SIIA: A Case of Overhauling an Online Presence


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Article ImageCompany: Software & Information Industry Association

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is a well-known trade association for the software and digital content industries. According to its website, "SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age." It is also known for a variety of conferences and events.

(siia.net)

Business Challenge

Similar to many companies and organizations, SIIA found itself with a WCM system that no longer worked for its needs. As the expectations of audiences evolved, the organization's website needed to as well, but upgrading its open source WCM system was not feasible. In order to get the latest and greatest tools and capabilities, SIIA had to find a new platform to create its updated website. In addition, SIIA decided it needed a little help building the new site if it wanted to get it done on time. 

Vendors of Choice: Engage and DNN

According to its website, "Engage specializes in enterprise-level development, leveraging the scalability and flexibility of DNN's Evoq Content CMS and Microsoft Dynamics CRM for medium and large organizations." It was one of the first DNN Evoq Gold Partners. DNN (originally DotNetNuke) bills itself as "A Web CMS Platform That Powers Rich Interactive Websites and Intranets." On its site, it lists customers such as Unilever, Toms, and the U.S. Army.

(engagesoftware.com; dnnsoftware.com)


The Problem In-Depth

SIIA is a technology-focused organization, with an imperative to inform its members-and the industry at large-about trends, technologies, policies, and a wide variety of related issues. Similar to many businesses and organizations, its website is the hub of these activities. As such, SIIA recognized the importance of its user experience (UX). When it came time to overhaul the site and rebrand, it was clear that SIIA was going to need a new platform from which to launch if it was going to stay current. Everyone in the digital content space knows the importance of mobile optimization, personalization, and integration with other systems, but SIIA had other concerns as well. For many years, it had been working with Joomla!, and according to Benjamin Price, web project manager at SIIA, "I'm responsible for the web content and training all the editors. In Joomla!, it was very hard to show anyone anything." So time and efficiency were also issues for SIIA.

Price says that a new post would take 20 steps and 20 minutes when working in Joomla!, and that upgrading to the next version of the software would be a substantial investment. The complicated CMS meant that it wasn't always efficient to teach new employees how to do certain tasks, and the team was not able to spread out the workload. There were other problems as well. "We run a basic website with some permissioning and registering for events," says Price. SIIA needed to be able to serve up information from its database in order to do things such as allow access (or not) to members-only parts of the site, and that wasn't possible with its old platform.

There was one more consideration that would ultimately help lead SIIA to its new solution of choice. It needed to provide a better user experience by integrating its website with Protech Associates' MX Online ecommerce solution, so it had to find a CMS that could easily integrate with it. SIIA was already using Protech's membership database tools and wanted to use the ecommerce tools to help sign members up for events. In the past, the registration process took place on a separate page where they were put through a multistep process. Improving the UX for event registration was incredibly important to SIIA because many members only interact with the site when signing up for an event.

In short, the association's needs were growing more complicated, and it needed a CMS that could keep up.

The Solution

Choosing a major new piece of technology is never easy. But when you compile a list of must-haves, it becomes a bit easier. Price says, "We got it down to DNN, Sitefinity ... and really, it was about CRM integration, enterprise support (so we ruled out going to any other open source), user-friendly content management, also the pricing structure. Sitefinity charges per user, so that helped rule that out." The SIIA team first met the Engage team at a Protech conference simply by happenstance. Not only was Engage a preferred partner for Protech, but it was also very familiar with DNN.

When asked why SIIA chose to work with Engage-rather than simply building its own site-Price says, "We just didn't have the DNN expertise. We could have done something on our own and gotten there. Like most associations, we have a small team. ... So we could have said, ‘Let's take 3 years and get this thing done.' But we'd been given a year dictate to get this thing done."

All in all, the upgrade took about 4 months, which both Price and Kevin O'Brien (Engage's COO) say is a bit of an anomaly. O'Brien adds, "It's usually more between 4 and 8 months ... depending on how much design work is done. Especially associations. Some of their sites have been out there for 10 to 20 years and never thrown out any content."

When it comes to working with Engage to build the new site, Price says, "We definitely formed a really good partnership. [We had] initial confidence that we weren't the first client doing this with DNN and also with Protech." He adds that there was a straightforward approach with discovery and laying out requirements. Engage also made things easier by giving SIIA give detailed line item estimates. Ultimately, Price says, "They delivered in what they said they were going to."

The admiration was mutual. "SIIA was the perfect client, just because they had a little bit more of a technical background," O'Brien states. "It really was more of a partnership. ... Sometimes, their team did more of the implementation after figuring out with us what was possible."

The Outcome

A lot is possible for SIIA after its website overhaul. "We have about 15 event microsites," says Price. Engage "helped us architect it to share content across sites. ... Now I can log in once, and I can manage our main site and microsites," which was not possible before.

The combination of DNN and Protech-along with Engage's help in implementing the tools-has also made personalization a reality for SIIA site visitors. For instance, Price points to conference attendees lists, which are often made available to other conference attendees. Before DNN, this wasn't possible for the association.

The new platform has also made a big impact on the way the SIIA team is able to work. Price says, "One huge example is that there were things only three of us could do before. ... To teach someone to create a page with a left navigation and a couple of modules was a half day's worth of work. Now anyone can create a page in under a minute." The association estimates this has cut its time to market with new content in half.

The new and improved site has also led to some other concrete improvements in SIIA's web stats:

  • The average session duration increased by 12.35%.
  • Pages per session increased by 11.26%.
  • Mobile session duration has grown by 26.40%.

Mobile optimization was a big focus for SIIA, although it admits there is still room to improve. Price says, "We wanted it to be mobile friendly and as responsive as possible. ... Not all of Protech's modules are 100% mobilized. We did the best we could without getting into too much custom work." Engage came in and made adjustments, such as hiding or showing a carousel on mobile versus desktop. Price reports a 30% jump in mobile engagement year-to-year. But he also reports better time on screen on desktop, as well as across the board spikes in engagement.

Ultimately, the statistics seem to point toward success for everyone involved.