Orange Tree: Customized online employment screening

Orange Tree: Customized online employment screening

Case Study


Customized online employment screening

Orange Tree Employment Screening

Orange Tree, a provider of background screening and drug testing services sought SDG’s help to shift to an online platform and acquire new customers.


Competitive differentiation
Legacy integrations
3rd party connectivity
Legal and regulatory environment


    SDG Solutions

    Product transformation
    Product leadership
    Experience design
    AWS Cloud engineering
    Application development

      Winning market through digital

      Orange Tree Employment Screening is a leading provider of pre-employment background screening and drug testing services. With more than 20 years in the industry, Orange Tree offers customized solutions and helps customers design a background screening program that is in their own best interest, balancing risk, cost, and speed. Competing providers offer the ability to purchase background screening services within an online marketplace, but without the ability to fully customize the solution. Orange Tree sought to build a fully customizable, digital-first marketplace to allow customers to browse and purchase background screening services. Their belief was that this online capability would not only attract new clients, but also reduce the time required to implement and support these services.

      Orange Tree engaged SDG and adopted our Innovation Framework to make this new online platform a reality.

      User centric approach

      While Orange Tree understood the needs of their clients, they recognized the additional benefit of including them in product design. With this understanding, our team interviewed users to understand their needs and validate concepts prior to building. They also conducted market research and looked at an entire client experience, not just the experience within the digital commerce product. The result was a clear understanding of value and a digital product that brought users through a seamless experience.

      Feasible architecture

      The defined business goals and user needs, coupled with the current and future technology roadmap for this customer, provided the necessary input to derive an architecture. Orange Tree’s existing AWS cloud experience was leveraged and expanded to build a hybrid architecture for this effort. As part of this transformation, SDG consultants mentored the customers architect developers on the proper application of the new technology.

      Partnering on the product journey

      The challenge in front of Orange Tree was building the digital product while simultaneously developing a product leadership capability within their organization. They leaned heavily on SDG to guide them through the formulation of the product, onboard the full-time product team members, and led them through the completion of the build. Following the initial delivery of the digital product, SDG remained involved in coaching the Orange Trees’ product leaders.

      SDG was an invaluable partner in helping Orange Tree design, build, and launch new digital products that are critical to our business strategy. From product strategy to user research to software development, SDG’s consultants guided us through a thoughtful process and supported our team with their insights and expertise. We really appreciate the partnership.

      Ryan Dotson


      A new source of growth

      The innovation approach used on this effort ensures that the digital product meets the needs of the business, users, and customers. This self-service commerce product provides a new and important source of revenue for Orange Tree, with the ability to acquire new customers quickly. Additionally, the enterprise perspective and user experience focus provides the foundation of a seamless experience for their customers.

      African-american woman wearing a tan blazer smiling and gesturing with both hands palms up above a table to a light-skinned woman with brown hair wearing a black top.

      Protolabs: On-demand, Interactive Quoting

      Protolabs: On-demand, Interactive Quoting

      Case Study


      On-Demand, interactive quoting


      Protolabs, the global leader in rapid digital manufacturing, collaborated with SDG to build its nextgeneration digital quoting platform with interactive design analysis.   


      Multi-national scope
      Core application integration
      Business continuity
      Government regulations

      SDG Solutions

      Platform Architecture
      Delivery leadership
      Custom Application Build
      Knowledge transfer
      Integration strategy and execution

        When it comes to partnering with a strategic consulting firm few things are more telling than their willingness to help you succeed. From the beginning SDG was an integral part in the architecture vision, commitment to quality and execution we needed to be successful. In a testament to the shared commitment, execution and quality, people outside of our project couldn’t tell where the employee line ended, and the consultant line started. This partnership columnated into one the rarest events on the technical landscape today, a successfully completed digital transformation journey.

        Brian Johnson - Director of Enterprise Architecture


        Re-imagining the customer experience

        Protolabs is the world’s fastest digital manufacturing source of rapid prototyping and on-demand production parts. Its mission is to provide customers with the best possible digital manufacturing experience in the industry.  To do that, the company leverages its robust quoting and ordering system, which not only provides the ability to enter and track an order, but also conduct design analysis to ensure that the part to be manufactured will meet engineering standards.  This software is what drives the speed and agility that customers have come to expect from Protolabs and it’s this commitment to the customer that was at the center of the system redesigns.   


        Facing increasing customer needs, and competition, Protolabs recognized an opportunity to re-imagine the entire ordering experience for its customers.  In addition to creating a new, more user-centric e-commerce experience, the team wanted to rebuild their other core systems and integrate them into the commerce experience, creating complete connectivity throughout the parts ordering, manufacturing, and fulfillment process.   

          Collaborative Innovation

          The project was bigger than anything Protolabs had ever embarked on before The digital manufacturer quickly determined the need for a knowledgeable and trusted partner to help execute this ambitious plan, and it chose SDG to collaborate with from ideation through implementation. 

          Setting the foundation

          Integrating all its systems into a unified architecture was the first challenge that needed to be addressed.  To determine the best approach forward, SDG facilitated Kaizan workshops with Protolabs Business and Technology Leaders.  The result was a comprehensive architecture that brought all the systems in its enterprise together to support the immediate vision, but one adaptable enough to handle future versions of the software.  The new architecture also created the need to re-consider tools and SDG conducted multiple tool selection initiatives to help Protolabs choose the tools and technologies that were the best fit for them and their ecosystem.   

          Helping where needed

          SDG was engaged across many teams during the build phase of the project.  Our technical and delivery consultants collaborated closely with the Protolabs teams to implement best practices and bridge the gap between business needs and IT solutions. We supported the introduction of development and operational tools and proficiencies that accelerated development and improved the overall performance of the system.  Our delivery specialists reinforced the evolution of scrum execution methodology to help teams drive to a common solution and scale the project across multiple platforms, as well as a human centered approach to quality testing practices. 

