How we built and launched 5 sites in 10 weeks
Unit4 is a company in a hurry. When you run ERP applications with a focus on the human talent in professional services, education, public services, and not-for-profit sectors AND achieve 24% YoY cloud bookings growth, you've got a lot going on.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, with a turnover in excess €400 million, it has subsidiaries and offices in 26 countries across Europe, North America, the Asia-Pacific region and Africa.
It has prospered by helping its customers focus on developing their human capital, and making smart acquisitions to build an innovative and comprehensive ERP cloud.
All this is backed by a super-smart marketing technology team itching to super-charge their backlog and deliver value to the business. An organisation with huge ambition, and a confident outlook.
Unit4 had launched their new group website only weeks before with a fresh new visual punch and messaging approach. But as a global organisation, with many web properties, how do you roll out the brand at speed, with consistency and empower your regional marketing teams to make the most of it?
It was essential to represent the brand consistently in every campaign, market, and communication - while covering a huge range of geographical and product web properties.
Our task was to take the great work that had already been carried out on the group site, and work out how to re-purpose it into a design system that partners could use to rebuild their own sites. We then trained and supported the marketing teams to populate and publish using their own messaging and audience approach.
Following on from that, Unit4 needed smart solutions for sharing features and best practice across their web estate, so that a consistent brand and user experience would cover every aspect of their public facing web presence. And all the while, we needed to be efficient with the management of support resources and limiting technical debt. So we would need to find a way to help the group site share the benefits and flexibility of the design system - without having a tonne of forked code-sets.
After undertaking a thorough audit of the new site, there were a number of design and technical challenges that needed to be taken into consideration:
- how to break down existing layouts into components that users could drag and drop into a page?
- what sections of the site should form content types?
- how to ensure the requirements of both the Global Team and the Partners were captured?
- how do we enable Unit4's own personnel to assemble and populate the partner sites?
- what level of site building do they have and what training might they require?
- how would we enable partners to manually add integrations like chat and Marketo forms wherever they required them?
- how would we deal with the varying languages and translations across the estate?
- how do we build once and use in many places without forking code and creating technical debt
- and, crucially, how would we ensure that the Primary Design System and partner sites were synchronized?
We captured the group and partner site requirements and, armed with this knowledge, sketched-out each and every component, content type and technical implementation to ensure the acceptance criteria was met. To ensure we were all aligned, we created a Design Specification, documenting the governance behind the design system and the options available to users within the CMS.
We centralised code in a single repository, and used deployment profiles to push the relevant code segments to the correct hosting environments. This allows us to build once, and use in many places.
On completion of the Primary Design System build, we 'road tested' this on a pilot build of one of the partner sites, Time & Expense.
This brought many benefits, including:
- an opportunity to capture any additional requirements ourselves and the partners might have missed during the specification phase
- hardening of the design system before rolling it out to the masses
- provide us with a better understanding of potential issues and therefore plan training sessions for Unit4 partners.
While building out the multi-site solution we were able to support Unit4's own technical teams with the optimisation of their new group site AND start the ball rolling rolling on their careers and community sites.
After the successful launch of Time & Expense, we rolled the Design System out to the remaining partners along with group training sessions on using the design specification and the CMS. We followed this up with one to one partner sessions to assist with any specific training or support they needed. This helped to rapidly solve issues as they arose, a necessity given the short timelines.
We work as a single team with U4's technical and marketing teams, helping them get the most out of their technology investment.
Following on from this, we have evolved the Design System further to rebuild the Unit4.com group website, the Careers website and also their Community website.