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Paid Family and Medical Leave for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss

Last Call Media joined the Commonwealth’s Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) to implement new technology for assuring the stability of PFML claims intake and administration in time for launch of the New Year’s Day deadline.  

Last Call’s focus was to facilitate communication, quality control, and confidence among the teams—establishing an “End to End” vision of the applicant journey that crossed multiple layers of technology. Last Call Media was one of several teams that came together with DFML to achieve the ultimate goal of the project: to create a system that made applying for and managing PFML claims as easy as possible and to achieve a required careful orchestration between the teams working on the discrete components.

Earlier in the year, Last Call Media worked with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance on a project in which we implemented automated testing and other automation processes. Word of the successful outcomes traveled through departments. When it came time to enhance the DFML’s program with DevOps automation, they contacted LCM.

What the DFML had was a team of teams each optimized to their own workflows and working on individual pieces of one greater product. The component-based team model increases efficiency as the larger technical foundations of a product are built, yet the integrations between those components can become a blind spot needing special consideration: integration testing was a known need in the project strategy. Last Call Media was brought on to be the integration testing team, and we knew from experience that concentrating testing of all functionality to a separate group, and as a final “phase” all work must pass through, leads to surprise issues arising too late in the life of the project. This was important as the timeline was one of the most important factors of this project: constituents needed to be able to apply for PFML benefits on January 1, 2021, no matter what.

As we began to work with the existing teams, we saw exactly what we could bring to the table: a strong strategy, clear approach, and defined process for integrating all work across every team, and systematically testing that work, as early in the development process as possible, so that fully tested product releases could be done with confidence and ease.

There were four main aspects of this project that needed to be considered in order to achieve success:

  • The claimant portal, built using React, where constituents would be able to submit PFML claims and receive updates about the status of those claims,
  • The claim call center, where customer service representatives would take calls from claimants and enter their claim information into the claimant portal,
  • The claims processing system, the tool in which customer service representatives can process PFML claims via a task queue (and which is fed information from the portal, call center, and other third-party tools), and
  • The API that would bring all of these parts together to work seamlessly.

Then, of course, there’s the testing. LCM began our work by establishing three types of tests that all project work would need to pass in order to be considered complete:

  • End-to-End (E2E) testing: automated continuous verification of the functionality and integration of all 4 systems.
  • Load and Stress testing: verifying the E2E functionality and integration under substantial strain to see what the system can sustain, where it breaks, what breaks it, etc.
  • Business Simulation testing: verifying if the people behind the scenes who will be doing this work on a daily basis can effectively perform said work with the systems and functionality that have been put into place, and whether this work can be performed when there is a substantial amount of it.

As we worked to set up the proper tests for the product, we found many opportunities to gain alignment across all of the development teams with our overall testing philosophy: it should be a part of each team’s workflow instead of a final phase removed from the team(s) performing the work. We helped coach each team on delivering value incrementally, and their eventual ownership of where the E2E testing suite impacts their work. LCM brought testing to the program and enabled the teams to absorb it as their own.

I have been impressed with you and team from day 1.

Matthew Kristen, Executive Program Manager, State of Massachusetts

Last Call Media came to the PFML project not just to establish automated testing, but to ask timely, hard questions about how the program was managing dependencies, how the sequencing of each team’s deliverables was planned, and how completed work was being demonstrated; when something wasn’t previously considered or prioritized, LCM made sure to find out why. Through the understanding that our experience in DevOps and application readiness affords us, we sought to shine a light into the cracks of the program, making it possible to deliver, with certainty, a functional and effective product to the constituents of Massachusetts.

Last Call Media takes an immense amount of pride in the difficult work all of the teams performed, and their willingness to embrace the testing processes we implemented within their workflows. With the successful launch of the PFML program, LCM is happy to see further proof of the strength of enabling teams to own 100% of their work.

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Consortium Assault Services app.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss

In response to growing concerns and attention around Sexual Harassment and Assault Nationwide, Amherst College needed a tool to serve students of the Five Colleges with rapid access to Title IX office information and emergency services.

