The BBC has cut costs by working with Salesforce.com to automate the workflow management of a Radio 2 competition.
Cloud consultancy service CloudSense helped the BBC with the implementation.
"Last year we had a semi-manual process in place that required a lot of administrative support," said Simon Gowland, project manager at the BBC. "Entries were tracked on an access database and on a protected computer, which only certain people had access to. In addition, entries had to be printed and sent to individual judges for marking.
"Radio 2 needed to optimise its processes for handling the management of the competition and implement a more agile solution that would streamline the entry process to reduce the time spent on manual data entry, while also ensuring that strict data protection requirements were adhered to."
CloudSense managing director Richard Britton told Computing that the BBC's main challenges were data protection and the high volume of submissions.
"The BBC had to look again at the process of how it got people to review the submissions and the shortlist, and pick winners," he said. "Previously, the BBC had people sifting through submissions manually and had details locked away in cupboards for data protection reasons – and they realised that this wasn't scalable."
The project, which began in November 2011, involved CloudSense collaborating with Salesforce.com to implement a public-facing website for competition entrants and an internal web portal for moderators. CloudSense delivered a prototype in early January 2012.
"Having done the initial prototype, we took feedback on both the customer-facing user interface and on the internal business process that it started within the BBC," said Britton.
Britton explained that there was more to the solution than merely automating the workflow.
"It was about making the cloud-based software appear to be part of the BBCs own website.
"The BBC used a reverse proxy to forward critical parts of the web communication to Salesforce servers. This is a standard way to integrate third-party content as your own. Pointing your web browser to a reverse proxy is very much like calling a call centre – most information can be provided by the operator who you reach first, but for some inquiries the operator will forward your call to someone else," he said.
The service went live in early February 2012, and according to Britton, has allowed the BBC to save costs by reducing the amount of staff working on the project.
"The BBC has significantly cut its staffing overheads," he said.
Gowland said that the BBC has also benefitted from a more efficient service and can now keep data secure.
"We now have an established platform in place that allows Radio 2 to run the competition efficiently, to easily respond to any issues and reduce the amount of internal resource invested in managing the competition.
"By working with CloudSense we have successfully automated the entry and marking processes in a secure manner that protects the identities of all parties involved," he said.