A new year and a new era for PCG

15 Jan

In 1999, a small group of IT contractors took exception to new rules being imposed by the ImageGovernment of the time which worked on the premise that if you chose to work in a way commonly adopted by a large number of legitimate contractors, you were deemed to be operating within ‘IR35’. So, this merry band of contractors pulled together, stumped up some cash and formed the Professional Contractors Group, writes Regan Burke.

 

 

The foremost aim for the group in the beginning was to defend UK contractors against tax legislation such as the aforementioned IR35 and latterly, to provide support, surrounding all things freelancing.

With the membership based far and wide across the UK even in the early days, there was a pressing need for an IT infrastructure. To begin with, it was most likely based on an old Intel 486 running some version of Linux with a MySQL database – simple and effective. In fact, so effective that we still ran Linux, and MySQL with PHP and apache for our membership system until very recently, and it has been more than fit for purpose.

Over the last 13 years we have scaled up the backend systems to cater for the growing membership numbers extremely well, developed by it’s own members for the most part. However, PCG has grown to become a well respected organisation with a large, knowledgeable and engaged membership. With in excess of 21,000 members and growing by the day to support, our current systems are no longer able to deliver the modern online services our members deserve nor the metrics our commercial team need in order to progress us through the next phase of PCG’s life.

A decision was made by the PCG board in April of 2011 that we needed a new, proven but purpose built, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The system would need to integrate into a new purpose built website and an alternative Forum application to the existing and antiquated UBBThreads. PID’s for both the website and the CRM were signed off by the board in June of 2011 and 15 possible vendors were sent invitations to tender in September. At the December 2011 board meeting Microsoft Dynamics CRM supplied by Excitation Limited, a website by CTI Digital and VBulliten were selected to become the integrated solution for PCG. The detailed requirements definition phase of the project kicked off in earnest early in 2012. Excitation got stuck right in and started spec’ing up the required customisations to Dynamics, CTI began the process validating our web strategy and putting together designs for the new site and IT team began the process of understanding the differences between UBBThreads and VBulletin.

By May 2012 development of custom modules for Dynamics was well underway, website designs had been signed off and the build phase was in progress. We had also successfully completed a full migration of our existing forum into VBulletin.

Testing and user familiarisation of Dynamics began in July 2012, while on the web side integration work with Dynamics began. By the end of October 2012 System Integration testing was complete and the process of populating the new website with content was verging on completion.

Now, as we move into the new year and a bright 2013, we possess a complete solution that is ready to go. A Beta preview with your elected Consultative Council is now in full swing prior to the launch of the new PCG website and Forum on 17th January 2013.

Since we kicked off this project a year ago there have been ups and downs, victories and defeats but we are now at a stage where all of the hard work has paid off. The new site will sport a fresh design with simple imagery and navigation, single sign on for our members between the main site and the PCG Forum and a new self service area, named MyPCG.

To see more please visit http://www.pcg.org.uk on 17th January 2013 from 1000.

Regan Burke
Head of IT
PCG

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