LCM and Amherst College worked together with student advocates, Title IX, LGBTQ, and other campus offices and organizations to design and develop an iOS App that puts valuable information, from a Drupal site Amherst can administer, into the hands of students. The major feature of the app was to direct assault survivors to emergency contact information, help services, and other advocacy groups, anonymously and quickly.

The app was announced to all incoming and returning students during new school year orientation. Information about the app has been circulated through the Five Colleges on promotional materials and “get help” brochures and posters.

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Healthy U Portal app.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss
  • Art Director
    Colin Panetta

Cooley-Dickinson Hospital offers an incentive-based healthy lifestyle program to their employees. As employees participate in exercise activities, healthier eating habits, and education classes to learn life-enhancing techniques, they gain points— which translate to greater discounts to their benefits contributions. CDH was tracking this participation program on paper and in Excel for over 1000 employees. Last Call was hired to transform the program into an interactive digital experience to increase participation and automate much of the workflow of managing the program.

We provided an easy-to-use interface to minimize the barrier of entry for users. Maximized by a Mobile First approach, we condensed how much information was presented to allow users to quickly access the main features of the program, which included entering exercise activity. While also accessible through desktop and laptop computers, the primary use case for the app was on the go, from a mobile device, for a user to track their progress. LCM went further, implementing QR Code functionality, allowing CDH to post flyers notifying staff of special activities. Scanning the QR Codes on those notices would transition the user’s experience to the relevant area of the app.

Things went really well with the program, it met all of our needs really well and the employees loved it.

Sam Blasiak, Cooley Dickinson Hospital

The program has been met with amazing reception both from administration, and employee participation. The program is being further expanded and developed to be modular and rapidly deployed at partner healthcare facility partners.

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Forklift to Drupal 7 in 8 weeks

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • Agile/Scrum
  • Continuous Delivery
  • XP
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Tom Fleming

Leveraging a small multidisciplinary production team and agile methodologies, LCM migrated SUNY Potsdam from their self-hosted legacy CommonSpot CMS to Drupal 7 on Acquia in just 8 weeks.

The small team at the SUNY Potsdam Office of Public Affairs had been managing the proprietary CommonSpot CMS since its implementation in 2008. It was inflexible and the team struggled with reliability issues, so SUNY Potsdam was looking for a more useable, stable, efficient, and scalable solution. They chose Drupal 7, Acquia, and Last Call Media.  

SUNY Potsdam partnered with Last Call Media and Acquia to migrate their site to Drupal 7. Leveraging the scrum methodology, LCM broke down and organized the major site features into a prioritized backlog, groomed for two-week iterations. While planning and backlog refinement was ongoing several times a week, the core development team at LCM met with Potsdam every other Friday to review work completed, provide training on the new CMS, and to facilitate the feedback-gathering process.

Since SUNY Potsdam had recently gone through a redesign, the project required the new site to maintain the existing look and feel. We began with an in-depth audit of all the different page types and page elements. Instead of doing this manually page by page, we first looked for a programmatic solution. Since CommonSpot did not provide a way to generate this information within the CMS, LCM used its HTML Crawler tool to programmatically crawl the existing production site and analyze the various HTML tags to determine page elements (such as slideshows, feeds, etc), including where and how often they appear. This provided tremendous visibility into the site’s underlying structure, which was critical in planning our approach to the migration to Drupal.

Potsdam Art Page

 

After reviewing this data with SUNY Potsdam, we began the process of consolidation– instead of building one-off page elements, we consolidated similar elements into single widgets that behaved differently based on where on the page it was placed. This helped reduce the vast number of options a content author has to choose from, making it easier for them to do what they need to do: focus on the content. To achieve the desired platform flexibility, LCM built a repository of flexible and adaptable widgets to allow the marketing team at Potsdam to build custom pages. 

