The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the top #12 public national universities in the USA, is known for its academic excellence and commitment to fostering research, education, engagement, and outreach activities by transforming processes at scale. To accomplish this goal, UIUC relies on the Facilities and Services (F&S) department. It has diversely skilled individuals, including the staff and outside vendors. They play key roles in providing and maintaining a physically conducive environment and facilities at the campus. They manage their operations through a web based Facilities and Services (F&S) Portal. It acts as a digital gateway, providing access to essential resources and operational services such as Engineering and Construction Services, Safety and compliance, Transportation services, Customer Relations, Utilities, etc.
In order to meet the growing demand for secure and user-friendly access to the F&S portal, UIUC recognized the need to upgrade its UI, enabling faster connections between university staff, outside vendors, and other university system campuses. This case study presents the journey of this effective web based application tech stack and UI update, ensuring a more efficient, reliable, and user-friendly digital experience.
The need for upgrading UIUC's Facilities and Services Portal was rooted in several pressing challenges that the institution needed to address. These challenges were closely linked to the university's mission, ongoing activities, and the changing needs of the campus. Upgrading the portal was necessary to address the below-mentioned challenges effectively.
The existing web app was developed using outdated JDK7 code that had security issues and limited flexibility for technical upgrades.
The user interface of the web app was not user-friendly, making navigation difficult for staff due to its complexity issues. The use of the older JSP Wicket framework added to the complexity and resulted in performance issues.
The outdated technology and framework of the existing web based application led to slow loading times and sporadic downtime hampered staff productivity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a smooth operation was essential.
The web based platform’s difficulties in connecting with other university systems created inefficiencies and hampered data flow.
UIUC has long relied on the Facilities and Services Portal to accomplish the operations related to facilities and grounds across the campus. In order to enable user-friendly access, enforce robust security measures, and improve the performance of the existing web based application, UIUC revamped its UI along with a few technology stacks. Our experts upgraded the Backend version from JDK7 to JDK11 of all the 35 modules and later on upgraded to JDK17 which is in the testing phase right now. The upgrade was done phase-wise, which helped minimize any potential issues or downtime.
For upgrading the user interface, our web app designers came up with the latest Kendo React UI technology which is flexible and faster in performance. Out of 35 modules, 5 important modules such as Carpool, Service Request, Online Purchase Request, Payroll, and Mobile of the web based application were upgraded using the React framework.
Updated the older backend version of JDK7 with JDK11 initially. Later on upgraded to JDK17, the latest long-term support version released from the Java SE platform. Front-end code made compatible with the latest backend code.
While upgrading JDK7 to JDK11 we upgraded Active MQ and Mule versions as well. Earlier Mule 3. x version was used which was converted to Mule 4. x. Active MQ was used as a scheduler to sync data of different modules in the portal.
After upgrading the JDK versions, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Facilities and Services portal upgrade turned out to be fantastic. The upgrade effectively improved the overall security of the web based application, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of data. Migrating to the latest JDK17 version boosted its performance and stability, reducing the risk of downtime. In addition to the web app upgrade, the UI overhaul resulted in a faster, more intuitive user experience, enhancing navigation. The new web app UI meets 508-accessibility standards, ensuring the platform is accessible to users with disabilities. It not only met immediate needs but also set the stage for long-term excellence.