Homebase: Sutton Realty Gets a New Home
Sutton Realty is one of Canada's leading and most innovative real estate companies. They've been providing exceptional consumer-driven services, cost-control and creative business freedom to independent realtors since 1983.
Sutton Realty boasts over 8,500 real estate agents in 200 offices with a combined sales volume of $25 billion.
From the beginning, we knew our project would be a challenge. We had an old legacy system that had to be fully replaced by an entirely new and complex network of resource sites and had to ensure no downtime during the transition. The Jibe was able to both design a new network of websites that works for our needs as well as execute a transition to the new system that minimized the disruption for our 10,000 users across Canada.
- Design and build a scalable technology platform to support the growing needs of Sutton agents
- Migrate and enhance data, workflows, and permissions from a legacy system
- Extend offerings to support teams with special requirements, including multi-lingual support for Sutton Quebec
- Provide and orchestrate access through single sign on (SSO) between the various components of the ecosystem
- Design and build a high-performance REST API to support core system functionality such as authentication, permissioning, users, office and services management
- Create a responsive user interface to provide a single access point to all technology offerings
- Develop a series of complementary services to the API, including a learning management system and a simple digital asset manager
- Coordinate and support 3rd party vendor integrations
- Design user interfaces with a focus on productivity and access to key information
A thorough discovery phase allowed us to define must-have functionality as well as refine our choices of technology to best support Sutton Realty's business goals. Working so closely together resulted in a positive outcome on the design, implementation, and support of the solution.
An API-first approach had been part of our discussion since day one. Sutton needed a robust and flexible system that allows for connections with custom build services and 3rd party software that also supported future expansion.
The REST API we developed, using the Laravel PHP framework, serves both as the de-facto master storage for all office and user data, and as gatekeeper for this data. Services (clients of the API) can use single sign on (SSO) to authenticate with the API and provide a seamless experience for the users.
A sophisticated yet scalable permission scheme supports role inheritance as well as overrides, allowing the various members of an office (agents, administrative assistants, brokers, etc) to have access to tools they need in a secure manner.
Third-party vendor data remains in sync with the Core data through the use of Webhooks. For instance, whenever a user changes their online profile, external systems are notified. This provides these external systems with the opportunity to update their internal data as desired or required.
Any system with a relatively large set of data needs to provide administrators with a reporting suite. Through the administrative interface, users with the proper credentials can generate ad-hoc reporting on a large number of metrics and schedule recurring reports using custom parameters that are delivered directly into the recipient's mailbox.
In order to access the various systems provided by the franchise, agents and realtors use what we call a Service.
Homebase, built using AngularJS, is the primary service through which a user can access other services. Think of it as a launchpad or dashboard. Other services include email (via an integration with Rackspace Mail API), Real Estate Webmaster, Quicklinkt, etc. The list is always growing to meet the needs of the agents, and new integrations can be quickly and easily added.
The entire services architecture is based upon a self-serve / auto-deployment model. This allows a particular office to choose services a la carte, without the need of IT or administrative intervention.
While 3rd party vendors provide most of the services mentioned above, The Jibe has developed two key components of the Sutton ecosystem:
- The Brand and Resource Centre is a lightweight digital asset manager (DAM). It makes it easy for agents to find and share brand assets such as business card templates, lawn signs etc. In addition to national assets, each office can create their own assets and share them with their team members.
- Sutton University is a self-directed learning management system based on one of our products, Keiro. It allows users to learn about and choose from category-specific topics. While there is opportunity for feedback and reviews, the learning activities are self-managed. This allows a user to learn at their own pace with no help required from management.
Migration and Legacy Systems
Moving to a custom API solution from a Drupal 6 Open Atrium install required an in-depth analysis of the data, and the creation of a migration path that was rarely straightforward. This was due in part to the organic growth that the previous intranet had seen. Over time, new features were grafted to a solution that hadn't been designed to support this kind of scale, and this had led to data redundancies and inefficiencies.
We not only enhanced the security and stability of the platform by performing small but important changes – such as providing access over SSL, encrypting passwords with modern algorithms, infrastructure redundancy, etc. – we put a considerable amount of effort into providing the administrative user with an interface that is pleasant and simple to work with. Better design and functionality always lead to better outcomes.
A Successful Launch
During the 6 months it took to progress from discovery to launch, we also supported the legacy intranet as well as related websites. Since launch, Sutton's demands for support have decreased, leaving precious time and budget to improve the new system.
The Jibe designed easy-to-use responsive websites that work well for our users, as well as a comprehensive API system that allows us to integrate with many other websites and resources and will keep our system up-to-date for years to come.