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Introducing the Group Assignment Center

Posted by Tom Hallman at May 26, 2011 04:20 PM |

Movin' on up...

For a couple years now, DiscipleMakers has used an online conference registration system called Thriva EventRegister. It's served us well for our conference needs. However, EventRegister is being phased out in favor of a new tool purchased by Thriva's parent company, ActiveNetwork, which is called RegOnline.
Overall we were quite impressed with RegOnline and saw it as a big step up! However, the one significant feature it lacked (which EventRegister had) was a means of arbitrarily grouping registrants. For example, DiscipleMakers puts people into housing groups and discussion groups ("small groups") for most conferences. We've done this by hand or using a spreadsheet in the past, but that's proven to be a time-consuming and error-prone process.

The Vision

The DM Systems Department was given the vision of adding this group assignment functionality to RegOnline. We were excited to see that RegOnline offered an API that would allow us to do that!

The Bigger Vision

One of the visions of the Systems Department is that if we can make something work for us, why not see if we can make it work for others? Thus, we decided to write this tool not only to serve DM, but all RegOnline users, including other disciple-making ministries across the globe!

The BIGGER Vision

We also saw this as an opportunity to learn some new methodologies and tools that we'd heard good things about. So we ran the project using agile software development principles, including pair programming. Moreover, we took a chunk of time to also learn Ruby on Rails, git and other tools.  It was exciting to watch these ideas and tools go from strange to comfortable, and to watch productivity go from slow to... well, agile!

Mission Accomplished

The end result is the Group Assignment Center. It is now available on github, and we even put together a video to show it in action.
GAC, as we've affectionately called it, has become one of the most successful projects Systems has done to date. It was done on time, we got very good customer satisfaction feedback, and it was used for two of our conferences already.
In the process of developing GAC, we also wrote a middle layer of code called the RegOnline Connector (ROC). ROC serves as a Ruby API that unifies and improves the native RegOnline API. Thus, other Ruby [on Rails] applications can be more easily written in the future, saving the developers a lot of time and effort.
We're excited that not only is DiscipleMakers now benefiting from our work, but any other organizations (including ministries) who want to use RegOnline to manage their events can have useful, fine-grained control over grouping their conference registrants. And that will help lead, by God's grace, to making more disciples of Jesus Christ!


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