The migration included several different page templates and tens of thousands of pieces of content, which required writing and testing a series of migration scripts to get all the content from one CMS to another without downtime or a lengthy content freeze. Since the CommonSpot installation did not have a concept of structured content, LCM used it’s HTML crawler tool again to programmatically identify page content and then map it to its new location in Drupal. Once the custom scripts were written and tested, the migration took only 15 minutes for tens of thousands of pieces of unique content and the associated metadata, such as date published, authoring information, and URL

Potsdam Events Page

 

The new site also pulls in events automatically from their event management system, SOGo, and tags the event to the relevant department or office in the CMS so that it appears on that organization’s page.  

Lastly, in order to make it as easy as possible for content authors to login to the site, we leveraged the identity management service at Potsdam, Active Directory, to allow users to use their domain credentials to authenticate with Drupal.

This project addressed several internal pain points with the SUNY Potsdam main website, allowing the marketing team to move from maintenance and support tasks to other organizational priorities. The site loads blazingly fast on Acquia, and Potsdam continues to work with LCM in an ongoing support relationship.   

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Rainforest Alliance's Global Impact Map.

Processes
  • Agile/Kanban
  • XP
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Tom Fleming

Rainforest Alliance needed an effective way to illustrate their global efforts to preserve one of the earth’s most valuable resources: the environment.

Most recently impressive is the mapping project that we unexpectedly threw on Rob and Tom’s lap, and which they handled quickly and expertly. 

Melissa Normann, Senior Manager, Web Strategy and Development

Knowing that a simple page with paragraphs wouldn’t suffice, we built a map that allows the Rainforest Alliance to display data from a specific region. The user can then zoom in on those regions or look at specific data points to learn more. The map takes a large spreadsheet of geodata, created based on information from the Rainforest Alliance’s CRM, and creates an interactive map powered by CartoDB that allows users to see RA-certified organizations, and what they do.

The project took less than a month to complete, using a combination of Kanban and XP management processes.

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The new RMA.edu.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Tom Fleming
  • Senior Development
    Tom Fleming

Randolph-Macon Academy desired a responsive digital experience that incorporated a consistent, compelling design focused on furthering the school’s mission, and that could easily be modified by appropriate staff with the proper permissions.

We were able to deliver modern visual stylings and multimedia capabilities that loaded quickly and performed optimally, while incorporating best practices for analytics, social media integration, and search engine optimization.

Three layered screens show the landing page and secondary pages of the Randolph-Macon Academy website.

In addition to informing prospective students and their families about the school, the site met the needs of other important stakeholders such as current parents, current students, alumni, faculty, and staff— each of whom had their own needs from the site. The site also housed faculty and staff human resource forms and information, serving as an intranet behind the scenes.

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Labor Rights Portal.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Rob Bayliss

Verité has an immense amount of data that has been collected over the last 30 years regarding labor worldwide. Internal efforts are ongoing to collect all of the hand-written and paper reports into a centralized database that can be queried and sorted. For the lay-person the data was still just numbers and figures. They needed a way to visualize the data for use by researchers, academics, and the general public.

We wanted to ensure the data was exciting to work with. Far too often, data is presented as merely tables and numbers. From the start we wanted to tell a story about the data, so together with Verité, LCM crafted a question-and-answer-based approach to displaying the data with creative charting and mapping elements built to place emphasis on the results of the data.

The site’s functionality continues to be expanded as data is collected with additional visualizations and database connectors to provide real-time data for global results. 

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National Census of Writing.

Processes
  • Agile/Scrum
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Jeff Landfried
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

In the midst of sorting massive amounts of data for the National Census of Writing, Jill Gladstein of the Swarthmore College English Department called on Last Call Media to create a usable web data explorer for use by the general public and qualified researchers alike. Survey data was collected from respondents from over 900 higher education institutions. Census questions gathered data about curricular, administrative, and support structures of writing programs in the United States from March 2013 to October 2014.

