serving diverse types of customer profiles, ranging from the casual user who just needed a simple background check of one candidate every few months, to analysts working with the system every day analysing multiple profiles.

However, the system was treating them all the same, with no profiling or offering of differing experiences, despite the hugely diverse needs of the disparate end users operating the system. 

The user interface was too complicated for the casual user but too simple for the power user and working within the confines of this old system meant that Security Watchdog’s candidate portal was quickly becoming outdated for their clients.

They needed to be sure that all their customers had a great experience, regardless of the level of technical ability.

The Discovery Phase

Security Watchdog’s Discovery phase, working with cloudThing, began in the spring of 2016 after they were referred to us by Microsoft as a project intervention partner to help them undertake a Dynamics CRM solution review and remediation.

They came to us with a list of pre-defined requirements which we used to help design their new candidate portal app.

It became clear at the start of the Discovery Phase that a wholescale rebuild of the entire system was going to be required to ensure that a truly satisfying experience could be given to every user. This involved an overhaul of both the UI (User Interface) and the entire back end; with our design team taking extra time to understand every type of user that might come into contact with the technology, creating detailed personas for each possibility. 

Once the new system had been scoped out and approved by Security Watchdog, cloudThing’s DevOps team took over management of the existing system and our designers set about the task of road-mapping it. 

The complexity in designing Security Watchdogs new system from the ground up lay in the fact that the UI (User Interface) needed to be completely dynamic based on the kind of information the employers might want to ask their candidates, with huge variation expected between clients.

That meant our designers needed to develop a system which would look good and be easy to use regardless of the information being displayed on screen. 

With that requirement in mind we held a joint brainstorming session with Security Watchdog to figure out how the application might/should look.

An Information Architecture diagram allowed us to design the eventual structure and present these ideas in a more concrete way to all the key stakeholders at Security Watchdog, which then went on to inform the wireframes we produced as part of the next steps. 

 During the Discovery Phase cloudThing’s designers always make sure that everybody using the product understands how the finished project will work, with all key stakeholders contributing to the overall design which, over the years, we’ve found massively aids in user adoption post launch.

The feedback on this project helped us make the UI (User Interface) more intuitive, with inline help texts and clear validation messages with visual cues.

After taking Security Watchdog through the completed wireframes and how they’d all fit together we next began developing the back-end system infrastructure for them. The fact that our developers are multi-disciplined meant we could build the different features/aspects of the overall solution at once, speeding up the time to a MVP (minimum viable product). 

Building The Candidate Application Portal

A common approach of cloudThing’s across all projects is to develop multiple features of the final solution at the same time but in isolation, only combining them at a later stage.

This AGILE method of working ensures that if there’s an issue with one feature it won’t ripple out into all other features.  

Think of it as multiple people completing a jigsaw at the same time, perhaps with someone focussing on the corners and edges whilst someone else simultaneously starts on the middle.

It’s an extremely efficient and cost-effective way of completing projects for clients in a short amount of time without having to sacrifice any standards.

Getting into the technical details slightly, the end solution we implemented for Security Watchdog is a cloud-based frontend software system with all their data being processed in Microsoft Azure that will provide them with the necessary flexibility to adapt to changing internal/external needs and ensure all their services are scalable for years to come.

Authorised users can now access the necessary files they need within a real-time environment and, in the event of an in-house system failure, all important data is backed up within the cloud environment.

This approach lowered the data storage costs at Security Watchdog by as much as 90%!  

The time we spent with them on the Discovery Phase, thoroughly speccing everything out from initial stages to wire frames to full designs, not only enabled us to reduce development costs by heading off problems before they ever arose, it also ensured we could understand the complex needs of employees and external customers alike.

Our collaborative and detailed approach has resulted in a much more intuitive and easier to use UI (User Interface) framework. Security Watchdog have said the new system is integral to their ongoing strategic business model and is now considered a business-critical application.

The Future Of Security Watchdog

cloudThing’s experienced DevOps team continue to work with Security Watchdog in supporting, monitoring, upskilling and enabling continuous Improvement for them.   

However, as part of the project we also implemented automation tooling and shared DevOps processes to allow Security Watchdog’s own teams to push live changes quickly, cheaply and reliably.  

The product is still being developed and likely will be for a long time as the new portal is built to easily allow continuous release of upgrades and new features.

This AGILE approach will help Security Watchdog attract and retain new clients with an excellent user experience as well as enable them to respond to changing market demands over time as and when they might occur.

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