Today’s modern associations require many different systems to work together to deliver value to their members. There are a variety of different systems out there, such as:
- Learning Management Systems (LMS)
- Community Management Systems
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
However, not all of these systems are necessary for every organization. Most associations only need to use two:
- Association Management System (AMS) – Typically a database system that allows staff to manage the association’s membership information, products, and other records. Most AMSs also provided some web access to end users so that they can login/logout, update their information, and purchase products.
- Content management System (CMS) – The control system behind the association’s website and used by the staff to make updates to marketing information and member resources (ex. Sitefinity).
Each system provides its own benefits can bring value to an organization and members. Traditionally each system would remain as its own entity detached from the others. While this method is easy to understand and manage, it does not provide a good experience for the staff and members who have to interact between all of these systems. The largest issues that appear are:
- Users needing to login to each system individually and needing to remembering many login credentials.
- More work for staff as they have to duplicate content across systems so that information between them stays consistent.
- Confusion on what system to go to for specific information.
- Disjointed look between systems.
To address these issues, Vanguard has developed many solutions where these systems can begin to talk and share information with one another.
The New ESOP Association Website
The ESOP Association, a longtime client of Vanguard Technology, embarked on rebuilding of their website. Their goal was not only to redesign the website but to find a better way to promote national and local events. It is through these events and the products that they sell that The ESOP Association generates revenue through the website. The old process of displaying events on the website was tedious. The staff would create an event or product in their AMS (iMIS) and then create the same event on the website. This caused not only double work for the staff but an additional click for the user to get to the registration page. Vanguard saw this as an opportunity to create custom functionality to have the AMS and website share certain information to eliminate these issues.
Single Sign-On (SSO)
Vanguard created an SSO with the iMIS RiSE platform. Whenever a user needs to login to either system, they will be redirected to the RiSE login page. Upon successfully logging in, the user is then returned to page they were previously viewing but logged into both systems. This way the user has access to both systems through only one login and set of credentials. The SSO also has an additional feature. Upon logging in, iMIS provides the website with a small amount of that user’s data, such as ID number, name, and their level of membership. This data allows The ESOP Association to lock pages, documents, and other content on the website to only be accessible certain users and provides a personalized welcome message to the user.
A website skin consists of the header and footer of a website without the content in the center. The content in the center is added by the AMS. Vanguard created a skin for The ESOP Association’s RiSE pages so that they have the same look and feel. With the website skin in place on the AMS pages a user has the same web experience even though they may be navigating between the two systems.
Event & Product API
Vanguard created and modified existing Sitefinity widgets to pull data from the AMS and display it on the website. Once a night, typically when traffic to these systems are at their lowest, a service runs to pull event and product data from the AMS. This service does not pull all of an event’s or product’s information but just some of the important information like title, price, and (most importantly) category. These records are then updated and saved on the website. Therefore, the information displayed on the website is always up to date and also prevents the staff from needing to enter this information into each system individually. This not only provides a cost and time savings but provides additional flexibility. The ESOP Association staff can configure the event or product widgets on a particular page to only show certain content due to receiving the category information for that item. For example, the Illinois chapter page only shows chapter events (versus other events like national events or sponsorship events) and only events that apply to the Illinois chapter. The staff only needs to configure this widget once and it will always show the applicable information. Lastly, this feature benefited users who now simply click on the event on the website and are brought directly to the registration page instead on the AMS instead of an intermediate page on the website.
As demonstrated by The new ESOP Association website, building features that integrate systems together provide benefits for all users. The more integration, the more the experience is enhanced. This is especially true for front-end users where additional integration can deliver a more personalized experience. The sky is the limit with these features and Vanguard is continuing to search for new and innovative ways to enhance the experience of every user.