Map-Making in the Cloud: How Ordnance Survey Made its Business Future Proof
Ordnance Survey mitigated the risk of out-of-support technology through migrating to a more modern Azure-based platform and opening new possibilities in the cloud.
- Solutions in this case
A trailblazer in geospatial intelligence, British mapping agency Ordnance Survey has made its mark with its customized maps, striving to provide relevant location data in revolutionary ways. When OS identified that its existing SAP and legacy systems couldn’t support its move to a modern, cloud-native ERP system, the company leveraged Microsoft Azure to help revamp its business for the future.
To provide accurate location data to its stakeholders through advanced technology, Ordnance Survey is continually looking for innovative ways to enhance its products and the business processes behind them. When the company started to migrate its ERP system to cloud-native Microsoft Dynamics 365, the team pinpointed two major integration obstacles blocking its innovation path. To modernize its business, Ordnance Survey first needed to refresh its vast SAP integration, touching more than 20 systems, and a legacy retail distribution integration, both evolving over the past 20 years.
As the UK’s national mapping service, Ordnance Survey plays an integral role in shaping Britain’s position in the worldwide geospatial market. More than merely mapmakers, the Ordnance Survey team strives to provide the highest accuracy in its location information to help governments, companies, and citizens learn about the world.
To produce and deliver its customized print and digital maps, Ordnance Survey records and keeps up to date 500 million geospatial features in its OS MasterMap. With a massive data base and a market with constantly evolving needs, the organization wanted to leverage the large-scale capacity and agility of the cloud to future-proof its systems.
As the first steps in its ERP cloud-first transformation, Ordnance Survey set out to migrate its SAP-based ERP system into Microsoft Dynamics 365. However, the team wanted to first address innovation-blocking areas in its existing integration layer, starting with its SAP integration platform.
Murray Davis, Ordnance Survey Solution Architect, explains, “SAP-PI was a key component in our technology architecture. We identified that this system was the place to start for a number of reasons – not least of which because it was a burning platform for us, slated to go out of support in the next year.”
Additionally, Ordnance Survey also wanted to re-engineer its retail distribution integration solution to make it more adaptable to change and improve its resilience. With limited documentation and in-house knowledge on how to revise the code, the Seeburger-based system was hiding critical business data and inhibiting the team from enhancing its processes.
Having plenty of experience with Microsoft Azure in other areas of its business, Ordnance Survey was confident in Microsoft Azure integration services as the right technology for a streamlined solution.
“We knew fully well that we wanted to use Azure as the integration layer,” says Davis, “In the past, we’ve had a lot of disparate systems and many different vendors and, as many other organizations have, we found that difficult to manage. So, we decided to reduce the dependency on the number of vendors we deal with. And one of the big planks of that was to use Azure and to move to the cloud.”
To realize its long-term roadmap, Ordnance Survey looked for a qualified partner to help develop a seamless integration solution as well as to integrate Microsoft Azure knowledge into its team. As a Microsoft Gold partner with extensive Microsoft Azure experience and a solid understanding of working with the UK Government G-cloud, Codit stood out as the perfect partner for the collaboration.
Codit became a valuable extension to our team. That's exactly what we'd hoped for. ”
Codit implemented Microsoft Azure integration services to bring more agility to Ordnance Survey’s business processes and align them with its cloud-native objectives. Leveraging its Invictus™ integration accelerator, the Codit team developed flexible iPaaS and EDI hybrid integration solutions, while ensuring transparency and transferring key knowledge every step of the way.
To ensure compatibility between Ordnance Survey’s business processes and its upcoming cloud-native ERP system, Codit revamped the existing systems with the agility of Microsoft Azure integration services.
Codit first went to Ordnance Survey to kick-start the project, performing an on-site system analysis and leading initial whiteboard sessions to get the team up to speed on the chosen architecture.
As part of the analysis, Codit leveraged its integration accelerator solution, Invictus™ for Azure. The turnkey solution is based on more than a decade of expertise and provides key insights for combining the best of on-premises and cloud-based integration solutions.
“We use Invictus™ as a foundation when realizing hybrid integration solutions,” says Iain Quick, Codit Technical Director, “From concept, to planning, to execution, to post-integration, the tool helps optimize the entire scope of the transformation. It’s also beneficial to companies with a longer-term vision to move into the cloud because it enables successful hybrid integration as a first step while also setting the foundation for a smooth transition to fully cloud-native solutions.”
