Developing with Office 365 in Mind

There has been some significant press around Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 subscriptions and I have talked with local government’s IT staff who are planning to make the move in the near future.  Office 365 has obvious costs, deployment, and support benefits, but what does it offer from an integration stand-point?  Office 365 provides a few subtle advantages, from cross-domain document sharing to providing a secure offsite environment for hosting business applications.  Though on the surface neither of these are a unique advantage of Office 365 (other than being the brand name solution).

While there might be some ground-up considerations when developing with Office 365 in mind, the core technologies provided and APIs used with Office 365 remain constant from your Servers on the LAN to ones in the cloud.  Namely, the big three Office 365 Servers, SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync provide the same Web Service APIs and SDKs, so not much code should have to change from the technology integration side.  Arguably, the single most important benefit in leveraging Office 365 is the ability to secure access to these server technologies for a minimal cost.

One of the main restrictions of the Office 365 environment is that the solution is sandboxed.  As a developer working within a sandboxed SharePoint solution, a few things to keep in mind are :

  • access to the hard drive is restricted
  • assemblies need to be at least at partial trust
  • web service calls outside the site collection is restricted
  • be careful of over consuming server resources

Silverlight allows some flexibility with external web service calls, and LINQ and the client-side objects for SharePoint are still great tools for the developer.  And yes, Exchange Web Services (EWS) still provides access to user calendars and inboxes.  The Lync API allows integration with instant messaging, desktop sharing, and file transfers.  For the developer, there are some good resources for recipes and ideas, one of which is the Microsoft Office Developer Center.  For more information on our solution offerings, please visit our website or email us.

What advantages do you see in Microsoft Office 365?

Benjamin Davenport, MCSD, MCAD, MCP
Software Division Chief

Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Launches LAMA Citizen Access

In late May 2012 the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story about the launch of the Philadelpia Redevelopment Authority’s new Citizen Access Portal. The Citizen Portal is the latest product from the Davenport Group. The website is designed to integrate with the company’s land management software (LAMA), giving the public access to the program from anywhere. It even works great on smart phones. The new product is the first of its kind.

Philadelphia had been looking for a solution to its growing number of vacant properties and blight for years. The problem is all too familiar around cities in America today. “The city’s vacant-properties tally is now 40,000. The city owns about a quarter of those. Some are owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, some by the Public Property department and some by Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. Those multiple jurisdictions have been a big problem, since anyone interested in buying city property has had to navigate through a maddening bureaucratic maze to even find out which agency has oversight, and then to figure out the different rules that govern acquiring the properties. In a city where many things don’t work, the city-owned vacant-land system was an epic fail,” according to the Inquirer.

Enter LAMA’s new CRM product. By combining its GIS based program with the latest web technologies, LAMA is able to integrate property management systems and at the same time provide a flexible, easy to use interface for the public.

The article goes on to state, “(LAMA) has consolidated and mapped the city-owned properties that are available, so now those interested in acquiring a property for anything from a sideyard to a large development can see immediately what property is available, which agency has jurisdiction, and then file an expression of interest in the property, which gets directed to the right agency.”

Philadelphia officials are estatic about their latest investment in technology, because they know that in LAMA they are getting the most flexible, cutting-edge, and cost effective product available. Many more municipalities are sure to follow suit.

New Orleans One-Stop with LAMA Citizen Access

On March 19, 2013 New Orleans launched the newest product from the Davenport Group, the LAMA Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system. Dubbed the One Stop Shop App by city officials, the CRM represents a significant expansion in functionality within the LAMA Product Suite. When the Davenport Group created LAMA Server, they designed it as a desktop application to take advantage of each client computer’s processing power. The program has the capabilities to run complex queries and process large quantities of GIS data. While these features put LAMA Server in its own class among Enterprise Government Software solutions, they also confined the program to the desktop.

Now the public can use the CRM interface to apply for and manage their permits, licenses, and planning projects from anywhere. They can also report violations and research other registered projects that may be in their area. The City posted a press release detailing the upgrade. “The opening of the One Stop Shop is exciting and meaningful to bringing new economic development to our city,” said Councilmember-at-Large Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, City Council Vice President. “As a former businesswoman, I’ve asked for this since the day I arrived in office in May of 1990.”

LAMA’s expansion to the web can be summed up as three major improvements:

  1. Convenience: Citizens can now apply for city services from anywhere.
  2. Efficiency: The website’s automatic processing drastically cuts down on the amount of citizens who come into the office to submit applications. No more waiting in long lines for city services.
  3. Transparancy: Through the CRM, citizens can do their own research on any registered acitvity within the city. The processes for each service are also strictly enforced, so citizens can’t shop between departments for approval.

The opening of the One Stop Shop is a huge step forward for the city, as it makes the permitting and licensing process both more efficient and transparent,” said District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “The One Stop Shop will save city residents time and make it easier for them to obtain the permits and licenses they need.” Feedback from city officials and citizens has been overwhelmingly positive. And in a short time, New Orleans has transformed itself into an industry leader in technology and customer service.

“I am excited to see New Orleans take on such drastic internal changes to fit the needs of the public. This project will be a win/win for the public and City officials,” said Rod Miller, President and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. With the addition of the CRM, the LAMA software suite has all of the tools necessary to maintain a modern, developing city.