Rebuilding a crucial digital tool from the ground up using cutting-edge technologies
When it came time for us to build the next generation of our website and Standards Navigator, we wanted to work with Gray Bike because they’re an extended part of our team.— Madhu Mathew, Director of Technology
Gray Bike is great about recommending a solution that makes sense because they understand our organization. They’re very upfront about finding the best solutions that are fast, easy to execute, and cost-effective. This results in more trust. If they suggest something, we know there’s a good reason for moving forward with it.
When you feel good about working with a vendor, collaboration and innovation happens at a much faster rate, which is key to a project’s success. Gray Bike is great to work with because they are fast, nimble, and willing to iterate and pivot to implement a different path or newer solution.
How We Helped
- Expensive, difficult to maintain technology
- Customizations and upgrades often required retrofitting
- Instabilities in platform impacted user adoption
- Lack of flexibility, scalability
- Easy to update, in-house CMS
- Enhanced user experience
- Modern, agile technology stack
- Stable, functional platform
- Strategic and technical consulting services
- Maintenance and iteration
- Lightweight, Jamstack approach
- AWS Amplify
- Salesforce Single Sign-On (SSO)
The Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) is a global nonprofit offering comprehensive resources to help businesses and investors develop a shared understanding of enterprise value. The organization was formed in July 2021 as a merger between the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) to harmonize their environmental, social, and governance reporting frameworks. The VRF, which is dual-headquartered in San Francisco and London, supports business and investor decision-making with its three main resources: integrated thinking principles, the integrated reporting framework, and SASB Standards.
The Value Reporting Foundation offers memberships to individuals, businesses, and investors through its SASB Alliance program and Business Network service. As part of its membership programs, VRF offers a subscription to its Standards Navigator, an online tool which enables users to quickly understand SASB Standards and conduct granular cross-industry searches on sustainability and performance ranges for 79 industries.
In early 2021, VRF embarked on a project to upgrade its website and Standards Navigator. Adoption and use of the SASB Standards by businesses around the world was growing rapidly, and the nonprofit required a system that could address more complex content and communication needs for its members. The underlying infrastructure also required enhanced functionality, flexibility, and stability.
According to Madhu Mathew, Director of Technology, “Our off-the-shelf system was heavily customized, which resulted in maintenance issues. If we upgraded to a new version, customizations would stop working and retrofitting was a big problem. This took a toll on our ability to keep things running smoothly and impacted user adoption.” Updates were also expensive, time-consuming, and dependent on vendor availability.
Solution / Results
Madhu engaged Gray Bike as their lead development partner for the platform transformation initiative. Gray Bike and Madhu had worked together on a previous website development project for VRF and had established a strong working relationship.
“We worked with a UX design firm to revamp our website. They designed the wireframes and recommended Gray Bike for the development and implementation, and it was a very successful project,” explained Madhu. “When it came time for us to build the next generation of our website and Standards Navigator, we wanted to work with Gray Bike because they’re an extended part of our team.”
Migrating Platforms to a More Modern, Agile Technology
One of the primary goals of the project was to use a modern and agile technology stack that could be managed in house. This would ensure flexibility, ease of use, and provide a solid platform for long-term growth.
The foundation of the Standards Navigator is a CMS resource library, which contains a history of SASB Standards since 2014. The CMS was being migrated to a new vendor and the Navigator website would have to be rebuilt from the ground up using the existing data. This would make the coupling with the CMS more flexible.
To accomplish this, Gray Bike began with a discovery process—gathering requirements and technical information—and then produced an implementation plan with actionable steps.
Elegant, Cost-Effective, and Time-Saving Solutions
The development team, which was working under a tight deadline, knew the biggest challenge would be building the backend. They quickly went to work, researched viable solutions, selected the best tools, and created a proof of concept to eliminate risks and validate the next steps.
“Gray Bike is great about recommending a solution that makes sense because they understand our organization,” said Madhu. “They’re very upfront about finding the best solutions that are fast, easy to execute, and cost-effective. This results in more trust. If they suggest something, we know there’s a good reason for moving forward with it.”
Hand coding a new database from scratch would be expensive and time-consuming. Gray Bike recommended AWS Amplify as a simple, fast, and modern UI-driven approach to rebuilding the backend, and custom integration with Salesforce Single Sign-On (SSO) so users can securely login to their member area with a single set of credentials.
“Kudos to the Gray Bike team. They picked the right apps to develop the backend functionality and reduce our overall project time,” said Madhu.
Lightweight Approach Ensures Flexibility, Performance, Growth
Utilizing a lightweight Jamstack approach, Gray Bike was able to ensure high performance without the need for expensive or complex infrastructure. This resulted in better execution, improved coordination time, and maximum flexibility for the future.
“The newer technology helps us grow and scale. Customizations are easy to request and implement and the underlying code is stable and easy to work with,” said Madhu. “It’s much faster to change course, adapt, and meet customer requirements.”
Since the implementation, the quality of user interaction has increased. Faster page load times and an improved data model displays direct links to connect every search result.
At the beginning of the project, Madhu had three main objectives: that everything be on time, on budget, and delivered to specifications—where user acceptance testing was aligned with those objectives. “All three of these had a great outcome,” he said. “I’m excited about the new website, Standards Navigator, and portal, all of which will help to service SASB Standards in a more meaningful way and provide users better access to those standards.”
Collaboration and Innovation Ensure Success
The entire project was completed in five months, and Madhu has several items on his wish list for the next phase, including enhancing functionality, showing the evolution of standards over time, improving the way licensing customers can download data to integrate with their own software platforms, and supporting market segmentation.
“When you feel good about working with a vendor, collaboration and innovation happens at a much faster rate, which is key to a project’s success,” said Madhu. “Gray Bike is great to work with because they are fast, nimble, and willing to iterate and pivot to implement a different path or newer solution.”