          Guiding the launch

          The cut-over strategy was extremely complex due to the global scope of the project, and the number of systems being refactored and integrated.  In addition to the transition of data and customers to the new platform, improvements being made concurrently to the legacy commerce system needed to be incorporated, and the tool and architectural differences in all the systems being brought together needed to be accounted for and reconciled.  SDG was entrusted with the planning of, and leadership over the execution of this critical process, promoting collaboration across all the necessary teams to produce a successful result.

            Commitment to on-going success

            Protolabs engaged with many methods and tools that were new to the company throughout the implementation Our teams collaborated not only to build the software, but to ensure the continuity of knowledge across the Protolabs teams. SDG consultants provided formal, and informal, training and mentoring to Protolabs teams and individuals, and helped champion development and delivery best practices across all the teams it worked with. Collaboration was the key to this successful initiative  

            I think one of the biggest values SDG brought was the high level of competence in the consultants, who were ready to roll-up their sleeves and do the work with the development teams. They met the internal teams where they were and helped bring in new ideas and technologies.  They helped us build the competence of our existing teams and left us with a modern software architecture and capable teams who are able to extend the software to meet our business needs for a long time.

            Rich Baker - Chief Technology Officer


            World-class results

            The new platform has increased efficiencies in ordering for customers by giving users the ability to collaborate and adjust their projects in real time, and by bringing all of Protolabs services together as a single source for multiple manufacturing capabilities.  This innovative approach and continued commitment to customers earned Protolabs re-imagined digital quoting platform a 2021 Gold LEAP (Leadership in Engineering Achievement Program) Award.   

            Going forward, this platform and Protolabs employees are well-positioned to support and adapt to the changing needs of its customers, as well as continue to lead the digital manufacturing space. 

            I highly value the technical and process competencies of the SDG team. The SDG consultants delivered value and coached our internal teams. Their presence was seamless, supportive, and professional from delivering code to leading teams to setting strategies.  We developed oneness as a team that was rare and valuable.

            Dan Barsness - VP, Global Product Management and E-Commerce


            Images courtesy of Protolabs

            Sentera: Improving Outcomes for Growers

            Sentera: Improving Outcomes for Growers

            Case Study


            Improving Outcomes for Growers


            AI powered agriculture insights leader Sentera, partnered with SDG to re-imagine their flagship software platform product.


            Engineer driven design
            Complexity of solution
            Data visualization

            SDG Solutions

            Product mindset
            Product leadership
            Experience design
            Prototype development

            Driving agricultural value

            Sentera uses multiple data sources, like satellites, drones, on-field machines, and human observers, to populate a comprehensive data lake. With their data, they generate in-season analytics and intelligence to increase precision and efficiency, improve visibility to supply chains, or measure and promote land stewardship and sustainability.  Their technology delivers time-sensitive insights that optimize decisions and improve outcomes to drive agricultural value.

            Sentera’s products were created by engineers with deep experience in sophisticated aerospace technology, but Sentera’s executive leadership understood that it was the outcome – the insights gathered through this technology – that provided the real value to their customers.  They recognized the strategic importance of having a strong software product designed in a way that was easy to use and understand, enabling their users to make sound agricultural decisions.   Accomplishing this would require the organization to adopt a different mindset, shifting the focus from delivering engineering capabilities to a more holistic approach that packages insights in a way that more directly maps to customer value.

            Shifting the Mindset

            Sentera chose SDG as their partner to articulate and accelerate this ambitious strategy and lead the efforts to embed this digital product mindset across the organization.

            Creating the vision

            To envision a new product, SDG product strategists used a multitude of techniques to start establishing priorities and clarifying a product strategy.  They participated in the Sentera product council, led engineering and business teams through collaborative planning workshops and collaborated with the Sentera team to build a strategic, thematic roadmap for its flagship software product.  Through these activities, the team created a compelling product vision and a plan to achieve it.

            User research

            Sentera’s users – agronomists, growers and enterprise customers – have unique needs, often dealing with intense pressure, harsh conditions and complex business relationships. SDG conducted user interviews and completed a heuristic analysis of existing applications to understand their true needs. As part of this analysis, engineers visited farms and co-ops where they learned first hand how Sentera’s products are used. The findings were used to prototype an innovative new digital experience aligning Sentera, and their users, with the vision.

            Forming product teams

            Establishing a product based organizational structure was key to Sentera becoming a product focused company.  SDG helped Sentera’s executives organize their staff into “product teams”, hire a new head of product, and increase their investment in experience design.  SDG consultants also engaged in discussions on product management, design, and development topics, and helped Sentera’s entire team re-think how they establish priorities, understand their customers and ship solutions.


            Becoming a digital product company


            Sentera has re-imagined their product as a comprehensive agronomic insights, decision-making, and communication platform that works for all users. In Sentera’s new product strategy, the drones are a feature of the agronomic insight’s product, not the reverse. Guided by this product strategy, Sentera is well on their way to becoming a digital product company, driven by deep understanding of their users and led by the value they can offer their market, not just the sophistication of their engineering.

            A Cloud-Based Self-Service Platform (Company Confidential)

            A Cloud-Based Self-Service Platform (Company Confidential)

            Case Study


            A Cloud-Based Self-Service Platform

            Global telecommunications firm (company confidential)

            A global telecom company envisioned a transformed customer experience. They collaborated with SDG to bring it to life.


