Case Study: Holton Sentivan + Gury builds complex site for Reliance Standard
Holton Sentivan + Gury (HS+G) is a full-service advertising agency with clients ranging from a local retailer with two storefronts to a global industry leader with offices on every continent. Currently based in Ambler, Pennsylvania, the agency was originally established in 1983 as Holton Namiotka Jones. In 2006, the agency was rebranded when Drew Sentivan, associate creative director, joined founder and CEO Jack Holton and Glenn Gury, creative director, in partnership. Today they are known for attention-getting print and interactive solutions that help their clients become and remain successful by differentiating themselves in the market.
Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company (Reliance Standard), a member of the Tokio Marine Group, is a leading, A-rated insurance carrier specializing in employee benefits solutions, which it markets nationwide through independent brokers and agents to employers of all sizes.
The project involves two web properties. The first was the redesign of a public website serving all prospective Reliance Standard stakeholders: employees, employer/policyholders and brokers/agents. The second is the creation of an intranet showing variable content based on permissions and authentication. Ultimately, the public site will be enhanced to provide secure access to customized content and integrate the company’s existing web applications. Both sites must allow easy updating of site content, navigation and assets by non-technical end users from the marketing department without assistance from web developers. Reliance Standard will host the sites in-house.
The project posed a variety of challenges, including requirements that evolved with the project:
Large project with tight timeline: The first phase of the project was a redesign of the client’s public site, which had more than 100 pages. The second phase of involves adding more than 75 custom pages that require logon access for custom content, along with creating a separate intranet with more than 130 pages. The targeted timeframe for completion of both phases of the project—public site and intranet—is approximately 18 months from the initial technical discussions.
Site serving multiple unique audiences: The new public portion of the site had to display content tailored to different categories of users—broker/agents, employers and employees/individuals.
Two domains for two legal entities: Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company provides products and services in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In New York, insurance products and services are provided through First Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company. Each entity has its own domain—reliancestandard.com and firstrsl.com. The site had to have two faces, each with its unique logo and tailored content, and the domains had to remain “sticky”, i.e. the URL in the address bar and logo needed to reflect the domain that the user accessed as he/she continued to navigate throughout the site.
Complex custom security environment: The client wanted streamlined access to both Reliance Standard’s previously developed applications and the content management system. The public site now includes frames in several sections, such as Contact Us and Forms. Secure applications will be included in the newly customized public site and intranet.
HS+G chose to build the site using the cmScribe content management system (CMS) from Netreach. The agency wanted a commercial, Windows-based CMS as well as direct access to the tool’s developers. Due to the tight project timeline, the agency needed a tool that was easy to use, so site designers and developers could get up to speed quickly. cmScribe is a clean, well-architected two-tier application based on the latest Microsoft® .NET framework and written in C#. It offers industry-standard best practices for scalable, extensible and secure code.
A key product differentiator is cmScribe’s built-in web development tool, which works based on logic stored in a database. It allows developers to build complex relational database applications on the fly using a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of writing custom code. This feature makes total cost of ownership predictable; upgrades don’t impact functionality, so there is no need for code maintenance.
HS+G has taken a phased approach to the project, with the public site in the first phase and the intranet in the second.
Multiple sitemaps: To address the need to tailor content for various audiences, the agency developed a site map for each of the three user types. Although the site maps were nearly identical, the content on many pages varied. The agency developed templates in cmScribe and used the same templates for all audiences, but created unique styles for each “branch” of the site. Development tools within the CMS enabled them to quickly establish custom navigation rules for each branch.
For pages where the content is identical across user groups, HS+G used cmScribe’s native content sharing support. This feature is critical for larger organizations, because it allows them to save time and avoid error by entering content once and mirroring it in other areas of the site(s).
Dual branding: To address the need to reflect two legal entities, each with its own domain and logo, HS+G used two cmScribe features. They configured its multi-domain feature to set a parameter based on the domain through which the user entered the site. They used cmScribe’s web application development tool to change the logo and tailor the content based on the domain.
Authentication: Despite the complexities of the client’s custom security architecture, which includes 35 different user groups/privilege IDs, the agency is implementing a single sign-on (SSO) solution for seamless authentication of users to both Reliance Standard’s secure applications and the CMS. Users and groups from the client’s security environment will automatically be propagated to the CMS, eliminating the need for redundant management.
The solution is designed to allow the client’s security infrastructure to maintain control over access to internal, secure business applications, so end users see only the content and/or applications for which they have permission. This can be achieved by using iframes with Extranet Application Access Forms in addition to static content pages. Group-based permissions can be applied to content elements on static pages, so the content will be tailored to the user’s needs/permissions.
CMS-level permissions will determine which navigation links appear, their content and behavior of links. It will be possible to change CMS permissions, but they won’t be able to override extranet security privileges.
The public site went live in May 2012, approximately five months after the initial technical meetings. By using cmScribe, the agency was able to focus on design, branding and content instead of on the repetitive tasks usually required to build and modify static sites. They could also respond to changing requirements quickly. The flexibility of the CMS reduced the project risk for both the agency and the client.
In addition, the usability of the CMS made it possible for non-technical staff on the client’s marketing team to add pages, change navigation and make other adjustments prior to and following the launch.
The intranet/extranet is scheduled to go live in the first quarter of 2013. HS+G delivered a solution that is flexible enough to work with Reliance Standard’s complex security environment while providing the efficiency and simplicity of single sign-on to both secure applications and to the CMS.
The end result is a unified site that meets the client’s needs to serve multiple unique audiences, reflect two legal entities and maintain a high level of security, and which can be updated easily and quickly by a variety of end users ranging from marketing staff to mid-level web developers.
The cmScribe Partnership Program
Designed to help partners close more business, broaden their service offerings, and strengthen their bottom line, the program can benefit these types of organizations:
- Interactive/digital agencies and consulting firms
- Advertising/branding/marketing firms
- Web development shops
- Application/business/technology consultants
- Legacy application integrators.
Find out if the partnership program is right for you and how cmScribe and NetReach support services could benefit your organization.
Nancy Parsons 215-909-9005