Critical Review of Data Infrastructure

The Volunteer

This project was undertaken by Sujith Murughan Mudaliyar.

The Approach

The volunteer engaged the Charity Excellence Founder in a series of mind-mapping discussions to elicit his needs from his requirements. Charity Excellence's current solution for qualitative assessment of a charity's operation was constrained by an inability to scale and an inability to allow for distributed governance of the questionnaire used. 

The volunteer benchmarked the current solution with industry standard solutions. To refine the needs, they modelled the dataset and sketched wireframes and user activity diagrams depicting the end state. Upon reaching a consensus on the minimum viable product, they rapidly prototyped the solution, actively seeking feedback on the features developed in each sprint.

CEF Dashboard

Images: Above is the Charity Excellence dashboard created by the volunteer. Below is Mini Me, one of the infamous Charity Excellence bunnies.

Mini Me Jan 23

The Client

Charity Excellence is the largest and fastest growing UK charity community with 40,000 members. They provide a free one-stop-shop that enables any non-profit to find funding, free help, resources and data via their technology ecosystem.

The Client's Problem

Charity Excellence required a critical review of the system, to identify possible issues and advice on how best to aggregate and explain the data so that it provides valid, reliable, and useful output that can be safely used by any external organisation.

The work had all been carried out by the Founder and, although he had significant design and data expertise, he had worked alone without a critical friend and was not a data professional.

The Solution

The proposed Microsoft Power Platform based solution is a cloud hosted solution that addresses the challenges with the current solution with regards to scalability, governance, and application life cycle maintenance. The solution makes use of various Power Platform component-based services that leverage Charity Excellence questionnaire responses stored in the Dataverse (cloud).  

The components used in this solution are:

  • Dataverse: Hosts four standard tables and 18 custom tables
  • Power Apps: Used to build two model-driven applications and one web portal based on Power Pages for non-authenticated users.
  • Power Automate: Used to build an automated cloud flow that seeks approval from specified approvers when a question is created / updated / deleted in the question bank.
  • Power Virtual Agent: Used to build a chat agent (TechBunnai) that responds to users queries in natural language; trained on repository. It can also assist with queries on assessment, questionnaire, funding finder and help finder reports.
  • Power BI: Used to design and publish above reports and train the chat agent.
  • AI Builder: Currently used in a limited scale. Leveraged by TechBunnai.

The Benefits

Upon viewing the proof-of-concept solution, the Charity Excellence Board agreed to pilot the solution.

The proposed solution allows for distributed governance of the questionnaire, provides a centralised view of operations and lowers the lifecycle maintenance cost. In the words of the Founder:

“ …his approach to meet our specific needs, explained what was (for us) a new and very technical technology very clearly and simply and put a huge amount of work into the project that went far beyond anything we might reasonably have asked for. The final result was a working pilot of the platform and apps, which has led to a fundamental change in our strategic approach… “