Go back
logo ExsertusCase by Exsertus

How a centralized obituary platform for undertakers evolves into an intelligent CMS for different purposes

Every day, newspapers bring our daily news into our homes. A small part of it is traditionally dedicated to obituaries. Mediahuis, one of the leading media companies in Belgium and The Netherlands, wants a centralized platform in which undertakers can insert an obituary that is automatically published in next day’s newspaper(s). Mediahuis trusted Bluu for the custom development of this platform and together we made it evolve into an intelligent Content Management System (CMS), not only for undertakers, but also for other purposes and users. Ready for a deep dive in this customer case? Let’s go!

From fragmentation to centralization: one obituary platform for Mediahuis

Newspapers like Gazet Van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg, Het Nieuwsblad, De Standaard, De Telegraaf and NRC Handelsblad are all well-known newspapers of Mediahuis with an extensive consumer reach. Imagine that every brand has its own system to add obituaries or doesn’t have a system at all and the editorial staff has to process the requests of undertakers manually … 

That’s inefficient and time consuming and exactly the reason why Mediahuis wants a central platform in which an undertaker can:

  • Log in.
  • Add an obituary, text and image, through an easy-to-use WYSIWYG (= a rich content editor).
  • Choose the newspaper(s) and accompanying edition(s) – print and online – in which the obituary has to be published.
  • Complete the purchase of the added obituary via an ecommerce solution. A publication of an obituary isn’t free of charge and the cost depends on the length of the obituary.

Next to these end user requirements Mediahuis also wants a back office system to follow up issues concerning obituaries and make adjustments when needed. 

On top of that, the centralized platform has to be an end-to-end solution, fully automated. This means that it has to integrate with the internal applications of Mediahuis and software solutions of external suppliers. More concrete, we need:  

  • Custom integration with the CRM of Mediahuis for the undertaker’s personal data.
  • Custom integration with ADSUITE, the product configuration and pricing tool of Mediahuis, using TIBCO service bus to complete the purchase of the obituary and to synchronize with the editorial systems that take care of the publication of the obituary.
  • Custom integration with the document editor of CHILI publish, the WYSIWYG solution used to insert the content of the obituary and add some basic lay out elements.

How do we handle all these bullet points? Let’s take a look at our approach and the technical side of the project.

An in-house project team and SCRUM, but …

Our technical architect, developers, project manager, functional analyst and tester form the in-house project team that works very closely with the IT department of Mediahuis. 

 

Of course we carry out an agile mindset and we use SCRUM, but … we adapt the SCRUM process to our needs and the ones of Mediahuis. On a weekly basis our technical architect syncs with his peer at Mediahuis and the external software suppliers to handle all integration questions. Our PM, scrum master and functional analyst make sure the development train stays on track. And of course our developers make it happen with this technology stack:

 

Front end Back end
  • ASP.NET Core (Web API)
  • Angular 1.6
  • Bootstrap, Less
  • GULP
  • Window Communication Foundation
  • Entity Framework
  • SQL Server Database 
  • Castle Windsor (IoC/DI)
  • xUnit
Security

  • Identity Server 4
  • Oauth 2
Environment

  • Visual Studio Team Services
  • Azure (WebApps & DevOps)
  • Powershell

 

Our project team has its own development, acceptance and test environment and Mediahuis hosts the production environment on premise. After approximately six months the centralized obituary platform was ready to use, but our journey continued …

An intelligent Content Management Systems (CMS) for special editions

If undertakers can use the platform to upload content, why can’t we all? Good thinking of Mediahuis, so they ask us to build an application for their Special editions (Baby, First Communion, and First Class) that are published once a year in several newspapers. Basically moms and dads can upload a picture of their baby or kid and the picture will be published in the preferred special edition. 

 

As you can read, the use case of the special editions and the obituaries are quite similar. So for the development of this ‘specials’ application, we maximize the reuse of functionalities and source code of the centralized obituary platform. Although this ‘specials’ application is platform-based, there are some differences and extra features required:  

 

  • In contrast to the obituaries, a publication in a special edition is free of charge. So in this case there’s no need for an ecommerce solution. 
  • Unlike the obituary system that is only accessible for undertakers, everyone can upload any picture in the ‘specials’ application. You can imagine that the quality control of these pictures is very important. 

 

In short Mediahuis wants a better user experience for uploading pictures and an automatic validation and content check of the pictures and its meta data.

Hello Facial Recognition!

Let’s take the Baby Special as an example to explain our intelligent validation solution, the Face Recognition of MS Azure Cognitive Services. By integrating this face recognition tool of Microsoft, we enable an automatic analysis of the uploaded picture and give feedback to the user (the mom or dad) about the picture’s quality based on some criteria like age and the position of the face on the picture. 

After this digital scan, the inserted content (picture, name and date of birth) is once more validated manually by the content managers of Mediahuis with a user friendly validation tool built by our experts. After that, all data is assembled and arranged by name and date of birth. Thanks to our integration with ADSUITE the pictures are published in the special edition of the newspaper.

With this intelligent face recognition and the easy-to-use validation tool for content managers, Mediahuis saves lots of time to select and edit pictures manually and to give customers feedback. From now on, it all happens instantly and automatically.

Want to know more?

A great place to grow starts with happy and motivated people. Curious to discover our opportunities? Let’s talk.