A new face for the bowels of big BT

I got back from holiday at the beginning of last week and, since then, I’ve been working for a meeting we had yesterday with some folks in HR Systems. We have, er, a certain dislike for the interface to our internal expenses system, so we’d decided to make a better one and show it to some friends in big BT.

Whilst the demo was very simple and contained only an idea of what the interface could look like, along with showing that we were able to create a new expense claim programatically, it was received enthusiastically. The development team there is involved in a related project and it felt like there was a lot of code we could share.

Really this meeting is a cover-up for the good-natured brainwashing that it is our responsibility to carry out: Creating “tear-off” interfaces for foreign systems, customisable and shareable by the people that use them, is a big goal for us. If we can remove responsibility for deciding how to use a system from the vendors that peddle these products and put it in the hands of the people who use them, this can teach us a lot about what people really want out of a system; and moreover, how this varies across different groups of people. (Enterprise wonks may recognise this as “requirements gathering”.) If this gives us a clue about how better to personalise products, big BT will be a very happy chap.

The methods we develop are applicable on the web. Web designers have long championed the separation of data structure and visual representation. As the idea that a web application has many more entry points than just the HTML website gains some traction (not to mention that your website is your API), letting your customers dictate their own interface into your site is a much more realistic proposition, since the unchangeable becomes the internal data structure instead of the external skin.

At the very least, when we save BT £1m of custom interface redesign work from A. N. Other big supplier, that ought to get us some cred.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 6, 2008 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    If you can fix that horrible system then you’ll get a lot of kudos. However, if you are looking at doing some benefits tracking or the like then we can have a chat. There’s a lot of time wasted on this, and that should equate to cost savings for pretty much every region.

  2. Posted September 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    That would be awesome James. I’ll get in touch next week.

  3. shaidorsai
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    better interfaces to Corporate systems; not like you’ll run out of work, then?