Developing a new, national Covid-19 health solution was a hackathon experience
In less than ten days, Systematic developed a Covid-19 self-service solution for infection detection for the Danish Agency for Patient Safety, and it was an intense experience to be a part of, says Cristian Mihailescu, Senior Systems Engineer. Here’s his story
After successfully delivering Denmark's application for Covid-19 contact tracing in 2020, Columna Flow Pandemic Control, Systematic developed an additional self-service solution to ease the contact tracing process for the ones that tested positive. With the Omicron variant putting pressure on the test centres and the contact tracing staff, the self-service solution aims to make it easier for Danes to participate actively in the detection of COVID-19 and at the same time free up time to advise and guide those who need help. The solution had to be ready in just under two weeks and right before Christmas.
With less than two weeks to deliver the self-service solutions and a busy team already working on deliveries for the Pandemic Control application, the project managers decided to create a new team that could deliver the self-service solution in good time. On this new team, there were colleagues from both Denmark and Romania and colleagues who were usually working on other projects or even in other business units. Senior Systems Engineer Cristian Mihailescu was assigned to this new team and worked on the new feature's backend.
- Cristian Mihailescu, Senior Systems Engineer
"Everything was so intense that you just stopped realising how time passed and that you just worked on this new team for three days. Everything worked seamlessly"," he says.
Cristian has been working for a different team on the Clinical Tasking project for the past year. He had never worked on the Pandemic Control solution before, so everything was new."
"It was an interesting experience. It felt like a hackathon situation, where you get a task that you have to solve in a couple of days"," he explains.
As with probably most projects, what you plan before you start working is not always what you end up working on. The same happened in this project. It was initially estimated to be a small task, but it became more complex. The deadline was unchanged, so they worked throughout the weekend to deliver the solution with a national impact.
High quality and security for a national healthcare solution in under two weeks
Systematic develops solutions for areas such as healthcare, the defence industry, the police, the emergency services, where users have to make qualified decisions in critical situations. The quality of the solutions is crucial, and testing is an important part of developing a solution.
"It was just as intense on testing as it was on development," says Cristian. "Test planning started in parallel with the development. We had a Test Manager and Test Engineers working together with us. Our work process includes developing a feature description, and half of this description was about testing: test goals, scenarios etc. These were split into different stages, and every day we had different elements we could test and develop".
A good approach for prototype development
It was something new, and experience teams are not used to in Systematic. They usually work on large projects that take years to develop and implement. But, if this pandemic taught them something, it is that they can be even more dynamic and make things happen in under two weeks sometimes. "I experienced this before in hackathons, where you want to deliver a good project fast, and you need to work together with people you don't know, and you develop that trust very fast," says Cristian.
According to Cristian, this would be a good approach for prototype development in Systematic for future projects. It gives an even more dynamic approach to these types of projects.
"Another thing that helped us was to have people with varied experience on the team". When you work on the same project for a longer time, you become used to doing some things in a certain way. Having people with different experiences on the same team brings a lot of value.
Using pre-existing knowledge from other projects is vital when having a short time to develop and deliver a solution. The team used the same technologies for this project that are used in their main product suite, Columna Flow and Columna Flow Pandemic Control.
The team uses the newest technologies; everything is set up in containers and a smart deploy method. The main technologies used are.NET Core 5.0, SQL Server 2016 for the backend APIs and the latest version of Angular on the frontend with Material Design for better cross-device responsiveness of the layout. For the development ent part, the team uses Docker with Ansible playbooks.
“…it is a great place to come and develop your skills and have some great colleagues.”
- Mathias Glavind Schmidt, Systems Engineer, Digital Transformation
As a software engineer, you work in a project team with agile development methods and Scrum. The atmosphere is informal, and knowledge sharing and cooperation are important elements of the job. You will be able to participate in every stage of development in projects of various sizes and complexity.