Hands On: New CEDIA Site Is Streamlined, Elegant

Two years in the making, CEDIA.net is fast, clean and integrated with the organization’s back end for training, certification, membership management and more.

CEDIA has a new Web site — http://www.cedia.net — but it’s much more than a site. It’s an entire platform. Everything that has to do with CEDIA is right there — online training, event schedules, volunteer opportunities, member directory, legislative issues, case studies, awards, research, certification tracking, your own company listing and so much more.

And it’s not just a pretty face. CEDIA has overhauled its back end so when your employees take a class, it’s logged. Certifications are kept up to date.

There are layers of security so only administrators get access to certain areas of the site, like the company employee list and everyone’s credentials. And if you are an administrator, you can handle everything in one place — change your address, add and delete employees, sign up for classes ….

The best thing is that the dealer portal is linked to the entire CEDIA ecosystem. The employee list that you update online … is the list. I personally deleted about 20 old EH employees that have accumulated over time.

“That was a huge goal,” says Jamie Riley, senior director of marketing and public relations for CEDIA. “We cleaned out 225,000 records.”

Previously, all of that data — company contacts, event registration, certifications, customer leads, etc. — was housed in different silos.

“All of our internal systems are now pretty much one,” Riley says.

Take training, for example. Today, you really have to wait until the entire CEDIA Expo schedule is complete to see the courses. Now they can be posted one at a time, as soon as they are scheduled, giving attendees more time to prepare for the big show. And all courses are in one place — Webinars, eCourses, certification exams, boot camps, onsite training and more (Expo registration is not integrated … yet).

Each course will have an associated forum, so students and instructors can chat about the class if they’re so inclined. A site-wide forum is available as well for general chat.

The courses themselves are new-and-improved from the student’s point of view. Previously, online courses would have to be taken in one sitting. Now you can stop and start as you like.

The new system makes it “easier to access valuable training,” Riley says, noting that many members often do all of their training at one time of year — Expo. “Then, when you get to Expo, you can utilize more time on the floor or take more advanced classes. You don’t have to jam-pack all of your classes at the show.”

A 2-Year Job

Let’s face it … the old CEDIA site was a little clunky. The new one is fresh, fast and simple. In some ways, it’s one of those things like, “It’s about time,” but an overhaul like this takes a big commitment. It wasn’t just a facelift.

“This has been a two-year gargantuan project with the ultimate objective of improving service delivery and communications with our member community,” says CEDIA board member Dennis Erskine, who has been an integrator since way before the Internet. “In the past, member information and history was spread out between multiple systems. As you can imagine, not only was it a challenge to respond to member requests, but, as well, with multiple systems, member data between systems wasn’t necessarily in sync.”

Those systems include CEDIA’s lead management and Web analytics. When consumers come to the site looking for an installer, that information is logged and presented to member companies.

There’s more to come in that department. Erskine says CEDIA will make a “significant upgrade to our finder service.”

Also coming: rolling in CEDIA’s international members.

Even if you are not a CEDIA member, you still have access to many of the Website resources. Some will be grayed out. Some will cost more than member pricing. But you’ll sure be tempted to join.

Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration.

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