            Legacy systems
            Competitive market
            Complex integrations
            Multiple customer profiles

            SDG Solutions

            Business architecture
            Technical architecture
            System implementation
            Agile project delivery

            Disrupting an industry through transformed customer experience

            The communications industry can be difficult for customers to navigate, and customer expectations for digital interactions are at an all-time high. One global telecommunications firm recognized the opportunity to transform the experience of their customers by bringing simplicity to complicated processes and interactions. To do this, they envisioned a world-class self-service digital experience platform for their commercial customers. The company’s leaders imagined a single commercial customer experience that still provided personalized interactions based on the unique mix of products and services each customer deployed.

            In addition to an improved user experience, the company required highly performant integrations with a wide variety of legacy systems. While this was challenging enough, the company was also in the midst of a merger. The new solution needed to meet the business and technical needs of not one but two distinct enterprises with different offerings, architectures, processes, brands, and user experiences.

            Collaborating to exceed expectations

            Through close collaboration, the company and SDG created a self-service digital experience that exceeded both industry and customer expectations. SDG guided the project from planning through implementation.

            The project kicked off with SDG and the company co-developing both the business architecture and the technical architecture. The team devised business cases, documented key capabilities, and identified constraints. Most importantly, SDG helped the company focus on the needs of its users. 

            This collaborative effort resulted in an achievable agile sprint plan with supporting stories, a combined staffing plan for implementation, a target architecture for system implementation, and budget guidance for the duration of the project.

            With business and technical architectures in place, the team began implementation, focusing on identity management, provisioning and management processes, and account management tools. At the same tine, SDG consultants partnered with the company on user experience design, initial portal theme implementation, and content production. The team achieved its goal of releasing to pilot users within 6 months, and initial users were thrilled with the product and experience.

              Goals for the solution

              • Enable commercial customers to access and manage their cloud environments.
              • Create visibility to real-time usage, performance, and availability monitoring.
              • Replace forms and emails with fully functional self-service online transactions to remain accessible 24×7, 365 days a year.
              • Connect user identities and credentials by integrating dozens of systems. 
              • Allow users to fully interact with the system’s capabilities using the device of their choice.
              • Deliver an engaging online experience that customers are delighted to use while reducing the cost of customer care.
              • Provide real-time views of services and information concerning accounts.
              • Equip customers to pay bills, place orders, view order history, change features, and upgrade services quickly and easily.
              • Supply users with online training, user guides, and system documentation.
              • Increase revenue by creating customer visibility to intelligent upsell and cross-sell opportunities for companion products and services.
              • Improve processes and reduce time required for pricing, configuration, and provisioning.

              SDG consultants played a variety of roles


              • Agile project delivery and management
              • Solution architecture and business analysis
              • Fully responsive user experience development
              • Identity management, authentication, and provisioning
              • System architecture and application development
              • Enterprise integration and data readiness
              • Quality assurance management and test execution
              • Consultation on long-term product management and operational strategies
              • Documentation and training

              A note on confidential case studies

              This customer preferred that we keep their identity confidential, so we haven’t named them in this case study. While we’re proud of our work on this project, SDG respects our customers’ wishes. 

              Image courtesy of Unsplash.

              Yale University: Ivy League Portal Product

              Yale University: Ivy League Portal Product

              Case Study


              Ivy League Portal Product

              Yale University

              One of the world’s most prestigious universities partnered with SDG to evaluate, select, and implement a portal framework to serve its campus community — in just six weeks.


              Diverse customer personas
              High-end experience needs
              Compressed timelines

              SDG Solutions

              Platform architecture
              Digital strategy
              Portal implementation
              Responsive UI development

              World-class university partners with SDG on a digital portal product

              Selecting a platform on which to develop your campus infrastructure is no easy task. Yale University, one of the world’s most selective and prestigious universities, wanted to create a centralized, digital “hub” as the starting point for the online services they offered to support their students, faculty, and staff.

              Through an internal evaluation process, Yale’s IT team compared options and selected finalists. But to make their final selection and begin the implementation, they wanted the first-hand knowledge that comes with implementation experience and understanding of portal architectures for the unique needs of higher education. So Yale turned to SDG. 

                Comprehensive requirements

                • Theming and customizable HTML & CSS
                • Responsive design and mobile accessibility
                • Targeted content by role
                • Plugin architecture for custom development
                • Communities and social capabilities for blogs, micro-blogging and forums
                • Internal and external system integration
                • Federated authentication
                • Cloud-based hosting

                SDG roles

                • Agile project delivery
                • Application architecture and development
                • Fully responsive user experience development
                • Documentation and training

                  Technologies used

                  • Amazon Web Services
                  • Spring & Spring MVC Portlet
                  • Ant
                  • Maven
                  • Alloy UI
                  • Bootstrap
                  • HTML5
                  • Sass
                  • SalesForce
                  • Tomcat
                  • MySQL

                  The solution

                  Yale had developed evaluation criteria to compare portal options. These criteria included a defined set of user stories, an assessment of the system’s user experience and user interface capabilities, as well as integrations with both Salesforce and ServiceNow. The comparison was time-boxed as a six-week effort.

                  SDG was chosen to partner with Yale through the evaluation and represent the portal product team throughout this evaluation. Over the course of the project, SDG guided the portal implementation from requirements through implementation and documentation. Additionally, Yale relied on SDG’s deep portal and higher education experience to provide a strategic perspective on building an implementation team and understanding the total cost of ownership.

                  All images provided by Yale University. Photo credits: “Campus Walk” by Dan Renzetti; “Bass Tower” by Jack Devlin; “Directed Studies Orientation 2015” by Michael Marsland.

                  A Digital Campus for Higher Education (Company Confidential)

                  A Digital Campus for Higher Education (Company Confidential)

                  Case Study


                  A Digital Campus for Higher Education 

                  Online university (company confidential)

                  A leading online university partnered with SDG to build a complete campus experience, digitally.


