Many members have raised questions regarding the status of our new websites (HPAC and ACVL) and the Membership Management System connected with them, due to a lack of information or misinformation.
This newsletter is dedicated entirely to this topic and we hope members will take a few moments to inform themselves with the facts on this important topic.
What does the “Website” Project consist of?
- Two front-end websites sites (the ones you see when you go to hpac.ca or acvl.ca) and
- A membership management system (MMS) back-end, which is a server-hosted web application that manages our complex membership data. At first glance, it might seem there is not much information to record for each member (contact info, pilot ratings, expiry date) when in fact the database contains a complete transaction history for each member recording each “event” in the member’s history with HPAC. Many thousands of records link with each other to render everything in your pilot profile: all of your ratings, which instructor granted each rating (including date, your exam marks, airtime and flight numbers), your complete membership history, instructor records (instructional history, ratings issued, certification and recertification history) and more; the MMS also ensures compliance with our Standard Operating Procedures as they relate to ratings, membership currency, instructor ratings and currency etc.
As a member, you see the website front end, but only a little of the MMS back end (your pilot profile, current member list, membership renewal, and some membership statistics). Only the Administrator and an authorized Board member have full access to all details in the membership records. The treasurer, authorized committee chairs and instructors have special access to only the information they need to perform their functions.
Here is how the development of the overall project breaks down.
- Website Content Management System (CMS): WordPress
- MMS Application Platform: Ruby on Rails
- Database Platform: SQL
- Electronic Payment Integration: PayPal
As with the current website, this is the fully integrated electronic payment system for new memberships and renewals
- Electronic Signature Integration: DocuSign
This includes fully integrated electronic waivers in the new member and renewal process, and also includes secure storage and retrieval of signed waivers, should they be needed in the future
- Online Waivers
- Online Submission of Pilot Ratings
- Fewer Manual Processes for Reduced Office Costs
- Online Recording of Instructor Courses
- Support for Mobile Devices
A bit of history
After an unfortunate start by the then-Board back in 2009, with a failed delivery of a replacement for the current websites and data management systems, which led to legal action by the then-Board, and the relationship with that developer was permanently severed in 2012. The Board then made the decision to start over:
Under the leadership of Dom Juretic as President, the then Board of Directors initiated an Organizational Renewal of the entire Association, its governance, all of its programs, and its communications. In particular this included updating the Bylaws to be in compliance with the new federal not-for-profit corporation act, reviewing and updating all SOP’s, creation of a Council of Senior Instructors, reviewing and updating pilot ratings, insurance updates, and development of a new e-newsletter; in short, a review of everything that HPAC did. The final piece would be the websites and member management system, since both were dependent on all of the other material.
For the websites, the options were
- to go with full-time highly qualified professional developers who would be able to deliver over a number of months at a cost of somewhere between $50,000 to $75,000, given the complexity of our member data management system requirements.
- To go with highly qualified professional developers working in the industry full-time, who would work on our project part-time, and deliver for a total of $24,000 over a much longer period of time. Also all content for the WordPress sites would have to be produced in-house by HPAC.
The Board of the day determined to go with Option 2.
Here is what was found at the beginning of the project:
The current front-end websites would have to be entirely reorganized and mostly rewritten from scratch, given the organizational changes that had taken place, (e.g. overhauled Standard Operating Procedures governing the Association), the changing needs of pilots to retrieve information (e.g. access by mobile devices), new constituencies who seek out the website (e.g. landowners), pruning outdated information from the current website, and reorganizing information to optimize for quick access.
The current back-end membership management system was tightly integrated with the front-end websites, and incorporated website content management functionality. Furthermore, the back-end had been expanded, patched and tweaked over many years and unfortunately no documentation was available that described the database structure or associations between the various tables in the database.
The existing database served us very well for many years; however, the database structure was in need of an update to:
- separate the website CMS from the MMS
- move to current and supported technologies and
- simplify the new MMS as much as possible.
As a result, the entire database had to be reverse-engineered by the developers, and an application created to migrate the data from the old structure to the new one, and significant testing done to ensure no pilot data would be lost – a hugely complex and time-consuming process.
Where are we now?
This has been a 5 year Organizational Renewal project for, long yes, but not unusually long, given the experience of several of our sister organizations in other countries. Many also have paid much much more for the level of web site that HPAC/ACVL will have.
Although a contract was created in May of 2016, the new Developers were not able to start until fall of 2016 to work on the new websites, after all content for the WordPress sites had be newly written by HPAC, and decisions made about the required functionalities for the back end. The developers have therefore been working (part time) for just over 1 year.
The front end WordPress sites are 98% complete, in both English and French, the Association has taken delivery of them and they are on our servers. Pictures are still being changed, small bits of content are still being added, and the links to the MMS application (your member card, join/renew, membership statistics, pilot list), will be added when the MMS is complete and online.
The MMS application is 75% complete and is also on our servers and the source code is in our possession. Development and testing are ongoing and we are working towards deployment as quickly as possible.
Both developers are highly experienced professionals working full-time in the industry: One is a senior developer for an international marketing system in Vancouver and the other a senior developer at one of the largest international e-commerce platforms, working out of Toronto.
The highest priority is to get the whole system up and functioning. We will then be able to add additional content to the WordPress sites and expand the functionality in the MMS as needed going forward. Since we are using open platforms for all development, we will have the flexibility to use the same or different developers for future work, depending on our cost/schedule needs.
HAVE A LOOK and please give us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org; it is your Association and these are your sites:
Until the MMS is online, the new websites are available at beta.hpac.ca and beta.acvl.ca.
Margit Nance, Executive Director, HPAC
Nick Jones, Vice President, HPAC and Website Project Board of Directors Liaison