In March, eBay got the call to assist the DHSC and build an eBay NHS Portal to supply PPE across the UK to frontline health care workers. By the latest count, at the beginning of July, over 18.5 million items of PPE have been shipped through the portal to 21,000 health care providers who have been invited to join the platform.
To build the eBay NHS Portal, teams across the marketplace business from the UK, Germany and the US worked around the clock to bring their expertise to bear. Today we want to shine the spotlight on these engineers and highlight their contributions.
eBay DECO and Commerce Innovations teams
With COVID-19 spreading rapidly in the UK, the pressure was on to get a working, reliable site into use quickly. Numerous key individuals and teams rallied behind the UK based project.
The San Jose based eBay Developer Ecosystem (DECO) team and Berlin based eBay Commerce Innovations teams were brought in to find creative, technical, platform solutions to create what the NHS needed.
Leveraging previous innovations building the Catch.app
DECO and Commerce Innovations have worked closely before. In 2018, they collaborated in the launch of Catch, an ecommerce site tailored to millennials for the German market. The Commerce Innovations team tapped DECO’s APIs in order to offer customers eBay’s best inventory and transaction experience on the discovery-oriented platform.
This time, the teams leveraged the Catch portal as the foundation for the NHS PPE project. APIs powered the inventory and checkout processes, and the Catch-based, user-facing experience was customized and augmented to the NHS’ specifications.
eBay’s new generation of APIs
Back in 2016, eBay began creating its new generation of APIs to enable third-party developers and grow eBay’s business and thank God they did as these were crucial to the project. Despite not being conceived of for this use, the APIs were key for the integration needed to make the NHS portal a reality in such a short period of time.
The NHS portal is built on top of eBay’s Buy APIs but with changes that enables health care providers to make zero-cost “purchases” of the items via Buy APIs in a controlled way. The items are all shipped directly from eBay sellers to the health care providers and of course the PPE items were on listings exclusive to the NHS portal.
The DECO team worked to enable the zero-cost transactions via the Buy APIs, while the Commerce Innovations team developed several platform enhancements such as preventing unauthorized orders by limiting portal access to NHS authorized health care providers. To optimize available supplies and help PPE reach the health care providers with the most urgent need, the team also designed a mechanism to constrain order quantity based on size and type of the health care practice.
The people behind the eBay NHS Portal technology
The technology itself is only part of the equation. Tanya Vlahovic, interim leader of the DECO organization and Paolo Levoni, Senior Director UK Operations, have both called out the ingenuity and work ethic of the people who contributed to the solution for health care providers.
“It is eBay at its best. Strongly led by purpose and desire to help the community, the Product and Tech teams managed to find a solution for every challenge that came along. Our decision making process was as fast as I’ve witnessed in my 15 years in the company.”
– Paolo Levoni, Senior Director UK Operations, eBay UK
“That week, people worked incredibly long hours across our offices in San Jose, Portland, Salt Lake City, Berlin, London, Dublin and Zurich to make this happen. And, it wasn’t just product and technology. We asked so much from people in the UK and German markets teams, DECO, Payments, Loyalty, Risk, Item visibility, Trust, InfoSec, Legal, GCX, Accounting and others. All I heard at the end was, ‘Thanks for the opportunity!’ which was truly amazing.
We do cool things every day, helping to create fantastic experiences for eBay customers. But, this project is special for everyone who contributed. This experience will create a lasting impression for all of us.”
– Tanya Vlahovic, interim leader of DECO, eBay