Beacon Independent Group

Supplier for the new Beacon is announced

The Third Age Trust has announced that the supplier for the Beacon replacement is to be APT Solutions Ltd. This is a company based in UK and Australia supplying a membership system called Stratum to a variety of non-profit organisations such as the Unite union and CAMRA.

They have a website which describes their products. In a discussion between Apt and a BIG member they explained that “Stratum is not an ‘off-the-shelf’ product. A typical deployment would entail around 60% standard functionality and around 40% bespoke work, tailoring the system to your unique requirements.” The average size of the organisations they produce systems for ranges around the 10-20,000 member mark, although their largest customer has around 1.5 million members. For smaller customers they provide the more common “managed services” option.

They claim a “simple user interface for both staff and members – browser based and fully web integrated”. It also has reporting facilities built-in that Beacon is lacking. It is possible that it might also provide web pages for individual U3As.

Their approach allays the fears of some of us that it would be an off-the-shelf product charged according to the number of members, and which typically involve a charge several times larger than we are paying now. Tailoring the system could bring the functionality close to the existing system. But it remains to be seen how close they will bring the user interface to match that of Beacon.

There are some aspects of the existing system that may not survive. For example the provision of four extra “custom” fields with little or no functionality attached to them; and the very fine-grain privilege system which essentially allows one to set which window will be seen by each user. But as long as there are reasonable substitutes, it’s hard to see anyone complaining too much about these. More important is the ability to download a complete set of data for one’s U3A in a usable format, which many U3As already use for extra offline processing. Some will want to see the strong separation of each U3A’s personal details maintained in the new system.

APT will now enter the Gap Analysis/Discovery phase to nail down what differences are required from their normal offering and it is only once that is complete that they will fix the price and timescales. Thus we will need to wait a bit longer for any definite news about the new system.

In the meanwhile we would like to know who has been chosen by the Trust to take part in the discovery phase. Several of us have volunteered but at the moment haven’t heard anything positive back. If you have been chosen please do get in contact using our contact form or log in and use the forums to discuss it.