In the eight months since the federal government announced the launch of their new govCMS platform, websites from agencies including the Australian Tax Office, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Department of Communications have all embraced the power of the open-source platform.
One of the most powerful features of govCMS is its flexibility. Now, agencies of all sizes are taking advantage of this deciding to take the platform as is, or adding extra functionality on top of the baseline features.
One agency experiencing this first-hand is IP Australia. As the agency responsible for administering intellectual property rights in Australia — including patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeder rights — their web presence is a crucial government service.
IP Australia’s migration to govCMS not only demonstrates the ability for a medium-sized agency to rapidly deploy a complex technology solution, it also serves as a successful example for other agencies hoping to both deploy an out-of-the-box platform and update the skills of their web teams, which can then be harnessed collaboratively across agencies.“… we have the elasticity to increase or decrease services as required, and there’s a cost benefit.”
According to Scott Ashwin, assistant director of IP Australia’s digital delivery, IP Australia was a key candidate for moving to govCMS, as its previous content management system was no longer supported and the agency had out-grown its functionality.
“We became superseded by this product and we didn’t have any options”, Ashwin said. “As it was no longer being supported, it was difficult for us to make any significant improvements or find developers who had the right skillset to work on it.”
By the time govCMS was made available earlier this year, Ashwin says IP Australia was in a prime position to move. The shared service model would not only simplify the agency’s web infrastructure needs, but also introduce Ashwin’s team of eight web content developers to a completely new platform. And because govCMS works across all levels of government, the team would be able to collaborate with other agencies on govCMS projects. Making the move to govCMS was a “no brainer”, according to Ashwin.
“The main benefits for us are that it’s a shared service, we have the elasticity to increase or decrease services as required, and there’s a real cost benefit”, he said.
The procurement process started by interacting with both Acquia, the leading specialist in the Drupal platform and key partner in the govCMS project, and the Department of Finance. Both agencies provided support while IP Australia conducted an internal review to determine what websites would be most appropriate to migrate first.
Acquia was able to provide IP Australia with the “Jumpstart” engagement solution and solid support that helped rollout the project.
“We started looking at the websites we could move over,” Ashwin said. “We also manage the Professional Standards Board website and decided it would be a good test run for us to become familiar with the Drupal platform before we moved on to our much larger IP Australia website.”
‘Flexibility and simplicity’
The PSB site was used with the Jumpstart package, but Ashwin and his team wanted to go further. During the migration process the team was able to simultaneously customise certain elements making them accurately meet their needs.
“I have an experienced team, so we took the basic package and we really pushed the boundaries”, Ashwin said. “We turned the Jumpstart process into something more.”
Ashwin also said working with the out-of-the-box solution helped avoid many of the pitfalls in choosing a CMS from scratch. “Often everyone wants to have their own customised system to do everything they need to do,” he said.
“Our philosophy was that we should get 80 per cent of what we need, and the team would then use their design skills to plug any holes.”“It shows … you can build something agile, very quickly. It’s something we just couldn’t do with our old system.”
Even though the PSB site was 30 pages and no drastic changes were needed, the sheer flexibility and simplicity of making amendments as needed meant the team was able to migrate the PSB website to govCMS in just two weeks (the migration process excluded content or page reviews).
“It’s been a very positive experience for us”, Ashwin said. “It shows … you can build something agile, very quickly. It’s something we just couldn’t do with our old system.”
“Choosing to migrate PSB first gave us experience in developing [for govCMS], it gave us experience managing the content in the public space … and it just gave us more confidence.”
Ashwin and his team worked alongside representatives from Acquia to bring the PSB site onboard and the partnership will continue during the next stage of the IP Australia migration. That stage will be completed during the first half of 2016, and IP Australia is already working with an Acquia govCMS-approved partner on gathering user research to inform the new environment.
While Ashwin says the rapid development can partly be attributed to the flexibility of the govCMS platform as well as the Acquia partnership, it’s the relationship with the Department of Finance that has helped speed things along.
“There’s an advantage to working with a government agency in a partnership,” he said. “Having Finance already vet the govCMS platform does away with the need for duplicated risk management. The work has been done for us beforehand.”
Simplifying the entire process has been one of the major benefits of moving to govCMS. Ultimately though, Ashwin says the biggest benefit has been seeing his team’s skills, which were limited to a fairly unique CMS previously, now be able to be transferred across agencies.
“With more agencies coming on board, there’s a greater skill base to draw on in the future, and we’ve got the ability to share our skills across government if need be,” he said.
“It’s all worked very well.”