Sinfonia Legacy Website will be retired on May 31, 2019.
While our legacy website served the Fraternity well from its introduction in 2004 until its partial decommission in 2016, the time has come to bid it a fond farewell. Almost all of the functionality offered on the legacy site or via MyDesktop had been replaced and enhanced by 2016 when the introduction of the new Probationary Member Registration tool replaced the last major functionality supported by the legacy site. The site was partially decommissioned then, and no updates have been made to member data or other resources since 2016.
Brothers who need to file reports, access resources, and find other information can do so easily through MySinfonia.org, our member access portal. If you do not know how to access MySinfonia, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone will help you get started.
The transition to a new website was a massive undertaking with a multitude of needs to be addressed at the same time. At the start of the project, many of the Fraternity’s processes were still being done through paper reporting – costing time and money. Nearly all of those processes have been streamlined through online reporting. Additionally, Brothers can make online payments for their individual National Per Capita Taxes & Fees, Chapters can now pay for their Spring and Fall Chapter Reports online, resources have been introduced for all Brothers, and improved protections have been implemented for personal information.
Sinfonia’s Presence on the Web
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia was an early pioneer of online websites and tools. The Fraternity established its first permanent, independent web presence in 1995-96. It was unusual in those days for an organization like ours not to just establish a website, but to host it independently at www.sinfonia.org. The website was built and maintained on local hardware housed at the National Headquarters in Evansville.
A design change followed soon after, in 1997, along with a drive to provide members with more content that continues to the present day. About this time, the Fraternity hired its first, and only, IS Director in Brother Brian Martin (Iota Alpha, 1994). Brian had phenomenal skills in Information Systems and would design and build what were “world class” tools for that era. Brother Martin would continually raise the bar and provide real value to the Fraternity for the remainder of his tenure on the National Staff.
“Lyrecrest On-Line” debuted as a separate website in 1999, providing members with online services and access to data from the National Headquarters. Lyrecrest On-Line also featured the first-ever online event registration platform and online access to Sinfonia Store items. This platform for basic services was expanded the following year when MyDesktop premiered in 2000. MyDesktop was a members-only platform hosted on the new domain www.lyrecrest.net. The “.net” domain was created as the first step toward a very ambitious new design.
In the late fall of 2000, the Fraternity launched a new offering it dubbed “SINFONIA.NET”, which positioned the Fraternity as a fully-functional Internet Service Provider. SINFONIA.NET included free internet services for chapters and provinces. Chapters could create chapter named web space with both FTP and FrontPage access, add subdomain aliases for the chapter webspace, utilize web forwarding services if they chose to continue to host independent websites and access a chapter listserv. The SINFONIA.NET framework offered active server pages and the potential for integration with member and Fraternity data. The former Members Only area was replaced with a generic support service called WeAlumni.com.
A mostly complete version of MyDesktop was launched on the website in 2001. It introduced a new system to determine resource access based on a member’s status and office, and the modern ability to view and modify a member’s profile.
The soon-to-be-retired legacy website was a total website redesign on www.sinfonia.org. Lyrecrest On-Line was decommissioned, and an expanded version of the MyDesktop system was introduced which featured rudimentary forms-based Probationary Member registration and Initiation Reporting.
The Modern Era
In 2003, following the departure of Brian Martin, the Fraternity had begun looking for a Brother to overhaul the Fraternity’s web presence. The goal was to combine the Fraternity’s 3 websites (www.sinfonia.org, www.sinfonia.net, and www.lyrecrest.net) into a singular web platform. Then, in July of 2004, This new website launched as www.sinfonia.org in July 2004, offered Brothers access to resources, historical items, and officer tools. The website was designed by Brother Terrell Weatherford (Eta Alpha – Georgia College and State University – 1998), who served as the former Director of Programs and Services at the National Headquarters.
During the 2006-2009 triennium, leadership began to consider an update to the Fraternity’s web presence due to technological advances and greater capabilities online. At that time, the Fraternity was still using paper reporting for primary operations, which required Chapter Officers to mail in reports to the headquarters. The staff time required to generate the reports and send them to chapters, and then to process the reports received and update the data records accordingly, took 2-3 person-months per reporting cycle. This change followed on the heels of the introduction of the Fraternity’s new visual identity and the return to the original Object.
The Fraternity launched efforts to develop a more modern website and bring reporting tools online in 2006-2007. A small design firm was engaged to develop a custom theme, and templates were reviewed at the 53rd National Convention in Orlando in 2009. The templates were not well received, and the process was delayed. There were renewed calls for Online chapter reporting.
A new WordPress hosted site, using the originally contracted theme from Argyll Labs, was soft-launched as the host of a new workflow-based Online Chapter Reporting tool in October 2013. The first release allowed individual members to pay Per Capita Taxes and Fees directly to the Fraternity using credit or debit cards for the first time. The online report was offered on a pilot basis, with chapters having the option to submit the paper-based chapter report workbooks. This was the beginning of the system we now call MySinfonia.
The reporting tool was updated in March 2014, to allow Chapter Presidents to pay for Chapter Reports online through e-checks via ACH. The report was now fully online, and chapters could complete and pay for the report without having to mail anything. This greatly reduced the cost of shipping and tracking, and also reduced the time required to complete the reports. In addition, the electronic reports reduced the time required to process received reports and update data by 90%.
In September 2014, the Fraternity launched a brand new public website (www.sinfonia.org) and fully launched the new member resource portal (my.sinfonia.org). The old website had been given a new domain (legacy.sinfonia.org) during the transition period to allow for flexibility and additional time to transfer web content. The new website was hosted externally for the first time, which offered a greatly expanded set of capabilities. The old physical web server, which had been running more than 7 years past its projected useful life, crashed for the last time 48 hours before the scheduled release of the new website. Our developers worked around the clock to make the necessary adjustments, and the new website launched successfully, on time.
MySinfonia has been continually expanded and improved since its launch in 2013 and is entering the final phase of its development. Members of the Fraternity can do almost everything online, and the Fraternity continues to develop new applications and resources each year. Development of internet-based applications is much more complex than it was in the beginning, with the transition to mobile devices as the primary access point offering significant challenges to proper pre-launch testing.
We are pleased to be at the threshold of the next generation of member services and tools, and all of the remaining functionality supported on legacy.sinfonia.org has either been introduced in MySinfonia or will be shortly. The final remaining hurdle has been the development of a stable and secure member lookup function, which will be introduced in the newest MySinfonia release.
While development never progresses as quickly as we might like, the Fraternity is very proud of what we’ve been able to offer in improved access and services to our members without requiring the introduction of additional fees to support them.
The Legacy website was a step forward when originally introduced, and has served us well. But its time has come and gone, and now we must say farewell. We hope you will be pleased with our future developments and look forward to continuing to provide Sinfonians with the best tools, resources, and content that we can.