                  Heavily regulated industry
                  Complex integrations
                  Multiple user types
                  Building a community


                  SDG Solutions

                  Project delivery
                  Solution architecture
                  Application development
                  DevOps & Infrastructure


                  More than just a portal, an online university needed a digital campus

                  Online universities depend on digital technology to deliver the entire higher education experience to their students, including facilitating learning, assesing students, supporting collaboration, and managing the many administrative and support functions of campus life, from financial aid to registration to libraries and research.

                  Our customer is one of the world’s most successful and prominent online-only universities. It recognized that its portfolio of technologies and services from different vendors was creating a disjointed and ineffcient experience for students. Students needed to use an ERP system for adminstrative transactions, a Learning Management System (LMS) for online courses, and other third-party and homegrown resources for advising, student support, and other services.

                  Facing pressures from both users and competitors, they planned to implement a new digital experience, which they envisioned as a virtual campus, to unify all the resources and tools necessary for students and faculty to succeed.

                  The campus vision

                  The university’s digital product and technology teams collaborated with SDG to implement a vision that included essential components of the university experience:

                  • Academic learning through a third-party Learning Management System (LMS).
                  • Adminstrative tools from Student Information Systems (SIS) and ERP applications.
                  • Academic support resources including both third-party and custom-made web resources.
                  • A private community of students, faculty, and alumni, including discussions, contacts, and academic groups.

                  And they needed the new system to be:

                  • Personalized and user-friendly
                  • Easy to integrate with existing technologies
                  • Flexible, reliable, and state-of-the-art
                  • Supportive of academic progresses

                  Building the solution together

                  After analyzing over 40 different objectives, the SDG team customized a solution that delivered the vision of university leadership. Recognizing the need for efficiency, speed and reliability, SDG recommended and then implemented a Java-based portal framework to serve as the university’s new platform. In addition, SDG and university technologists devised a service-oriented architecture (SOA) layer to connect existing systems and allow data to flow freely between them. Finally, SDG provided quality assurance to ensure a smooth rollout to the entire university community.

                  Benefits of the new system

                  • Upgraded personal and professional networking features
                  • On-demand access to information
                  • Easy navigation between platforms
                  • Enhanced interface and virtual university experience
                  • Communities functionality, including profiles, groups, discussions, and chat 

                  Roles played by SDG

                  • Strategic alignment
                  • Program planning and project delivery
                  • Infrastructure and tool selection
                  • User experience design
                  • Application development and integration architecture
                  • Off-shore quality assurance management

                  Technologies used

                  • Java
                  • Liferay Enterprise
                  • Portal PeopleSoft ERP
                  • Blackboard
                  • AJAX
                  • Spring WebServices
                  • Hibernate
                  • Offshore Testing
                  • Agile Project Management

                  A Note on Confidential Case Studies

                  This customer preferred that we keep their identity confidential, so we haven’t named them in this case study. While we’re proud of our work on this project, SDG respects our customers’ wishes.  

                  All photographs courtesy of Unsplash.

                  Customizing the Travel Portal Experience (Company Confidential)

                  Customizing the Travel Portal Experience (Company Confidential)

                  Case Study


                  Customizing the Travel Portal Experience 

                  Global travel management firm (company confidential)

                  A firm specializing in global travel management worked with SDG on a new portal experience for business travelers.


                  100,000+ independent websites
                  Multi-lingual support
                  Deep customization requirements


                  SDG Solutions

                  Project delivery
                  Solution architecture
                  Application development
                  DevOps & Infrastructure


                  A global travel management firm overhauls its digital portal

                  A global business travel management company maintained an online portal that served over two million active travelers and travel arrangers. This portal was critical to the company’s operations, as it enabled important services like travel management, traveler care, and meetings and events.

                  This portal, which the company implemented years prior, was overdue for an update. The technology was limited in its ability to customize and personalize content for customers with contextually relevant information. Even minor changes were expensive and time consuming. Moreover, the company felt its relationship with its portal vendor was cumbersome, and they needed more control over a responsive development environment that could address their future vision and serve their customers better.

                  The vision

                   The company collaborated with SDG to define a portal that would:

                  • Allow them to customize and personalize content.
                  • Bring more control in-house, rather than using a vendor for updates.
                  • Have one easy login for users.
                  • Provide a world-class experience for travelers and bookers.
                  • Support 16 languages.

                  Building the solution together

                  To realize this vision and tackle these challenges, the company engaged SDG, whose portal expertise helped them make sound decisions about their new portal. In the old environment, updating content and adding features was expensive and slow. SDG implemented an architecture to simplify changes, reduce long-term maintenance costs, and deliver a more consistent branded experience while still allowing customization. The new solution was able to integrate data from diverse sources, allow fine-grained control over permissions and organizational hierarchy, and offer  flexible templating to support thousands of discrete customer sites.

                  Solution features

                  • Manages the client/sub-unit hierarchy with organizations and site templates.
                  • Enables rapid deployment of content and functional changes across all sites.
                  • Allows selective propagation of content by a client to their sub-units.
                  • Customizes content and functionality through roles and permissions for both the sub-unit and individuals.
                  • Includes custom portlets that integrate with trip and hotel data sources.

                  Roles played by SDG

                  • Agile project delivery and management
                  • Solution architecture
                  • Business analysis
                  • Enterprise architecture
                  • Application development
                  • Infrastructure and DevOps support
                  • Documentation and training

                  Technologies used

                  • Liferay DXP
                  • Java
                  • Hibernate
                  • Maven
                  • Tomcat
                  • MySQL
                  • ElasticSearch
                  • HTML5
                  • Javascript
                  • React/Redux
                  • Docker

                  The result: a single environment serving 140,000 websites

                  The company now hosts its portal platform internally, integrating the core platform with data from a variety of sources. This single environment serves over 140,000 websites in 16 languages. The company has also used this environment to launch a second brand on a second virtual instance, leveraging much of the custom code and infrastructure from the original implementation. They continue to help their customers lower travel costs and help make the art of travel and travel booking easier for their clients.

