Learning Products and Technology

NHS

At Parallax, we endeavour to make elegant, valuable, and useful products. We also care deeply about the National Health Service and the unparalleled value it brings to society. So we’re extremely proud of our long-standing association with the NHS, spanning five years across several major projects and web-based products. This case study covers a sample of our work over this period.

Starting with user research

User research is at the centre of our design process. We believe that you need a deep understanding of the users of a product to design the right solutions to their problems. In 2018, a major project being undertaken by Health Education England was to combine many of their existing learning products into a single unified product called Learning Solution.

As it could potentially affect the entire 750,000-strong workforce, we needed to understand the problems that these employees at all levels were facing. To do this we carried out a qualitative user research programme, helping us learn how NHS and social care employees carried out their learning, both on the job and outside of it.

This took the form of calls, focus groups and interviews across the country, asking key questions to form insights that would drive the product strategy. This research was the start of a major product roadmap that is still being worked on today.

The original NHSx product

Our first project for the NHS started in 2015 when we started working on the NHSx project alongside STAC. This wasn’t the NHSx as you may know it now (they commandeered the name) but instead an e-learning platform for NHS leaders to replace an outdated existing system.

One of the challenges we were tasked with solving was a migration from WordPress-based auth to a service running on Ruby on Rails. During the early part of the project, we saw that Jamis Buck (the author of the SQLite drivers for Ruby, and Capistrano) was leaving 37Signals/Basecamp, so we hired him to work on the SugarCRM integration.

The project wasn’t without its challenges, however. We moved everyone over to NHSx in short order, with many eLearning systems still currently using plugins we wrote for authentication against NHSx.

Another project included functionality to categorise learning content and make it filterable in the interface. This project was then moved over from Heroku to their own AWS infrastructure, which led to us working with the NHS on DevOps projects.

Working with Parallax is always a positive experience that pushes us forwards and develops our own capability. Parallax are experts in their field and always work hard to fully understand our objectives and develop solutions alongside us whilst developing our own staff too. This means we are always keen to work with Parallax but never become dependent on them. The team are friendly, dedicated and happy to step up in times of need.

- Chris Witham - Digital Delivery Lead at NHS Leadership Academy

Cutting the hosting costs in half

We have since provided the NHS with internal tooling to accelerate the development and deployment of websites, apps and other software.

This has encompassed tooling, training for a team of 10 engineers and ongoing support on WordPress, Laravel applications, security, Kubernetes, Amazon Web Services and APM tools to monitor performance and identify issues before they become problems.

As part of this process, we also managed to optimise spend with cloud providers, right-sizing where appropriate and migrating where it made financial sense, achieving cost-savings in excess of £50k/year.