Technologies: .net WebServices | iGoogle Gadget | DOTNETNUKE | Google Maps
As part of the service suite offering of most transportation providers load tracking may sound like a strange thing to be absent from our organization, but for a number of years our business model did not really demand this sort of access, and as such it had never evolved. In recent years the ever changing demands of our business partners have driven us to adopt new technologies and push the envelope of what is possible within our TMS system (TMW).
When we set out to design our load tracking interface we began with the end in mind. The end goal was a standard set of APIs that could be called from anywhere in the world to provide standardized access into load status. We landed on using .net webservices as the API that would provide the underlying business logic and data access. By adopting a webservice framework we are able to deploy different access methods to provide a variety of interface designs and integration points in the future.
The second time around we decided to write a gadget interface for the iGoogle project. iGoogle allows users to define small "chunks" of the web they want presented on their Google home page. It is an innovative way to provide back end system access to our business partners without the complexity of a web presence that this tool needs to fit into. While this access model proved to be much more successful and had a much higer adoption rate by our business partners it was still not the end solution we needed to solidify our offering in this area.
The third pass was included in a major web presence overhaul project. In this project our aging website was being replaced with the open source CMS project DOTNETNUKE. The implementation of DNN gave us access to a wide range of commercially avaliable modules that allowed us to rapidly deploy reporting and full application suites in a fraction of the time previously required. As part of this migration we authored a module (a set of .net user controls) that would feed from our existing webservices and provide a more robust searching interface with more conventional access methods (on our website).
Customer satisfaction with our interface typically comes from the simpicity of its design. In our solution the partner needs only to know their control piece of information. When our partners search our site they use numbers and information that is of relevance to them in their systems. We are managing the access rights to prevent Customer A from seeing Customer B loads so there is no chance of overlap and the user acceptance factor is very high because all that they need to know is what they are looking for.
In the end, both the journey to the end solution as well as the solution itself are things I am proud to have been a part of authoring. For more information and demonstrations of these project check out the video links at the top of this page.