                  A note on confidential case studies

                  This customer preferred that we keep their identity confidential, so we haven’t named them in this case study. While we’re proud of our work on this project, SDG respects our customers’ wishes. 

                  All images courtesy of Unsplash.

                  Star Tribune: Agile Transformation for a Digital News Organization

                  Star Tribune: Agile Transformation for a Digital News Organization

                  Case Study


                  Agile Transformation for a Digital News Organization

                  Star Tribune

                  Minneapolis’s Star Tribune newspaper worked with SDG to implement agile practices and roles.


                  Legacy brand
                  Struggling industry
                  Leadership alignment

                  SDG Solutions

                  Product strategy
                  Agile coaching
                  Product team organizational design

                  A major daily newspaper company transforms to tackle new challenges

                  The Minneapolis Tribune published its first newspaper on May 25, 1867, just a few months after Minneapolis received its city charter. For well over a century, the Tribune and its competitor and then sister paper, the Minneapolis Star, prospered. By the 1990s, the Minneapolis Star Tribune was one of the leading daily newspapers in the USA.

                  In the mid-1990’s Star Tribune transitioned into a modern-day, technology-driven media company. In 1996 the company launched an online edition, eventually adding a mobile site and smartphone apps. These digital properties enabled Star Tribune to build on its strengths of delivering the news when and how readers wanted. 

                  But in the 21st century, new challenges emerged. The news industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have steadily declined, and website audience traffic, after some years of growth, has leveled off.

                  Star Tribune’s leadership realized that to compete in this challenging industry, they needed to transform their technology and product processes to a more agile model. And in 2019, they engaged SDG to help.

                  Guiding an agile journey

                  SDG began by assessing how the Star Tribune digital organization planned and delivered software. The goal: to better understand their agile maturity and improve their product planning and delivery processes. Through close collaboration with Star Tribune’s leadership and operational staff, SDG identified opportunities to improve and partnered to implement agile process that aligned with Star Tribune’s organizational goals.

                  They implemented the Scrum framework, working with Star Tribune leadership on foundational tenets. As a part of this implementation, Star Tribune introduced roles of product owners and Scrum master and defined products and aligned them to the newly established roles and cross-functional teams.

                  SDG coached the employees of Star Tribune during this transformation. Workshops included an overview of agile, Scrum basics, agile estimation techniques, story creation, and story mapping. They paired this work on agile with the continual maturation of Star Tribune’s DevOps processes.

                  To ensure alignment and focus on technical excellence, SDG’s agile coach worked closely with the teams to establish agile ceremonies, including weekly planning sessions, two-week sprints, and reviews and retrospectives. The retrospectives proved especially valuable, serving as a forum for the team to share feedback and strenghten their working relationships and ultimately the quality of their products. Many people in the organization had not worked together closely before, so this was a significant shift in how Star Tribune’s software was built.

                  After the initial project, SDG remained engaged with Star Tribune to support a successful transition and ensure they’re meeting their product goals and fulfilling their important mission. SDG continues to consult with Star Tribune leadership on their agile transformation, and the organization’s advertisers and audience are seeing the results.

                  Benefits of the transformation

                  • Acceleration of software delivery
                  • Greater adaptability to changing market priorities
                  • Increased productivity 
                  • Enhanced software quality
                  • Improved team morale

                    SDG roles

                    • Process analysis and consulting
                    • Product strategy
                    • Agile coach
                    • Scrum master
                    • Documentation and training

                        Header image courtesy of Unsplash

                        Second Harvest Heartland: Mapping Food Insecurity with Big Data

                        Second Harvest Heartland: Mapping Food Insecurity with Big Data

                        Case Study


                        Mapping Food Insecurity with Big Data

                        Second Harvest Heartland

                        A leading food bank worked with SDG to use data on hunger to build interactive maps to track food insecurity.


                        Non-profit dynamics
                        Disparate data sources
                        Challenging visualizations

                        SDG Solutions

                        Technical design
                        Data visualization
                        User experience design

                        Attacking hunger through sophisticated data visualization

                        Second Harvest Heartland is one of the nation’s largest, most efficient, and most innovative food banks. In a typical year, the organization collects, stores, and distributes over 80 million pounds of food to an estimated 530,000 people in 41 counties in Minnesota and 18 counties in western Wisconsin.

                        Second Harvest’s mission is to end hunger through community partnerships. They achieve this by focusing on results, innovation, and thought leadership. They find new sources of food and deliver it to over 1,000 food shelves, pantries, and other agency partner programs that in turn distribute this food to hundreds of thousands of families.

                        One way Second Harvest achieves this mission is through educating community leaders and legislators about food insecurity levels and associated demographics in their areas. They use complex demographic and geographic data to tell this story, but this raw data only paints a partial picture and it’s often difficult to visualize. They needed a more engaging and effective experience to communicate this information.

                        An interactive solution to tracking hunger

                        Second Harvest partnered with SDG to conceive, design, and implement an interactive map that allows users to navigate their service area and visually highlight hunger need areas. The map helps Second Harvest represent and understand hunger needs more accurately, and communicate with stakeholders to enact change and generate funding for more outreach.

                        An interactive experience compatible with any device

                        After collaborating with Second Harvest to envision and research the solution, SDG developed an interactive map that both looks and functions well across any device. This responsive web application is able to recognize, organize, and scale its display to the device of the user.

