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Talking govCMS in Melbourne

On Wednesday 20 April we co-hosted a govCMS for Victorian agencies luncheon with Acquia. We heard from some fantastic speakers — and hopefully everyone left a little wiser.

Alfred D 25 April 2016

The program

We had a wonderful turnout for our lunch and learn event, which featured a great breadth and depth of speakers, including:

After a quick intro from me highlighting Salsa Digital’s govCMS journey — from a small start-up focused on supporting open-source products to Acquia partner for govCMS delivery — it was on to our keynote speaker, John Sheridan.

John Sheridan

John Sheridan, Australian Government CTO, got to the point quickly. “Cloud computing is changing our very existence,” he said. He then went on to share his Uber experience from Melbourne Airport that morning, before moving onto Drupal and govCMS. When talking about adopting Drupal in-house, he referred to being inspired by many large organisations like The White House, “who obviously thought Drupal was pretty good”.

He outlined how Acquia came on board and told the Victorian agencies present (state and local) how govCMS had exceeded their most ambitious expectations. In fact, after the first year the number of live govCMS sites met their projections for the first two years.

But perhaps, as John pointed out, the strongest evidence of the power of govCMS is the number of agencies that want to start using govCMS. “There’s a long queue of people wanting to join, because they can see the advantages govCMS provides.”

He closed by mentioning the 19 April announcement on how govCMS will be integrated with GOV.AU.

Glenn Martin

Glenn Martin is the official product owner of govCMS, under his title of Assistant Director of the Online Services Branch at the Department of Finance. While John’s introduction gave us a high-level overview of govCMS, Glenn’s presentation addressed some of the finer details. He talked about the different pathways into govCMS for agencies (through Finance, in-house developers, Acquia and/or external vendors like Salsa), before moving onto why govCMS was created and how it aligns with various government policies across open source, cloud, the digital economy, etc.

Glenn talked about the relationship between govCMS and the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) (and the fact that govCMS is a critical part of GOV.AU beta), before moving onto some examples of government departments using govCMS. He also mentioned some of the content management systems that govCMS has replaced to date, including Dreamweaver, Netcat, Lotus Notes, Umbraco, Ektron, Wordpress and Documentum.

Glenn finished his presentation by looking at the two govCMS offerings: SaaS (software as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service).

Link to Glenn Martin's presentation here.

Chris Harrop

Chris Harrop is the director of govCMS at Acquia. He was able to provide even more detail on govCMS, and looked at the following key features of govCMS:

  1. Power Pipe Ping (Acquia has two availability zones in Australia (backed by AWS)).
  2. 24x7 monitoring and maintenance
  3. The relationship to Drupal (Acquia was created by founder of Drupal)
  4. Compliance with WCAG 2.0
  5. Information security
  6. Distributed denial of services (part of the SaaS platform but optional for PaaS)
  7. Drupal security team for managed security updates
  8. Application support 24x7
  9. Drupal distribution — Chris gave the audience a great analogy…comparing Drupal core and modules to Lego building blocks that you can configure how you want. For example you can use the theme layer (look and feel) or customise your site’s design.
  10. Shared innovation — Drupal community and how govCMS will be continually updated by agencies creating new modules of functionality.

Link to Chris Harrop's presentation here.

Gabrielle Williams and Michael Hodgkin

Next we moved onto a case study, looking at phase 1 and 2 of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) website redevelopment. Gabrielle provided the background: CASA’s old website was built on NetCat and was having major problems — in fact, it needed to be rebooted four times a day. Originally CASA had been looking at a full redevelopment but when they realised the scope (and timeframes) they decided to break the project into phases. Their immediate need was to get the site onto a stable platform.

Although they had looked at a licensed product, in the end they chose govCMS. Gabrielle talked about how govCMS met all their requirements and “offered stability, security and price with delivery in a short time frame.” CASA worked with the Department of Finance, Acquia and Salsa to migrate the site ‘as-is’ onto the govCMS platform (a CMS that Gabrielle described as “very, very easy to use”).

The first phase was fast and furious, with a project schedule of only eight weeks. In the end, phase 1 was delivered in only seven weeks.

Phase 2 focused on their wish list, which they further narrowed down into three main areas: a user interface redesign, major content audit and restructure, and a big search upgrade. Gabrielle mentioned that some of the legacy content dated back to the 1930s and that the site included 23,000 files.

Michael presented some stats, which showed that the new site is delivering big wins for them, including:

  • 34% increase in traffic;
  • 67% increase in mobile page views;
  • 132% increase in search; and
  • 372% increase in mobile search.

The final stat is particularly valuable to CASA given mobile responsiveness and upgrading the search were key requirements. “We’ve made huge gains in the specific areas we were targeting,” said Michael Hodgkin, Digital Transformation Architect, CASA.

Gabrielle also spoke about the fact that the project was run using agile project tools, but internally she still needed to report in waterfall (a project management combination that Glenn had mentioned was extremely common in government, something he’d termed ‘wagile’).

Gabrielle and Michael finished up by talking about how the wins in phase 1 and 2 had helped them get buy-in for phases 3 (underway) and 4 (planned).

Link to Gabriel Williams and Michael Hodgkin's presentation here.

Peter Moller

The second case study was delivered by Peter Moller from the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA). AFSA brought one of their websites, the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR), across to govCMS last year.

The old site was on SharePoint and it was another quick migration. They worked with the Department of Finance and went the in-house route, up-skilling their existing developers in Drupal/govCMS.

Peter listed the reasons why they chose govCMS, because it:

  • Was a whole-of-government solution
  • Provided cost-effective cloud hosting and 24/7 support
  • Allowed for internal development and ongoing BAU support
  • Was scalable for future development
  • Offered a simplified procurement
  • Was supported by Acquia and partners

The project included focusing on the practical needs of users, creating a mobile responsive site, developing new skills within the project team (Drupal and agile) and implementing new tools such as JIRA and Github.

The website redevelopment started with a two-day discovery workshop, then moved into a four-week prototype development with Acquia. The next stages included a site audit, content creation and migration and migration to site factory.

The project’s success was reflected in the site statistics Peter presented. From July to December 2015:

  • 99.83% availability
  • 66.34% increase in page views
  • 70.07% reduction in bounce rate
  • 31.54% increase in mobile traffic

Now AFSA is in the process of moving other sites into govCMS including the ‘corporate’ AFSA website.

Peter described govCMS as delivering big cost savings. “It’s a lot cheaper.”

Link to Peter Moller's presentation here.

govCMS Express

The afternoon finished up with a presentation on govCMS Express, a project that Salsa is currently working on with Finance and Acquia.

Salsa’s Eric Fitzgerald took us through some of the steps that would be involved in building a new website using govCMS Express, an automated system that acts like a ‘wizard’ to create a govCMS website instantly! Agencies can input their department name, logo, choose colour palettes (WCAG 2.0 AA compliant), and then choose the type of content pages to create. Express will be useful for smaller sites that need to go live fast, to create mini sites and to show proof of concept.

Link to Eric Fitzgerald's presentation here.

Thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who came to the govCMS lunch and we hope to host another one in the future. If you’ve got any questions about govCMS or the luncheon, please contact us.

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