Census data is extremely important for the Higher Ed community, but the information is only as good as it is accessible. Working closely with the Swarthmore staff, LCM pinpointed what information was the most critical and sought after by administrators and researchers viewing the data. Graphs were designed to optimally visualize survey question responses and search functionality created to easily explore by survey question, institution type and related filters.

Tablet showing graphs from the National Census of Writing website.

The first iteration of the site launched in time for Swarthmore to unveil its functionality at the Council of Writing Program Administrators 2015 Conference to great praise. The site, in addition to the program’s work, has gone on to be featured in Inside Higher Ed being utilized by the general public, researchers and higher education institutions all over the country and is 508 compliant.

The Census is being utilized in ways we never expected.

Jill Gladstein, Swarthmore College English Department
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A Drupal 7 Multi-site Migration to Acquia

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Sean Eddings
  • Senior Architect
    Rob Bayliss
  • Senior Development
    Jeff Landfried

LCM had the deep level of expertise needed to assist USM with a complex migration to Acquia

In preparation for an upgrade from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7, USM was faced with the need to migrate four Drupal sites based on five codebases from an onsite installation to a hosted environment with Acquia. USM was seeking an experienced group of Drupal architects to work hand-in-hand with their iTech team to determine the necessary functional and configuration changes needed to accomplish the migration. USM had a particular interest in leveraging Acquia’s search capabilities.

The University reached out to Last Call Media to drive the high-level technical planning and heavy lifting of a migration to the Acquia Cloud. The University needed a team with platform migration experience to come in and bridge the gap between Acquia and the University’s internal iTech team to ensure that the launch went smoothly. 

Aside from our experience and planning skills, there were several mission critical pieces of the overall infrastructure that needed to be changed to fit within Acquia’s ecosystem. One of these was the site search. USM had previously used a combination of several open source tools to feed data from several different sources into the site’s search engine. While this solution worked well, it was being cut in favor of Acquia Search, powered by Apache Solr. The University brought us in to build a search platform that would be capable of indexing the content of all of the Drupal sites, and searching either independently (within each site’s own content silo), or across the board. Working closely with the iTech team, we planned and executed the search feature within the new infrastructure, including the configuration of environment specific search, so the University team could iterate and test the site search in the development and staging environments before rolling new features to production. 

The final piece of the puzzle was to bring the site’s performance and security up to Acquia’s standards. We worked hard to make the vast majority of the content cacheable by Acquia’s edge layer, and brought iTech and Acquia representatives together to find resolutions for all of the issues surfaced by Acquia’s Insight reporting. At the end of this process, we performed a successful load test across all 4 sites, effectively proving the sites were ready for launch.

As launch day grew closer, we began to focus on the final details. With iTech’s help, we formulated a simple and clear launch checklist that would keep everyone on the same page when it mattered the most. When the final cutover was finished, we had almost no post-launch issues to address.

The work was completed on a timeline that allowed USM to minimize risk by switching to the new site while the University was on break. USM achieved their goal of a smooth migration to Drupal 7 on the Acquia hosting platform with no down time. 

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Disrupting the storage industry.

Processes
  • Continuous Delivery
Team Leadership
  • Senior Producer
    Kelly Albrecht
  • Senior Architect
    Kelly Albrecht

All College Storage had an idea for a brand new online business. They wanted students from a university to be able to schedule the pickup, storage, and delivery of their dorm items over the summer. Items would be picked up at the students old dorm, then delivered to the new dorm at a requested date and time.

In addition to a full branding treatment, we developed a solution for students to reserve and configure when and where their items would be picked up and delivered.

An iPad point of sale interface was also developed for employees to process payment for each customer during pickup time as well as to manage all business workflow. All College Storage soon became the premier moving and storage solution for students in Western Mass.

The business was a success from day one, soon expanding from five colleges to eleven colleges and four prep schools, and it continues to succeed and expand.

Following this model, LCM assisted All College Inc. in replicating the successes with All College Storage to another startup for laundry service, called All College Laundry.