                        The interactive map is a single-page application, where all of the code needed for the page to function is loaded once. As the zoom level, demographic filters, and other data are adjusted, the interactive map dynamically communicates with the backend data and automatically redraws itself. This user interaction is seamless and fluid providing a fast and delightful user experience.

                        User controlled, powerful, and information-rich

                        The data in the application is detailed enough to display hunger needs by census tract, or clusters of about 8,000 people, which allows the user to efficiently view hunger need hot-spots within a community.

                        Additional user-controlled data layers provide useful information on items such as food shelf locations, the amount of food distributed at each location, Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) locations, school locations, students receiving free or reduced meals, and poverty rates. The application is a major step forward in communicating targeted food insecurity data across a population.

                        Partnership scorecard

                        The interactive hunger map helps Second Harvest execute its mission of attacking hunger in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

                        Pounds of food annually

                        Counties mapped

                        People served

                        Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

                        AsseTrac: Reducing Environmental Impact with IoT

                        AsseTrac: Reducing Environmental Impact with IoT

                        Case Study


                        Reducing Environmental Impact with IOT


                        AsseTrac partnered with SDG on an integrated hardware and software solution for tracking and reporting on construction equipment — while reducing environmental impact.


                        Software-hardware integration
                        Startup challenges
                        Tight timelines

                        SDG Solutions

                        Product strategy
                        Internet of Things (IoT)
                        Cloud architecture
                        Mobile applications
                        Experience design
                        Application development


                        Tracking construction assets in the vast wilderness

                        AsseTrac helps its customers manage thousands of heavy equipment assets on construction and other worksites that may span hundreds of miles, often in remote, environmentally sensitive locations. They do this through tracking technology that provides precise location and other data to worksite personnel. A startup founded by two Minnesota natives with over 40 years of experience in the construction industry, AsseTrac was formed when its founders recognized the value of replacing inaccurate manual processes with tightly integrated software to locate equipment and bill for the movement of the assets.

                        Originally, the AsseTrac team was tempted to use pre-built tracking software from their device manufacturing partners to manage these valuable assets. However, as they built their business, AsseTrac’s founders quickly identified that a more customized solution engineered as professional-grade software would better serve their needs and differentiate their product.

                        With that in mind they turned to SDG for assistance in defining the product, designing the integrated hardware and software experience, building the software, and ultimately delivering the solution.

                        Built for the construction industry

                        An example of the assets that AsseTrac manages are Access Mats, large mats that form temporary roads for heavy equipment in remote locations. The mats enable firms to move equipment through areas like wetlands and forests without permanently altering the landscape. Access Mats and machinery are fitted with patent pending technology to provide the current location of the mat to personnel, who use software to then make decisions about repairs and movements.

                        It’s critical that the entire system functions flawlessly, even in harsh conditions. SDG worked closely with AsseTrac’s leaders and the users of the software to design and build a comprehensive solution that embrace the realities of this industry through user focused design and configurable business rules.

                        Startup dynamics

                        As a startup, AsseTrac is laser-focused on delivering maximum value for its owners’ investment and on developing a product that solved customers’ immediate needs while being set up for long-term potential. With this in mind, they needed the ability to start small but then grow the infrastructure as more customers and assets are acquired. SDG designed a solution that maximized value out of the gate, while able to scale as the company grew.

                        Agility through the cloud

                        SDG designed a cloud-native approach for AsseTrac’s product, leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the cloud provider. Through the use of capabilities such as Lambda and GraphQL, SDG was able to greatly reduce the development time and simplify long-term management of the software. In addition to that agility, the ability to scale the solution as the customer base grows better supports the financial model of a startup like AsseTrac.

                        From brand to deployment

                        While building its product and its technical infrastructure, AsseTrac needed to establish a brand, serve their customers, and produce technology that can expand with the business. SDG’s product experts helped AsseTrac establish a brand identity and a design system for the product, build the cloud-native solution, and transition the support of the system to a managed services provider.


                        Header photograph courtesy of Unsplash. Other photography provided by AsseTrac.

                        Unisys: A Multi-Tenant Business Services Aggregator

                        Unisys: A Multi-Tenant Business Services Aggregator

                        Case Study


                        A Multi-Tenant Business Services Aggregator


                        Global IT leader Unisys partners with SDG on mission-critical digital product design and development.


                        Diverse customer personas
                        Competitive market
                        Complex integrations

                        SDG Solutions

                        Product strategy
                        Roadmapping & prioritization
                        Vision & value proposition
                        Experience design
                        Application development


                        Solidifying a leadership position

                        Unisys deploys the largest single instance multi-tenant Liferay installation in the world. Over 75 of the world’s largest and most successful companies use Unisys’s portal to manage technology services across end-user, IT operations, and executive roles. However, the portal only functioned in a desktop browser and the self-service functionality, dashboards, and user experience lagged behind user expectations.

                        SDG was challenged with creating a new fully responsive user experience in direct replacement of the application’s legacy user interfaces. Additionally, new custom self-service functionality and dashboards were created to extend the capabilities of the platform. Unisys’s goal was to solidify their position as the clear market leader in managed IT services a goal which SDG helped them achieve.

                        Building the solution together

                        SDG led the software development lifecycle, including project management, business analysis, user experience design, architecture, development, and quality assurance. The team designed and implemented a world-class responsive web interface which was optimized against leading devices and operating systems. Together, the Unisys and SDG team focused on enabling configuration versus customization to enable Unisys’s clients to include their own branding within the system. This included custom configurations for icons, labels, colors, and imagery as well as content.

                        Coupled with user specific localization including multi-lingual support, these configurations empower administrators with unmatched control over their sites. Industry leading frameworks and libraries decrease long-term cost of ownership. Device specific testing for current OS/browser version minus one (N-1) compatibility was completed.

