For the last two years Box UK has played an instrumental role in supporting the digital transformation aspirations of Sodexo, a $24.7bn-turnover global provider of quality-of-life services.
The partnership began when Sodexo requested an independent review of their Employee Benefits platform. Highly experienced in assessing underperforming software at both a code and project level, Box UK conducted a detailed investigation covering a wide range of criteria, from development standards to stakeholder management and governance.
The investigation revealed that, in its existing state, the platform would not be able to deliver the levels of performance, stability and security Sodexo needs to effectively serve their customers. Furthermore, a lack of clarity around the project’s vision, priorities and ownership was hindering confidence in its future development.
Having presented these findings to the Sodexo board, Box UK was asked to take on management of the Employee Benefits platform, delivering a programme of bespoke development activity to support both immediate stabilisation and ongoing optimisation.
After overhauling the platform to address the issues and risks identified in the initial review, Box UK worked closely with Sodexo to define a prioritised roadmap for new feature and application development. To ensure all activity focused on delivering user and business value, new Agile working practices were also introduced into the client organisation, including the installation of a dedicated product owner role.
The upgraded employee benefits platform offers an engaging, secure and high-performance experience at scale, with Box UK having successfully supported Sodexo in moving their existing client base across to the new service – requiring the consolidation and migration of over 300 separate sites. The platform now supports thousands of clients and hundreds of thousands of end-users, and has maintained an impressive 99.9% uptime throughout – ensuring that users have ‘always-on’ access to the benefits on offer, thereby maximising the product’s revenue-generating capabilities.
Box UK continues to work with Sodexo on improvements to their digital ecosystem, including driving strategic enhancements to the Employee Benefits platform in line with the product roadmap, as well as undertaking the design, development and launch of a new bespoke mobile Discounts app.
"Box UK is a fantastic partner for our business... helping us not only in the definition and execution of our product roadmap but also providing proactive recommendations to challenges we face."
As a global provider of quality-of-life solutions, Sodexo delivers more than 100 services to 80 countries worldwide, including a number of services aimed at increasing engagement, satisfaction and wellbeing. Their employee discounts products are a central element of this offering, enabling organisations to provide their workforces with access to exclusive vouchers and other money-saving offers.
To maintain vital competitive advantage, Sodexo had begun work itself to replace these products with a new “Employee Benefits” platform. The vision for this platform was to offer a truly engaging employee experience, and so help Sodexo raise their offering over and above other providers in the space.
As development progressed however, it became clear to the client that the project was experiencing delays and performance issues, leading to a lack of confidence in the progress being made. There was a need, therefore, to engage an experienced bespoke development consultancy partner for an independent evaluation of current project status.
Box UK’s engagement began with a comprehensive code review. This enabled the team to understand the technical and architectural decisions underpinning the platform, and assess the quality of any development work delivered to date.
Automated static analysis was run on the codebase, the output of which was analysed by Box UK’s systems engineers to provide an overarching picture of code complexity and maintainability. The team additionally reviewed existing project documentation and conducted interviews with key personnel, uncovering vital contextual information to support them in their evaluation.
This holistic approach was supplemented by a project-level review, conducted by Box UK’s experienced business analysts. Examining elements such as the business case and vision, backlog management processes, team structure, and project governance, this enabled the team to make recommendations that would ensure the delivery of a platform that effectively meets the needs of Sodexo, its clients and its end-users, while also being of the highest technical quality.
The reviews highlighted a variety of significant issues affecting both code quality and project management processes. These included a lack of test coverage and coding standards, architecture not optimised for future scalability, and a poorly-defined project vision, all of which were hindering the effective development and delivery of the platform. Due to the volume and sensitivity of the data being handled, and with a number of potential vulnerabilities identified, security was another key concern.
Following the delivery of the review findings, the client asked Box UK to take on management of the Employee Benefits platform – having been impressed by the depth and breadth of the insight delivered, the clarity and honesty demonstrated in all communications, and Box UK’s track record of success in rescuing underperforming and legacy software projects.
