technology from back to front

Project Daylight

If designing and delivering ‘Daylight’ has one major lesson, it is that medium size systems to support complex, long-term, inter-agency care can be built without astronomic budgets or years of consultancy, development and training overhead.

Freedom from Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) has been providing clinical services to survivors for more than 25 years. The Foundation conducts high profile campaigning to safeguard and extend torture survivors’ rights and legal protections and, since its inception, over 50,000 individuals have been referred for help.
It operates several facilities throughout the UK and relies on both a permanent staff and hundreds of volunteers to deliver its support services, long-term care and campaigning work. The organisational challenges involved in connecting dispersed teams, liaising with multiple government and legal agencies and tracking clients over many months, often years, requires significant administrative effort.

A development project was initiated at the beginning of 2011 to move on from largely paper-based systems. The Foundation wanted software that would form the cornerstone of the its day-to-day activities and enable timely, accurate and detailed reporting on the countries of origin of torture survivors that, in turn, would assist in emergency fundraising efforts and in focussing the organisation's campaign work.

Having failed to find an off-the-shelf Case Management system LShift was commissioned to design and develop a system that would use standard enterprise technologies to address these particular requirements. The key goal was to provide structured data to staff and the large number of external referral and partner sources: local health authorities, social services, educational institutions, law firms, UK's Border Agency, and for ongoing grant and funding award applications.

The Foundation had most familiarity with and wanted to use Microsoft technologies. Security and user authentication was already managed across the organisation using Microsoft’s Active Directory. The ‘Daylight’ applications would use Microsoft .Net and SQL Server technologies throughout. LShift went on to propose using Microsoft’s (then recently released) ASP.NET MVC 2 to build the applications for ‘Daylight’. MVC 2 is a quasi-open source framework, insofar as the source code is available for inspection, with the caveat that any modifications to MVC’s source cannot be redistributed to clients. The lack of official documentation of this new technology did pose some challenges, as did some unexpected areas of complexity that had to be worked around. Selenium and nUnit were employed for testing during development, backed up by a customised tool, written in C#, that managed database states.

Given that there were empowered decision makers on the client side with clearly prioritised requirements, the project was a great fit for LShift’s preferred agile project management method: DSDM.

LShift continues to work with the Foundation to add new features to the system.

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