ClubsNSW is Innovating Operations of Retired Veterans Clubs in Australia

Registered clubs across Australia are facing new challenges including an aging clientele and, most recently, mandated closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Discover how ClubsNSW is transforming the industry and efficiently managing more than 160 clubs using Pantheon. 

Hero image by Padraig Treanor on Unsplash

Initially, these registered clubs started as places of support and community for returning Australian veterans, serving food and alcohol, and offering live music and gaming. Today, ClubsNSW is breathing life into these iconic institutions, providing digital solutions to real life problems and representing more than 1100 member clubs in New South Wales, or almost 90 per cent of clubs in the state.

The team at ClubsNSW run the human resources (HR) websites for 160 clubs, and they do this reliably, securely, and efficiently on Pantheon. In fact, the Pantheon WebOps platform saved the ClubsNSW technology team so much time, they're now well positioned to innovate in other highly impactful areas. 

Digital Solutions for Human Problems 

“Clubs across Australia have been facing uncertain futures due to rapidly changing demographics, and the need to get as many of the clubs’ processes online is obviously more important now than ever,”

- Christian Biggins, Technical Director at ClubsNSW, on the pressing need for migrating club processes online during COVID

ClubsNSW operates in a unique space where digital innovations solve real-life, human problems—whether that's finding novel ways to keep the clubs safe during COVID or processes for ensuring employees' licensing and certification are up to date. 

"Clubs in Australia got really badly damaged during the COVID lockdowns, and the need to get as many of the clubs’ processes online is obviously more important now than ever," said Christian Biggins, Technical Director at ClubsNSW. 

Having recently migrated to Pantheon from Acquia, ClubsNSW is spending less time on updates and management, and more time working with other departments, including marketing, policy, and legal. One of its current projects is ClubsHR, a document management tool that allows clubs to easily maintain employment contracts and keep up to date with requirements, such as each individual's Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification. 

"Every club has their own ClubsHR database and codebase, and we manage about 160 clubs," Christian said. "The decision to keep clubs with separate databases is purely based on data security; we can't risk details from one club somehow getting through to other clubs. ClubsHR allows the HR manager to go in and easily check an employee's contract status, certifications, and where that employee can work based on those certifications.

Previously, it took the ClubsNSW team days to update the content or configuration of its 160 websites, which ran on a multisite network. Now, with Pantheon's Custom Upstreams for effortlessly scaling and maintaining consistency across all of ClubsNSW’s sites, along with Terminus Command-Line Interface, that time has been reduced to just a few hours. The key element hindering the rate at which they could innovate was their ability to iterate. 

"We could push the code quite easily, but when it came to actually updating the content or the config within each of those sites, we kept maxing out all of our resources," Christian said. "The most important part of our move to Pantheon was the possibility of spending less time managing those updates with Custom Upstreams and the ability to fine-tune the process with Terminus. Now, we can update Drupal core and deploy changes across all environments and all sites within two hours." 

Thriving in the 21st Century 

But ClubsHR isn't the only area the digital team at ClubsNSW is innovating. The team of 11 people and five developers is working on digital solutions in other areas, too. The association’s  purpose is to "lead a sustainable industry" and part of this is supporting clubs during COVID-19 closures. 

"There are several areas in which we're innovating at the moment. We have a project that's rolling out offering no-touch sign-in at clubs, which is particularly important during a pandemic," Christian stated. "And a lot of our work involves representing clubs to the government and assisting with compliance and best practices when it comes to gambling."

ClubsNSW is also using digital methods to assist those who have a gambling problem. Registered clubs offer gaming machines as well as access to sports and race betting, and ClubsNSW is finding digital ways to help reduce gambling addiction. 

"A project we're working on right now is streamlining our self-exclusion system, which is an online application that gives patrons and their families the ability to exclude themselves from venues around where they live, work and socialise," said Christian.

ClubsNSW refers to this project as the Multi-Venue Self-Exclusion (MVSE) system, hitting on the fact that this solution gives patrons and their families the ability to opt out of gambling locally. Using a WebOps Practice with Multidev.  

"For the most part, content and marketing are entirely self-sufficient and we don't need to do much at all to support them; they really utilise the platform to the extreme,"

 -Christian on Pantheon giving ClubsNSW’s content and marketing teams the ability to test and refine new features without developer assistance. 

With all these projects humming along, the ClubsNSW main site is highly representative of a WebOps practice. The marketing team is easily able to update site messaging and functionality, which they do on a regular basis to share news, information on upcoming events, and educational resources. 

"For the most part, content and marketing are entirely self-sufficient and we don't need to do much at all to support them; they really utilise the platform to the extreme," Christian stated.  

This level of empowerment is made possible partly through Pantheon's Multidev, according to Christian.

"Every new feature gets a Multidev, allowing the non-technical content and marketing teams to test out new features before we send them live." This is just the beginning of the ClubsNSW partnership with Pantheon, and we can't wait to see what happens next. When we first migrated to Pantheon, we were just focused on getting things going. Now, we want to learn the extent of what the platform can do and how we can use it to find solutions to the many real-life problems facing clubs in New South Wales,” Christian said.

You might also like: 

Topics Growth & Scale, WebOps