Q&A with James Thompson, Senior Development Manager, PageUp People
Q: Can you give us a brief overview of the PageUp People story so far?
A: PageUp People was founded in 1997 by Simon and Karen Cariss. Since then, it has helped employers worldwide attract, hire, develop, retain, and improve employee performance. The PageUp People Unified Talent Management platform, along with its talent management consulting services, help organisations optimise their global workforce strategy across the whole of business, maximise business impact with a balance between global efficiency and local responsiveness, and continuously improve the return on human capital investment.
We built the Windows 8 CareerPath app around 12 months ago to coincide with the launch of Windows 8. It extends from our Unified Talent Management platform. What we have is an index of a very large volume of CVs that we’ve accumulated over the years which sits in Azure. CareerPath is accessible traditionally via a browser-based application to allow people to explore what happens throughout their careers. It’s not crafted by HR professionals, but is raw data from different types of career movements. Not everybody’s career follows a standard vertical trajectory to the top. People move sideways, some people go backwards. This is where the CareerPath Application really had its genesis: exploring these different paths and avenues that people take.
The first incarnation of CareerPath was built as a browser application so that we could incorporate it into the mainstream PageUp People application services. We were approached by Microsoft about 12 months ago to turn it into an app. Our response was ‘let’s do it.’
Q: What was the business opportunity identified?
A: We liked the idea of building an app for Windows 8 for a couple of reasons. PageUp People has a long-standing relationship and partnership with Microsoft and wherever possible, we use Microsoft technology. It was a good opportunity to have the launch of our app coincide with the Windows 8 launch and see if we could do some joint collaboration.
PageUp People is passionate about pioneering technology that will create the workplace of the future. Business success is tightly connected with employee engagement, one of the key drivers of which is the availability of dynamic and transparent career opportunities.
The best talent knows what it wants and will increasingly demand access to pathways that facilitate accelerated learning and promotion. We deliver this unique and compelling capability with CareerPath – and Windows 8 is the perfect platform for an unsurpassed employee experience.
PageUp People hadn’t built an app before. We wanted to find out how easy or hard it would be. This happened about 12 months ago and the app was launched in time for Windows 8. In terms of the success to-date, we are approaching about 50,000 downloads and a fairly broad spectrum of feedback across different forums.
Q: What was the impact of the app?
A: The app has been successful. We are nearing 50,000 downloads across the world and the reviews have been generally positive. People believe the app is useful and instructive. It’s helped connect people with career aspirations in a practical and tangible way.
Q: How easy was the process of creating and designing an app for the Windows 8 platform?
A: It was pretty straightforward. The original app built in 3 weeks by 4 developers – only 1 of those had previous experience building an app. The upgrade to Windows 8.1 was completed in under 2 days by 4 developers – only one who was on the original team building the app. Again, the other 3 didn’t have any app-building experience.
Q: You haven’t gone to the iOS or Android platforms yet will you look to extend to competing platforms?
A: We don’t have any plans to do that at the moment. There’s nothing on our roadmap to necessarily go out to market with an Android version of the app or an iOS version of the app. There’s a browser-based version of the application that is available to our clients, but in terms of the free-to-market app, we are just focused on Windows.
Q: What is some of the functionality that you took advantage of from a Page Up perspective? How did you look at designing the app to take advantage of some of the features within Windows 8.1?
A: For us, the only material changes we needed to make to update the App for Windows 8.1 were the adaptation of the user experience to a more responsive design, and the cut-over to the Windows 8.1 native search control. In terms of development, this was the big win as we were able to remove our custom search control and adopt a standard control that provides a uniform user experience with less coding.
Q: PageUp People was one of the first companies ready for the 8.1 launch coming up on the 18th of October. What approach did you take from a design perspective?
A: We wanted to see how easy it was to update our app and keep it current. There was a minimum amount of work that we knew we needed to do in order to develop the app to get the 8.1 user experience correct. The team at Microsoft gave us some guidance and advice around that which was really helpful. We took that on with a team of four developers.
From Simon Cariss’ perspective as the CIO of the business, we were really happy with the fact that we could get the app ready for Windows 8.1 with such a small investment.
Q: Did you use Visual Studio to build the app?
A: Yes it was all built using Visual Studio.
Q: Let’s take a look at the products and services PageUp People offer to customers. How do you approach that from an innovation perspective? Adding new features to your Services apps?
A: The CareerPath app is an extension of the Unified Talent Management Solution that PageUp People has as a commercial offering. The app is free and anyone can download it. For us, the primary benefit that we’ve seen in launching the app on the Windows Store has been public exposure and soft-level marketing and brand association. We’ve taken on bits and pieces of feedback that has come in via forums. We don’t have an ROI model that’s driving the development of the app, so we don’t necessarily have a product backlog of features that we want to continue to build out in the app. For us it’s about making sure it’s up to date and relevant. We don’t necessarily see the app as a core element of our business platform. It’s more a marketing and a client engagement tool; it’s a conversation starter, actually.
Q: What’s the back end that powers the app, are you using Windows Azure or are you using a competitor’s product, maybe like Amazon?
A: We chose Windows Azure because we wanted a variety of support resources including technical staff to work on-site with our developer team. We liked that there’s a clear development path for Windows Azure Cloud Services. A Microsoft technical team came to see us in Melbourne and advised us on how to deploy the RavenDB database on Azure.
Q: Do you have any plans in porting your Windows app to Windows Phone?
A: We don’t have any plans for that at this moment.