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Online purchasing system

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Background

devspiration collaborated with NEXUS COGNITIVE to develop a customized online purchasing public platform for a US-based local purchasing cooperative. The end-client wanted to simplify the services procurement for public entities while keeping the process transparent and compliant. Plus, the platform had to be scalable so that the client could easily update their solution.

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ClientNEXUS COGNITIVE
VerticalE-commerce
Buyer personaPublic educational institutions
GEOUSA
Technology.NET, .NET Core, ASP.NET Core, C#, EF Core, Razor Pages, PingOne SSO, Vue.js, BootstrapVue, Azure Cognitive Search, Microsoft Azure
Services provided for the clientApplication Development, Testing, Architecture, User Experience Design

Goals and challenges

Public organizations have to follow a procurement cycle to find product and service suppliers. The traditional process is lengthy, involves a lot of paperwork, and doesn’t guarantee the lowest pricing.

The goal was to simplify the process with an extensive online marketplace. Our solution must help organizations find the right supplier for equipment, supplies, and various services (like repairs or maintenance) at the most favorable terms.

The client had envisioned an ideal web application that would help organizations:

  • Find the best suppliers based on their needs
  • Automate requests for quotes (RFQs)
  • Buy selected products or services in volume
  • Create requests to multiple suppliers for term negotiations

On top of that, the platform had to have a scalable infrastructure that could handle large amounts of data.

Solution

We selected Agile SCRUM methodology to jump-start the development and maintain a close feedback loop with the client’s teams. That also helped ensure that the web application followed the desired business logic.

It was decided to go with the Microsoft Azure platform for its scalable cloud architecture, load balancing tools, and autoscaling of computing resources. The back-end team chose the Microsoft .NET development platform with the ASP.NET framework, EF Core data access tools, and Razor Pages model. The Vue.js and BootstrapVue component libraries were picked for the front end.

Some more details.

Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search

The search engine was critical for the platform, so we implemented Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search to ensure an accurate search experience. This technology allows users to find relevant products, services, or vendors with full-text and phrase searches (and even with grammatical errors).

User-role permissions

Each user category (organizations, suppliers, and system administrators) got a separate interface and design to make the app more intuitive. More importantly, we restricted access to the system to authorized users, making it more secure.

Microsoft Power BI

The Microsoft Power BI helped us make a customizable reporting tool with numerous metrics (such as product fees, commissions, and others) and immersive dashboards. Later on, we allowed system administrators to view web pages for different user categories to help them provide technical support.

System optimization

We also found additional ways to modernize the system along the way, namely:

  • Refactored most of the functionality on the web app’s search functionality, making it much faster
  • Identified and resolved time-out issues the database queries
  • Built and designed a new system for RFQ management
  • Added extra filters for RFQ searches and enhanced its performance

Our team went the extra mile to modernize the system beyond the initial plan. We even created demo versions to showcase features that can benefit the platform. This convinced the stakeholders to let us add things that would have otherwise been skipped.

Results

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We designed the database structure, implemented an advanced search engine platform, optimized SQL queries, built back-end controllers, and worked with front-end components. Moreover, our team handled all technical aspects and consulted with the client only about the business logic implementation.

The result is a high-performance and scalable web application platform that lives up to expectations. Plus, we made it easy to update its features and implement new services via APIs.

The purchasing portal allows organizations to discover qualified suppliers for the optimal price, save time otherwise spent on needless bureaucracy, and comply with local regulations. The platform currently connects over 7,800 entities, including government bodies, educational organizations, and nonprofit agencies, and spans across 16 sponsoring states.

Tech Stack
  • .NET
  • .NET Core
  • C#
  • Vue.js
  • BootstrapVue
  • Microsoft Azure