The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to educating, training, and certifying financial counselors and educators. They provide professional development experiences for financial educators, practitioners and researchers to improve the economic well being of individuals and families worldwide.
AFCPE’s previous web portal was built on an older technology and prone to crashes. Additionally their IT support was no longer in business and they did not know how to maintain their site. Switchbox stepped in to provide a stable hosting environment while running discovery to develop a new Member Web Portal that encompassed all their current business needs. Due in part to their previous IT support and lack of ability to make content changes on their own, they began reverting to outside products they could control to assist them. These outside products created additional manual entry work as well as the need to learn multiple products.
Since AFCPE had an existing portal, Switchbox was able to document the basic requirements quickly and delve into the bigger problems they faced through our discovery process. Two things in particular stood out, first was the need to have more control over the content. Secondly, a more inclusive product that incorporated their forms and registrations was needed. Switchbox also wanted to improve their workflow efficiency and ensure their business logic was sound as we had seen some issues with the current database.
Switchbox decided that Ruby on Rails (RoR), the most popular open-source framework for rapid application development, combined with a MySQL database would be the best technology for their site. With multiple developers on the project, the Model-View-Controller architecture that RoR uses made it easy for us to manage the code between developers and then pull it all back together. The technology combined with a flexible agile approach allowed AFCPE to regularly review, provide feedback and make adjustments to the portal throughout development. This rapid response was helpful as their business was moving through a state of flux in some of their processes. Switchbox was able to move them from an unstable environment which required manual entries from outside programs to an end to end system that fits their processes. We have since been able to easily add in new functionality with their evolving requirements without the need for any downtime.
While there are many powerful software tools available to help organizations manage memberships, unique business processes require unique solutions to maximize the value of automation. AFCPE had specialized requirements surrounding the different types of certification and then the maintenance of those certifications as well as a need to incorporate outside processes into one tool. We knew right away a customized solution was needed to support their workflow and implement the new features to fit their business dynamic.
AFCPE can now easily and efficiently track, manage and correspond with members throughout their programs. The portal provides a searchable membership directory, tracks and updates information including their membership dues and payments. A big plus for them has been the implementation of a symposium registration that automatically updates member records and allows them to approve credits in bulk to members that attend. One size does not always fit all and providing a custom solution allowed AFCPE to increase the efficiency within their business and improve their processes for member participation and retention.