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A.S. Hayes

Conquering legacy code to elevate pension management
Laptop with code on the screen

The context

Montreal-based A.S. Hayes Consulting has been at the helm of the James Bay Cree-Naskapi Pension Plan since the 1980s. The multi-employer defined benefit pension plan is guided by the stringent regulations of the federal Pension Benefits Standards Act of 1985. It represents a critical component of financial security for its beneficiaries.

Confronted with the limitations of an outdated access database system and previous modernization attempts, A.S. Hayes Consulting faced significant technical debt and a maintenance-intensive application. They approached us to rework their legacy application to meet their evolving needs and ensure the plan's continued success. Here’s how we did it.

Project details

React JS
Serverless Architecture

The challenge

The project faced several key challenges, notably the lack of standardization in financial documents across different regions, which hindered the tracking of employment status changes and accurate calculation of pension contributions. Because of this lack of standardization, A.S. Hayes typically has a demanding year-end—characterized by a flurry of adjustments, reimbursements, retroactive changes, and reporting January through March. To address this issue, we were tasked with building a flexible system capable of accommodating retroactive adjustments and managing a variety of data formats.

Additionally, we needed to transition from the manual deployment processes (that were dependent on individual developers), to a more efficient, automated system. The pension plan's fluid nature, influenced by frequent regulatory changes such as the 2023 merger of federal and provincial plans, demanded a responsive and adaptable application design.

Our approach centered on speeding up the software development lifecycle by implementing Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and enabling rapid feature deployment, significantly outpacing older manual methods. This shift was crucial in navigating the complex landscape of pension management and adhering to evolving regulatory standards.

A technical obstacle was the reliance on DynamoDB, a NoSQL database that impeded performance due to its non-relational nature. By redesigning the database into a single table structure that pre-materializes joins, we improved query efficiency and application performance. This adjustment helped overcome the constraints of the legacy code and database design.

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Close-up of hands typing on a laptop

The task at hand

We began the project with an audit phase, reviewing the existing code to assess our ability to deliver a quality solution. This due diligence was essential for understanding the scope and requirements of the task. Next was a grooming phase, where we defined the functionality and workflows and created extensive documentation, including a lexicon, to cover the client's business processes and establish clarity.

The detailed documentation enabled our developers to start quickly. The application was built using a tech stack that included React, DynamoDB, a serverless architecture, and JavaScript. This choice of tools and technologies supported a cloud-native approach, optimizing for scalability, efficiency, and future-proofing of the application.

Laptop with code on the screen

The end result

We joined the A.S. Hayes project in July 2022, and the revamped pension application went live in December 2022, alleviating some of the manual management of inputting employments, earnings, contributions, and payments (an intense workload that detracts from A.S. Hayes’ core consulting duties and desire to be focused on membership management).

Our involvement accelerated the software development life cycle, enabling quicker iterations, feature enhancements, and scalable code. A.S. Hayes noted our integration into the project was faster than expected. Customer feedback on the reworked application has been positive, indicating an improved user experience.

What’s next

Our collaboration with A.S. Hayes is ongoing, as we continue to refine and enhance the system. Soon, we’ll be introducing an employer portal that will offer more detailed insights into employee profiles and activities. Notably, the portal will flag inconsistencies in data (e.g. missing monthly earnings, incorrect leave statuses, etc.), enabling employers to resolve these issues themselves by uploading information directly. Moreover, this will further streamline A.S. Hayes' year-end with deeper data insights, more robust reporting capabilities, and new methods of data presentation, ultimately allowing them to reorient their focus towards their consultancy expertise and membership management, reaffirming their role as industry-leading consultants.

Laptop showing the home screen of the A.S. Hayes software

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