                        Ambitious vision

                        Unisys envisioned a system that offered:

                        • A world-class user experience from any modern device
                        • Support for simultaneous highly personalized corporate brands
                        • Theme customization through configuration alone
                        • Personalized content and functionality based on user role and organization
                        • Easily extensible and adaptable feature deployment
                        • Commercial quality found in PaaS offerings

                          Goals achieved

                          Benefits of the new system included:

                          • Ability to market and sell the leading managed services offering in existence
                          • Easily branded sites for over 75 customers on a single implementation
                          • Language localization for menus and content
                          • Foundation to upsell and cross-sell additional services
                          • Reduced total cost of ownership through custom configurations
                          • Single codebase and set of servers to maintain
                          • Management of IT services from any connected device

                          SDG expertise

                          Unisys relies on SDG for deep expertise in:

                          • Agile project delivery
                          • Fully responsive user experience design
                          • Application architecture and development
                          • Multi-enterprise integration architecture
                          • Device specific quality assurance

                            SDG consultants played a variety of roles

                            • Agile project delivery and management
                            • Business analysis
                            • Enterprise architecture and application development
                            • Fully responsive user experience development
                            • Consultation on long-term product management and operational strategies
                            • Documentation and training

                            All photographs courtesy of Unsplash.

                            Hill Museum & Manuscript Library: Preserving Ancient Manuscripts with Technology

                            Hill Museum & Manuscript Library: Preserving Ancient Manuscripts with Technology

                            Case Study


                            Preserving Ancient Manuscripts with Technology

                            Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

                            St. John’s University’s Hill Museum and Manuscript Library and SDG collaborated on a web-based application for cataloging ancient manuscripts.


                            Audience of global scholars
                            Complex visualizations 
                            Archival quality and accuracy
                            Grant-based funding sources

                            SDG Solutions

                            Digital strategy
                            Technical architecture
                            Mobile product development
                            User experience

                            Using modern software to manage ancient documents

                            Since 1965, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University (SJU) has been dedicated to the preservation of manuscripts from around the world through the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML).

                            Specifically, HMML’s scholars have sought out areas where historical artifacts are in danger—whether through disaster, conflict, or other circumstances. Their goal is to ensure that these texts remain intact for the future.

                            While printed texts can be found in various libraries and museums, manuscripts are unique, hand-written documents, whose value is immeasurable for scholars of paleography, codicology, and numerous other disciplines.

                            Cataloging such documents involves taking high-resolution photographs of each page and providing detailed bibliographic information for reference.

                            In accordance with the Benedictine tradition, SJU scholars have continually aimed to make use of the best available technologies. So as they planned how to preserve manuscripts with an audience of global scholars, they sought to incorporate such technologies into their library.

                              Partnering with SDG to deliver a Virtual Reading Room

                              HMML’s vision was a Virtual HMML Reading Room (vHMML)—a unique web application where global scholars could view manuscripts, share research, and work with local, on site staff to archive new materials from active worksites. It was essential that the new format would allow for the digital reproduction and cataloging of manuscripts before they faced destruction.

                              HMML partnered with SDG create this solution. The goal: to create a cloud-hosted solution that would allow HMML staff to easily update website content and provide an updated look in anticipation of increased web traffic following a featured story on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

                              For an institution that is completely funded by grants and donations, national media coverage of this magnitude represented a unique opportunity to expose the work HMML was doing to a massive audience of potential donors. With this in mind, one additional goal was to guarantee that the site could continue to deliver content with low latency during a flood of traffic. All of these goals had to be accomplished under a tight timeline with an unmovable deadline: the site had to be live when the 60 Minutes episode aired.


                              The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library virtual reading room

                              Global reach

                              As of 2017, HMML is actively collecting manuscripts from Mali, Egypt, Ethiopia and a number of locations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  At the time SDG was engaged to help with this project, the effort to create the new system had been underway for over 18 months as a collaborative effort between 3 separate teams who were struggling to produce a viable product.

                                Ambitious goals

                                HMML and SDG collaborated to achieve these goals:

                                • Provide a fresh look that aligned with HMML branding
                                • Include an interactive map & manuscript tour
                                • Present a stronger, more cohesive visual mission statement
                                • Allow for simple content management
                                • Remove on-premise IT dependency
                                • Guarantee uptime under heavy load
                                • Deliver content with low latency for all of HMML’s global audience
                                • Support any device

                                    A full range of skills

                                    SDG used a full complement of product skills throughout the partnership. including:

                                    • Agile project delivery and management
                                    • Business analysis
                                    • Quality assurance
                                    • UI/UX design
                                    • Enterprise architecture and application development
                                    • Infrastructure/DevOps support
                                    • Documentation and training


                                      An elegant, scalable solution

                                      The resulting solution was a WordPress website running in the AWS Cloud on Amazon EC2, RDS, SES and CloudFront.

                                      WordPress delivered the simple content management capability that HMML desired and AWS services provided a way to quickly implement enterprise grade solutions to the infrastructure, delivery and performance goals of the project. While using the available funds in a responsible way and managing a very aggressive timeline SDG was able to create a site with an elegant design and an architecture that could scale to meet demand.

                                      The new solution features:

                                      • A branded, user-centric user interface
                                      • Cross-device compatibility
                                      • Administrative tools and security to manage content creation
                                      • Cloud deployment to eliminate IT dependency
                                      • Comprehensive keyword search
                                      • Global caching of content at edge locations around the world
                                      • Continuous integration pipeline management

                                      All images courtesy of Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

                                      Cargill: Commodities trading, in the cloud

                                      Cargill: Commodities trading, in the cloud

                                      Case Study


                                      Commodities Trading, in the Cloud


                                      Agriculture giant Cargill partnered with SDG to reinvent its global agricultural commodities risk trading platform from the ground up — and from the Cloud down.


