Monday, February 1, 2016

Case Study: The Story of IOTA

The Intra-European Organisation of Tax Administrations (IOTA) is an intergovernmental organisation, which provides a forum for assisting its members to improve tax administration. We launched their site in the end of January, just before the meeting of Executive Council, where the site get a very positive feed-back.

The system connects official tax authorities from among the
47 member countries in Europe (like HM Revenue & Customs, Bundesministerium der Finanzen).

The main field of the activity is organising workshops which provide opportunity to participants from various member tax administrations to exchange views, experiences and preferred practices about the most relevant issues in the field of taxation.
IOTA also promotes cooperation between tax administrations in Europe and supports their development according to their individual needs.

Creating a new website for IOTA was necessary for a multitude of reasons:
  • The previous one was no longer able to serve the needs of the modern user experience.
  • It couldn’t provide the required services for the members. The aim was to create a 2in1 site, in essence a social network and knowledge sharing system in one. Via this platform IOTA members from various countries can communicate to each other when covering several tax professional topics across Europe, reaching 47 countries at one time if necessary.

The Scope: The website has 3 main goals:
  • News portal and communication platform for the members but also for the public
  • It serves as an intranet for the IOTA staff to support their event planning and organizing workflow by allowing them to create, collect and store documentation.
  • It serves as a registration interface for all potential event attendees by allowing them access to event information, receiving notifications and signing up.
Key Features:
  • Event Management - Complete annual planning and management of the events
  • Custom Notifications - Highly customisable email and web based notifications, reminders managed by the IOTA Secretariat.
  • Form Builder - For creating and cloning custom forms as well as result analysis.
  • Knowledge Base - Categorised and searchable content, constantly growing from multiple sources and discussed by the members.
  • Technical Enquiry - A survey and communication tool for members to help amass the leading practices, managed through complex confirmation levels.
  • Numerous User Groups with Subgroups - Special task delegating rules and workflows for the member organizations.
  • Custom Reports - Event statistics, annual reports
  • Issue Management - Built-in support channel for users.

  • Challenge1: Managing several roles with different user interfaces and authorities.
    • Journey: On the previous site there were 23 different roles and authorities. To manage them we had to merge some of the roles, unlike what has recently been done with the new site’s 8 main roles, which can have some subroles as well. The main roles are the Secretariat, Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Principal Contact Persons (PCP), back office user, group member, PCP extended, authenticated user and Anonymous.
    • Solution1: Drupal’s role and permission system + custom modules for task delegation inside of the organizations.
  • Challenge2: Custom forms, surveys built by the users + analysis.
    • Solution2: Custom form handling by form builder based on Entityforms, extended functionality of the module and interface via custom modules.
  • Challenge3: Replace the legacy workflows.
    • Solution3: Custom rules, components.

Discovery: Close cooperation helped us find the responsible individuals across the organization for each key feature.

Technical Details, statistics:
  • Infrastructure: dedicated server with Ubuntu LAMP + Varnish reverse-proxy
  • CMS framework used: Drupal 7
  • 9 developers committed to the code 965 times totally over 221 active days
  • 65 custom / feature modules have been created
  • 132 contrib modules used with 2 custom patches
  • 108 views, 23 content types and 824 fields are in use
  • 125 user generated custom forms have already been created
  • 1500 users were migrated from the legacy system

  • Getting accustomed - we’ve set up a sandbox instance of the system for the IOTA Secretariat where one can learn the system by trying out every function risk-free (online support is provided in the meantime).
  • The top level board IOTA, the Executive Council gave fully positive feedback about the platform at the IOTA conference in Paris in January 2016.
  • As of February 2016, the platform is used by 523 users from 47 member countries
Continuous support and maintenance:
  • We will continue to help leveraging the power and adoption of the system across the organisation via fine tuning, continuous maintenance and support.
  • We are working on the automated test suite for regression tests.
  • Mobile version development (not in the original scope) is forthcoming.
  • Cooperative editing and other interesting features are also on the roadmap.

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