BC Transit's ultimate job is to connect its customers with communities — large and small — throughout the province. Its responsive website streamlines the trip-planning process for the public, providing valuable information for the 50 million customers who travel annually in 130 communities. BC Transit wanted to improve its behind-the-scenes communications network for its staff and partners.
Following the launch of BCTransit.com, BC Transit wanted to expand on its newfound website functionality by updating the way that they collaborated and communicated with their many partners across the province. BC Transit’s existing systems were largely informational and static. They didn’t function well on devices such as smartphones and tablets, and there were challenges keeping content updated while serving two distinct audiences, which sometimes had overlapping information needs. Most of their document sharing happened over e-mail and many versions of documents ended up in a shared drive that just kept growing.
BC Transit required an easy-to-use online environment where its internal staff could collaborate and communicate seamlessly with one another. It also needed a secure space online where partners, such as contracted bus transit providers across B.C. or transit system operators developing budgets and policies, could access information in real-time. Essentially, BC Transit needed an information hub that could satisfy the needs of both audiences. The project goals were as follows:
Expand on the success of BC Transit’s responsive website by building an intranet and extranet using the same Oracle WebCenter platform that powers BCTransit.com.
Provide a team of content authors with the technical functionality to manage documents online and share assets across both sites to prevent version issues and reduce duplication of work when posting content.
Enable staff to manage multiple projects simultaneously and work collaboratively and share information securely.
Update the branding and functionality on the internal sites to align with BC Transit’s new website.
Since we had overhauled BC Transit’s website, we were able to leverage the existing templates we had built on the Oracle Sites platform. This let us deliver the project in a much shorter time frame, which was critical, since BC Transit wanted to quickly phase out some of the “workaround” sites it had been maintaining. Our key objectives were to streamline the content-sharing process and introduce a powerful but easy-to-use collaboration environment, using Oracle WebCenter Portal and Oracle WebCenter Content as their tool of choice.
Although we mainly worked with BC Transit’s core communications and web teams, during the initial discovery we spoke to people throughout the organization. It was the best way for us to truly understand how the various teams and their stakeholders interacted. This information immediately helped us start to shape the communications “hub” that BC Transit needed to satisfy its two key audiences. Since BC Transit is a large and complex organization with many moving parts, we recognized that even a small change could set off a chain reaction. From a technical and content perspective aspect, the site hadn’t really been touched since 1998, resulting in a lot of ad-hoc tools and processes, out of date content, and user experience issues. Our two teams were careful about taking thoughtful, deliberate steps rather than making sweeping changes that might create new challenges that were beyond the scope of the project. We also discovered some opportunities. Roughly 50 per cent of the documents staff created needed to be shared both internally and externally, which spurred an innovative solution to improve content-sharing. It quickly became apparent that it was essential to formalize web governance processes. We started by building better infrastructure and creating collaboration spaces so staff could better manage all documents.
The work we had done for BC Transit’s public site laid the groundwork for the design of the intranet and extranet. The new sites’ home pages were derived from the public site; we used templates we had designed as the launching point, and made modifications to the original CSS. Changes were deliberately restrained, since we wanted to maintain consistency with the menu structure and user experience patterns that people navigating the public site had become familiar with. But the sites still needed to be distinctive, since they served different purposes and different audiences in some cases. To that end, we created some new modules for the homepage and we extended BC Transit’s branding by opting for lighter variations on the colour tones used on its public site.
BC Transit had reams of content, but it needed a strategy that governed how information should flow, whether one-way communication that’s informational or two-way communication that requires collaboration by multiple parties. For instance, BC Transit has content authors who manage information on a “wiki,” so they needed to be able to create and edit content, while other staff only required the ability to read or download content, such as weekly newsletters or payroll information. Since about half of the documents staff created needed to be shared both internally and externally, without the issue of having duplicate assets or versions, we had to devise a solution to enable BC Transit to upload content once but make it accessible to people accessing two separate sites.
Building on the Oracle platform, we implemented Oracle WebCenter Portal, a powerful collaboration tool that allows BC Transit to manage multiple projects at any given time. This much-needed content-sharing solution helps facilitate discussion, provides version control for documents, and enables staff to set up user groups (permissions can be set to limit access to a small section of people within the organization, but across internal teams as well) and spaces where information can be hosted about specific projects.
We had to get creative in determining how to check the credentials of users in BC Transit’s active directory, leveraging Oracle Access Manager to map users to more than one group. Building security around content isn’t unusual, but determining the complexity of security required for an intranet can get very granular. So rather than start building a solution right away, we worked very closely with the BC Transit team to make sure the requirements-gathering process was exhaustive to pin down their needs and requirements.
Another challenge involved creating customized search functionality, which is typically driven by the technology and the user experience. For example, we needed to be able to query a database for multiple pieces of information using Oracle Sites. This involved creating a new asset type called route pages to give the end user the search functionality required.
We provided BC Transit with two sites that are tailored to their specific audiences, while delivering tools that allow staff to share and collaborate on content. Using a robust platform such as Oracle Sites enables BC Transit to expand on functionality in the long-term as it continues its multiphase project.
Developed a powerful collaboration tool, so staff can create specific projects and user groups for sharing documents, while restricting access as required
Eliminated duplication of content and assets on the intranet and extranet, reducing staff work and limiting versioning issues
Streamlined communication and collaboration both internally and externally from a web governance perspective
Leveraged existing templates to speed up development process and maintain continuity across the internet, intranet and extranet
Extended BC Transit’s brand to the new sites, while keeping UX patterns consistent across all sites
Built a user-authentication process to enhance security among sites
BC Transit now has a robust intranet and extranet that provides valuable information to its staff and partners, with the ability to expand as it moves on to the next steps in its five-year digital roadmap.
What’s up next
We’ re thrilled to have helped BC Transit take the next step in expanding its communications “hub” with an intranet and extranet. With this foundation in place, BC Transit has the tools it needs to start replacing some of its manual processes, such as filling in spreadsheets, and instead use databases it can incorporate into its Oracle JD Edwards enterprise resource planning system. It’s been an engaging and rewarding partnership, and we look forward to working with BC Transit again.