                                      Multi-national scope
                                      Multiple legacy applications
                                      High financial stakes
                                      Heavily regulated industry

                                        SDG Solutions

                                        AWS Cloud-hybrid Architecture
                                        Agile coaching
                                        Technology Delivery
                                        App modernization
                                        Application development

                                          Managing risk in global agriculture

                                          Cargill Corporation is the world’s leading supplier of products and services to the global agriculture industry. Risk management across commodities, industries, and geographies is one of Cargill’s critical business units, and Cargill maintains a portfolio of applications and infrastructure to enable this complex business. Every day, agricultural producers, investors, and regulators in countries across the globe use Cargill’s tools and data to make high-stakes financial decisions.

                                          Facing a competitive market and aggressive goals, Cargill Risk Management needed to transform their trading platform to a cloud first, modern technology platform. SDG worked alongside Cargill to design and implement a solution that improved the overall quality of market and performance data, reduced administrative costs, and increased usability and reduced errors through a modern, mobile-friendly user interface.

                                            Building the solution together

                                            In implementing the solution, SDG partnered with Cargill to redesign Cargill Risk Management’s fundamental approach to technology initiatives.

                                            The first step in a cloud technology strategy

                                            The biggest technical challenge: migrating from Cargill’s legacy infrastructure to an AWS cloud-based platform that would unify Cargill’s applications and data, without sacrificing productivity and performance.

                                            Cargill had considerable in-house expertise on this opportunity, and they had even already built a rough proof-of-concept. But to turn that expertise and conceptual work into the company’s first production-ready cloud app, Cargill engaged SDG. Together, SDG’s consultants and Cargill’s technology team designed a comprehensive cloud adoption strategy, with risk management applications positioned as one of the first solutions in an enterprise-wide app modernization strategy.

                                            A platform for growth

                                            The AWS cloud-hybrid platform that the SDG and Cargill team designed is robust enough to handle high volume, globally distributed transactions, while remaining flexible and adaptable to allow the team to rapidly build and deploy new capabilities as their users’ needs evolve.

                                            It’s a platform that Cargill is now putting at the heart of its strategic capabilities, where it will help Cargill differentiate from competitors and respond quickly to a changing market.

                                            Comprehensive roles

                                            SDG oversaw system development and configuration, coordinated deployments, and implemented mature product management and software development practices.

                                            SDG consultants partnered with Cargill in the following roles:

                                            • Agile project delivery and management
                                            • Product and Program management
                                            • Design, UX and Prototyping
                                            • Enterprise architecture and application development
                                            • Consultation on long-term product management and operational strategies
                                            • Digital operations best practices

                                            Transforming to agile methods 

                                            While building and delivering a sophisticated new technical solution, SDG also worked with Cargill to implement agile, product-driven methods across the enterprise. Agile coaches worked with technology teams and market and business experts to identify gaps in understanding and opportunities to be more productive for the business and satisfying for the teams.  

                                            While the transformation is just beginning, Cargill is already working in new ways, with more frequent releases, new integrated team models, and clear, shared understanding of the problem at hand.

                                            Images courtesy of Unsplash and Cargill

                                            New York University: Building the Global Campus

                                            New York University: Building the Global Campus

                                            Case Study


                                            Building the Global Campus

                                            New York University

                                            New York University (NYU) and SDG partnered to create an award-winning, online campus to support their students, staff and faculty.


                                            Students, faculty, staff
                                            International user base
                                            Legacy systems
                                            Academic scheduling

                                            SDG Solutions

                                            Product Strategy
                                            Enterprise Architecture
                                            User Experience
                                            Technology Delivery
                                            CMS implementation
                                            Machine Learning
                                            AWS Cloud Adoption

                                            Global Reach

                                            Entering a phase of growth beyond New York City to three primary campuses and dozens of satellite locations, NYU desired a digital portal focused on supporting students, faculty, and staff. This digital campus would integrate with services to intelligently present a custom-tailored experience to each user based on that user’s roles, needs, activity, location, and preferences.

                                            Additionally, NYU envisioned a system that would: 

                                            • Feature a modern, responsive design.
                                            • Integrate numerous student, staff, and faculty services.
                                            • Foster connections between people across the university.
                                            • Remain highly available and performant for a global audience.
                                            • Be flexible to maximize the speed-to-market for future development.


                                            It begins with planning

                                            Based on our extensive portal experience as well as our commitment to academia, NYU engaged SDG to refine and implement NYU’s vision. This included:


                                            • Providing guidance through planning phase.
                                            • Gathering requirements.
                                            • Partnering with NYU to refine the user experience vision.
                                            • Recommending technology and enterprise architecture.

                                            Guiding the process

                                            SDG developed a robust algorithm to determine the relative “hotness” of content and functionality for each user based upon that individual’s history of interactions. In addition, SDG: 

                                            • Oversaw system development and configuration.
                                            • Coordinated deployments.
                                            • Implemented mature product management and software development practices.

                                            SDG consultants played a variety of roles


                                            • Agile project delivery and management
                                            • Business analysis
                                            • Enterprise architecture and application development
                                            • Fully responsive user experience development
                                            • Consultation on long-term product management and operational strategies
                                            • Documentation and training

                                            Exceeding Expections

                                            The new NYU portal, branded Global Home, received a great reception at launch, exceeding expectations from the original vision.

                                            Going forward, NYU Global Home is positioned to support the current needs of the university, and allows the flexibility to create and differentiate experiences to meet the changing needs of faculty, staff and applicants, as well as individual schools and programs.

                                            Images courtesy of Unsplash and NYU.