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Backgrounder: Divisions of Family Practice IT upgrade

Why are we doing an IT upgrade?

After more than six years, the application development software upon which our IT infrastructure is based will no longer be supported as the third-party company winds down its business. We are using this as an opportunity to upgrade our IT: to ensure the technology tools provided through the provincial office fit with local divisions’ needs.

To start this process, we reached out to divisions in January 2016 and asked them to participate in a review of the technology tools and support offered by the provincial divisions office. Recognizing that the IT needs of both local divisions and the Community Partnerships and Integration team at Doctors of BC have evolved since the development of our current system, the provincial office reached out to divisions for feedback that would be used to inform the process of updating DivIT, our existing software, and other technology tools we use that might need updating. 

We asked divisions to tell us what is and isn’t working well, what they would like to see changed, and to identify any emerging IT needs they feel need to be addressed. The feedback we received has helped us to identify solutions that will address our current and future IT needs, and opportunities for systems alignment across the collaborative programs, including divisions of family practice.

One of these solutions involves moving the Divisions website to a new user-friendly content management system that meets divisions’ communication and technology needs, while aligning the site with other websites across the collaborative realm.

What you need to know about the new CMS: Drupal

The current site’s content management system (CMS) was custom-built to create and accommodate a number of business systems tools and division-specific functionality. This meant it was somewhat more complex to use than other, open-source CMS options.

In choosing a new CMS for the Divisions site, we took into account
•    Functionality
•    Ease of use
•    The capacity to accommodate our current technology needs
•    The capacity to incorporate new tools in the future
•    Divisions’ requests for a responsive site
The new CMS used to build and maintain the site—Drupal—is an open-source CMS in which content is created as pages and “nodes” that auto-populate different areas of the site through the use of keyword and content tagging. This process facilitates easy page creation, categorization of information, and sharing of information across different areas of the site. This is a big change from the current CMS, but Drupal is user friendly, and there will be significant centralized support during the transition, and training process.


What you need to know about the content transfer process, training, and support

The move to Drupal will not involve a content review—content from divisions’ current sites will simply be built into the new CMS. The provincial office web redevelopment team will be doing all the work in the content transfer and site-building process, and divisions will only need to participate in a brief training session in the new CMS.

Making edits to existing pages in Drupal is a straightforward one-step process—staff will be able to do this immediately after a brief walk-through. Communications staff will be on hand to provide support with all other aspects of the page creation and site-building process until division staff is able to undergo more in-depth training.

Drupal is the CMS used for all other Doctors of BC websites. All communications team members are able to provide support in Drupal, and fast, efficient support will always be available with any issue that might arise. Additionally, Drupal is a user-friendly open-source CMS—there are many resources available online to help users fix common issues.

Eliminating the page review/approvals process

Because creating and updating pages in Drupal is a more straightforward process than in the current CMS, we are eliminating the need for pages to be proofread before they’re made live. Pages will be live immediately following changes or edits, and communications staff will receive a notification only. Staff will then review pages for content and structure, and offer divisions support with any edits or changes needed.

Changes to tech tools and business functionality

Public and private webpages, user lists, and access to UpToDate will still be available through the website. A new resource catalogue is being created that will provide a central search of divisions resources, wherever they reside (an example of a similar catalog is the Island Health Library Services site).

A link to the new resource catalogue will be provided on the Resources page of the new site, along with resource quick links to popular documents, and links to a number of resource toolkits, which will remain hosted on the divisions site.

E-mail: We will continue to work with Robson Communications to improve e-mail stability and support. There will be no changes to e-mail hosting and access at this point. We did determine, however, that the DivIT mailing lists fall short of the functionality of other e-mail marketing platforms that are available. This has prompted us to provide divisions with centrally funded access to Campaign Monitor​. ​Training and support is available for divisions who wish to use Campaign Monitor as their e-mail marketing tool. Please contact Robin Van Hussen for more information.

Other IT tools: During the IT needs assessment process we thoroughly reviewed our IT tools, including those housed on DivIT. We acknowledge that we haven’t been able to keep up with the demand to develop more robust tools in DivIT, and realize that some of the tools divisions needed five years ago don’t fit their current needs. Recognizing this, we are retiring the tools that see very low usage, including forums, calendars, and work areas. We’ve researched other tools that could better support the work of divisions, and can provide options and recommendations to divisions that are using a DivIT tool that is being retired. Part of this research included identifying a better way for the provincial office to share documents with divisions. SharePoint has been selected as the new central document-sharing platform to align with the SharePoint sites available to divisions.  Training and support will be available to divisions.



Next steps

  • Information on the site move process will be provided to divisions in late January.
  • Additional training and support in SharePoint will be available soon.
  • If you would like to volunteer for the user testing process for the new resource catalogue, please e-mail Robin Van Hussen.

For more information, please contact Tara Lyon or Robin Van Hussen.
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