22 September 2015
Alfred Deeb

The mission was clear

An as-is website migration from NetCat, a proprietary CMS, to the govCMS platform for the Australian Government's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Now that it’s live and the mission is accomplished, we thought we would document this celebratory milestone.

No task too big

Salsa Digital were engaged by Acquia on behalf of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to perform a very clear task, migrate a legacy website as-is to the govCMS platform and in doing so provide a very stable site from which to keep building. The “as-is migration” meant we had to ensure the site looked and behaved like the old website.

Introducing CASA

If you're not familiar with CASA and what they do, here's a little introduction: CASA is the Australian Government’s regulatory authority for civil aviation. Among its services, key ones include things like:

  1. Conduct safety regulation of civil air operations in Australia
  2. Provide comprehensive safety education and training programmes

Being legislative in nature, client's content needs to be accurate and ‘always available’.

If you're a pilot or aviation person you've probably already been introduced to some of their rules and regulations. CASA regulates everything from the use of airspace by aircrafts to a pilot’s right to enjoy a meal every 5 hours.

The Challenge

The old website had been presenting challenges for a while. In particular, the previous service provider closed their doors and left behind a legacy proprietary platform that CASA needed to support on their own.

The biggest challenge for CASA was realised when the website over time became very unstable, with no service provider to resolve and the website requiring regular reboots :(

The Recovery

Understandably, CASA needed a new system fast, and selected govCMS and the Acquia team - a stable robust enterprise-grade platform backed by online digital professionals and round-the-clock support.

Before long the client's project team and Acquia together with the Salsa Digital team were in discovery workshops with key stakeholders, mapping out what needed to be done. A few short weeks later agile stories were written and build commenced.

Only seven weeks after that, following careful planning, engineering and some long hours by CASA, Acquia and Salsa Digital, the like-for-like website found its new home on the govCMS/Acquia platform.

The recovery was complete.

Like for Like... well not entirely

Before migrating 5000+ pages of content, we needed to make sure the new site structure and functions were replicated on govCMS ‘like for like’. Although our mandate was ‘as-is’ we couldn’t help but make some improvements along the way. A handful of the features worth mentioning were things like:

  1. Site Search: previously all search requests went outside of the site via Funnel back. Now the main website search is brought in within govCMS Drupal natively and results are rendered in a consistent manner.

  2. Content CSVs: in various places, many web pages were presenting content coming from good old fashion .csv’s (comma separated files)! We took this opportunity to bring all csv content back into standard Drupal content types.

  3. Inline Javascript - we actually took away some functionality here but with good reason - Inline Javascript meant that content authors had freedom to create content in whatever format they wanted, creating inconsistencies and non-compliance throughout the site. We removed this capability and standardised the way content is presented.

  4. Site Map: overtime legacy upon legacy found its way into the site map. We just had to clean this up and thus simplify the site map significantly.

  5. Web forms: nothing too fancy here as we simply replicated a bunch of webforms.

Same but different with benefits

If you visited the CASA website today, it might look the same but it runs very differently.

We performed an as-is migration, which means we didn't change the appearance or functionality of the website at all - despite our strong desire to unleash our creative hands to enhance the design and user experience. So to the layperson, the website looks exactly the same as before.

What is different now however is an underlying extremely stable and reliable govCMS platform . Stability is only one of many govCMS platform benefits the client now enjoys. Other benefits include ( to name a few):

  1. Enterprise grade CMS platform backed by the Department of Finance

  2. Feature rich CMS

  3. Always current and government compliant’ CMS with automatic enhancements

  4. 24x7 enterprise support and proactive monitoring

  5. Security compliance of the highest class

A powerful foundation...

With a new and strong foundation, govCMS not only offers CASA many of the aforementioned benefits but also enables them to focus on growth and improvement strategies such as:

  1. Digital strategy - a foundation to enable CASA to realise their vision, goals and opportunities relating to digital initiatives to ultimately improve their service and value to its members.

  2. Content strategy - the ability to consolidate, plan, design and refresh years of legacy content in new, relevant and engaging ways.

  3. Responsive web design - the ability to reimagine the design and consequent ‘customer experience’ promoting greater accessibility by enabling their target audience to consume content conveniently via desktop, tablet & mobile devices.

Couldn’t have done it better ourselves

Salsa Digital's collaboration with Acquia was at first seemingly a foreign one. Typically, Salsa Digital drive the entire client discovery process and manage related scope and tasks. So we were naturally a little ‘hesitant’ when asked to take a little bit of a back seat for this part. During delivery however it became immediately obvious that Acquia knew what they were doing, and just as well :) So much so it was an absolute pleasure for our delivery team to have the project incredibly well managed.

Sprint of Awesome

No greater reward or recognition could substitute for the delightful surprise the client provided Acquia and the Salsa Digital team when authoring their final sprints. The client's project team created a final sprint called “ Sprint of Awesome ” individually calling out each team member for their great efforts :)

The Salsa Digital team are thankful for the opportunity and naturally look forward to working with Acquia and CASA in the future.

Want to know more

If it’s not obvious by now how much we enjoyed this project, we’re certain you’ll be convinced if you check out these related blog articles written by our certified govCMS Drupal engineers. Warning however - they're technical in nature :)

  1. My first glance at govCMS

  2. Frontend theming with govCMS

  3. Data and content migration with govCMS

And if you’re still not convinced here is our official in-depth govCMS technical whitepaper appropriately titled “Dissecting govCMS”.

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