Using the insights from Invictus™, the Codit team refreshed the existing SAP-PI system with Microsoft Azure Logic Apps, Service Bus, API management, Functions, and Log Analytics services, introducing new interfaces regularly in a phased, drip-release approach.
In tandem, the Codit team also modernized Ordnance Survey’s intricate and inflexible retail distribution integration landscape. To eliminate this blind spot in Ordnance Survey’s back-end, the Codit team broke apart the old, ambiguous technology track to rework it into new, adaptable models.
Tom Burnip, Codit Senior Azure Consultant explains, “We had to first understand how the existing system worked. We essentially pulled it apart to understand the mappings and the message flows. From there, we translated TRADACOMS messages to higher performing EDIFACT schemas, designing the solution so that it would be easy to change if needed later on. Once the solution was developed, we tested to ensure its continued performance as it evolves with the business – building up an intricate SpecFlow testing suite to validate all the different flows for any potential issues as well as building a set of regression tests to support Ordnance Survey’s future enhancements.”
During both integration projects, a key piece of the collaboration was ensuring the transparency of the working solutions. Codit provided detailed documentation and explanations so that Ordnance Survey would have a full understanding of its new platforms and full autonomy in adapting them in the future.
“We don’t just throw development at our clients,” says Burnip, “We always make it a priority to be transparent in our work. For this project, each time that we completed an interface, we produced technical documentation and met with the team members to walk through how the integration works.”
Murray Davis, Ordnance Survey Solution Architect, adds, “We’re an organization that wants to take on these skills ourselves, and we wanted to embed the Azure best practices from this project as early and as quickly as we could. We had Codit’s expertise embedded in our team, transferring key knowledge often and on a one-on-one basis. It was exactly what we needed at the right time.”
Through its collaboration with Codit, Ordnance Survey has gained not only more accurate business insights and adaptable reporting but also Microsoft Azure integration skills to leverage in the future. The organization is now equipped and empowered to achieve its short-term migration objectives as well as its longer-term mission of moving more of its systems into the cloud.
The resulting Microsoft Azure message-based iPaaS and EDI solutions have revitalized Ordnance Survey’s business processes, enabling the team with an easily adaptable and expandable integration layer. Today the company can gain better insights into its systems as well as realize its vision for enhancing its business in the long term.
“We are a data technology company, and we know the value of the cloud,” says Murray Davis, Ordnance Survey Solution Architect, “Our engagement with Codit has given us a strong foundation to continue moving forward into these technologies, fully understanding how they work and how to fully reap their benefits.”
The SAP iPaaS integration allows Ordnance Survey to identify ways to improve operations to meet the objectives of its UK government G-Cloud affiliation.
On the retail side, the agile EDI solution offers more visibility for the Ordnance Survey teams to see and analyze key business information, while also allowing them to explore new ideas in reporting.
Tom Burnip, Codit Senior Consultant explains, “Before the re-engineered EDI solution, when sending out maps to customers, package delivery information was hidden within the system, and the company wasn’t aware of what parcel delivery firm was sending packages. In the new system, we pulled out that data and other order-delivery information to produce a convenient, daily report. By the end of the project, the Ordnance Survey team was thinking of new ways to optimize processes that were never a possibility in the past.”
Ordnance Survey’s new technology set will bring benefits even beyond the systems for which the integration solutions were built. The company plans to use the patterns and practices developed in multiple logical instances of iPaaS in other areas of its business, including its Business Fulfillment Integration – a major cornerstone for its data.
Moving forward, Ordnance Survey is in the process of finalizing the roadmap for its ERP migration project and selecting a system integrator. The team sees its collaboration with Codit and the resulting hybrid integration solutions as essential groundwork for this next phase, giving its team a leg up on the work to come.
Davis explains, “As we continue in our ERP migration, re-pointing connections from SAP to Microsoft Dynamics 365, we’ll see other benefits from these solutions. Codit has given us the knowledge and the skills required to further change our platforms and deliver those changes at a much higher pace than we ever would have before this collaboration. At the end of the day, we are significantly further forward in terms of understanding Azure integration services and better equipped to continue our path towards the cloud.”
A word from the client
“Codit provided essential guidance to realize our roadmap. The team came in and understood the landscape and its wide array of systems, and they helped us understand the best patterns and practices to use with Azure integration services to achieve our ends as we continue to move forward.”
Murray Davis Solution Architect, Technology & Design @ Ordnance Survey