Officrèche is a combined nursery and office-space company based in Brighton. They provide a flexible solution to child care for working parents.
We were approached by Officrèche to build an online booking and management system. The key requirements of the system were
- Database of members, children and staff
- Ability to book crèche and office space
- Ability to take payment for subscriptions and bookings
- Ability to earn time by childcare work
- Ability to ‘check in’ for both bookings and childcare
- Well defined rules controlling booking availability and ensuring legal / safety compliance
- Ability for managers to manage staff shifts/timetables
Beyond the basic requirements to ensure children, staff or space could not be double booked or booked when the location was closed it was essential that the system was compliant with government childcare regulation. This included such things as adequate space in each room for each child; sufficient staff for the number of children; maximum length of nursery stay. In addition there were a number of supporting requirements, for example: a simple user interface; report generation; workflow subscription payments.
Based on the sophisticated requirements, particularly the staff to children ratios and space rules, we recommended the development of a system using our core technology stack of ASP.NET MVC C# and SQL Server. To ensure the maximum amount of resources could be focused on developing the project specific pieces of functionality, we leveraged various frameworks including NHibernate and jQuery to reduce the amount of boiler-plate development required.
Being a self-funded start-up business, the client was understandably keen to reduce any risks associated with the project, to start using key functions as early as possible and to drive down costs wherever possible. We discussed with the client the idea of following Agile practices for their project, particularly with regard to iterative and incremental development. Primarily, this would mean frequent releases of the system and early and continuous feedback. This would reduce risk of delay or overspend by ensuring the client was always fully aware of the current state of development; key features could be delivered for use in production very early on the project; and would help to highlight functionality of limited or negligible business importance thus reducing costs. By implementing this methodology we successfully delivered on all these aims as well as on time and to budget.
The system is now central to the Officrèche operation, and they have often reported that the business would not exist without the software. The system has automated a number of menial and complicated tasks and users are able to complete all booking and payment tasks online which has allowed the staff to concentrate on providing an Ofsted rated outstanding service which has been key to the success of the business.
The user experience of the admin section has been modified since the initial solution was delivered. The Agile approach to development allowed us to quickly deliver small changes based on feedback from staff at Officrèche with minimal risk. There were several iterations of change, both in terms of layout and functionality, which significantly improved the user experience. Junior staff that were initially reluctant to use the admin system are now happy to use it to support day to day tasks freeing up senior staff to concentrate on growing the business as a whole.
The website and booking system has been highly commended in the Nursery World awards Website of the Year category for the last two years.