Upon taking ownership of the platform Box UK worked to define the full scope of the work required. To help with this, they conducted a series of workshops with the Sodexo team to understand the business priorities and market context, and so identify the most appropriate way forward on the project.
Due to the mission-critical nature of the software, it was agreed that the Box UK team would build on the development work already in place, to maximise project momentum and increase the speed at which value could be delivered. This required an intense period of initial development to make the platform stable and robust enough to facilitate future feature work – an approach successfully employed by Box UK previously for clients including electronics giant, RS Components.
During this stabilisation phase, the Employee Benefits platform was gradually transitioned from an unsupported version of CakePHP to the latest version of Symfony – a modern, well-supported open source framework that facilitates rapid, cost-effective and high-quality development. As each component was migrated, the team also verified all business logic, as well as putting the necessary tests and development processes in place to ensure streamlined and confident delivery.
This phase of bespoke development also saw a great deal of work done to mitigate against the security risks identified in the code review. Here, Box UK took a proactive approach to effectively diagnosing and communicating additional risks as they were uncovered. This allowed urgent and high-priority issues to be addressed accordingly as part of the stabilisation backlog, to ensure the delivered platform was not only stable, but secure and trusted too.
"It was not a surprise to see the quality of the product also reflected in the source code. It was programmed with professionalism and with security in mind."
Having stabilised the platform to the point where it could effectively support existing users, attention turned to the new features that would ultimately help Sodexo realise their aim of ‘leapfrogging’ the competition. As a lack of strategic direction had been previously identified as a key barrier to progress, Box UK started this phase of work with a series of stakeholder workshops to gain consensus on the overarching vision for the project – ensuring that it sits at the heart of all development activity.
Box UK also recommended that Sodexo install a dedicated product owner on the project. Working closely and collaboratively with the product team to identify, define and assess features in line with the project vision, this product owner also helps support the creation and maintenance of a validated, prioritised backlog of work that serves as a long-term development roadmap.
Box UK took an Agile approach to development, with the team working in two-week sprints to deliver working, tested features and functionality. With stakeholders able to see value being delivered on a regular basis, this approach proved vital in restoring confidence across the business in the employee benefits platform, and securing senior buy-in to the project. Additionally, Agile’s focus on close collaboration, openness and transparency further supported project success by enabling areas of risk and uncertainty to be discussed and addressed at an early stage.
Throughout development, Box UK has coached the client team in these new ways of working and thinking, helping instil an Agile culture within the organisation from the inside-out to support their growing digital ecosystem. This has included the design, build and delivery of a brand-new mobile discounts app (delivered to extremely challenging timescales), as well as extensions and enhancements to the Employee Benefits platform.
With a stable foundation and robust development roadmap in place Sodexo could look to open the Employee Benefits platform up to its existing clients. This required Box UK’s Systems Engineering team to support the client in migrating over 300 legacy sites into the new application – including transitioning all infrastructure to create a single, consolidated, cloud-hosted platform.
In total, 340 existing clients serving almost 650,000 end-users were migrated across to the new platform over a 6-month period – joining the in excess of 250,000 users already using the service. The work done to stabilise and optimise performance proved crucial here, with the application maintaining 99.9% uptime in the face of this vastly increased usage.
As a result of the intensive bespoke development work undertaken by Box UK, Sodexo’s Employee Benefits product has been transformed into a stable, secure and reliable platform from which they can effectively serve their growing user base. By embracing Agile practices, the team has also been able to make its work more visible to – and deliver greater value across – the wider business, increasing confidence in the strategic direction of the product.
As a true development partner to Sodexo, Box UK continues to support the client as they develop their offering into an even more useful and engaging experience. This includes feature delivery across the digital ecosystem, as well as proactively driving improvements to both products and processes to safeguard long-term value and success.