Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) mail system

Screenshot: AIC Mail SystemPart of the award-winning AIC online email distribution system and trade assurance alert system.

AIC is the leading trade association in the agrisupply industry. To allow the various Sector heads within the organisation to send regular email briefings to the organisation’s members, we designed and developed a bespoke online email distribution system. The system is integrated with AIC’s frequently updated members database, and includes an online editing and approval process; as well as providing a detailed record of all the emails that are sent, along with the records from the previous system.

The Assurance Alert system was named “Electronic Communication of the Year” at the Trade Association Forum dinner this year (2012).

The system was recently expanded to provide support for a Trade Assurance Alert system, which allows various trade bodies to update the status of their registered companies to AIC’s members. The Assurance Alert system was named “Electronic Communication of the Year” at the Trade Association Forum dinner this year (2012).

Design and development

The email distribution and trade assurance sites were designed only for internal use by AIC staff. However, we sought to maintain a consistent look and feel to both sites, utilising the existing branding of the organisation, and with clear sign-posting of the functionality provided so that new users could be up and running as quickly as possible, and so that infrequent users wouldn’t get lost when returning to send out an email. To that end, the left-hand navigation can be accessed from every page and links directly to the core parts of the system.

Most of the functionality for the online email distribution system is within the Mail section of the site. From here administrators can create new emails based on sector templates, upload attachments, specify a recipient list, and preview their email. Every email requires approval from one other person before it can be sent out – an additional proof-reading check, given that the emails go to thousands of members! Emails can also be converted into PDFs on the site and printed.

The Trade Assurance Alert system uses the same look and feel (and connects to the same backend database), but has an additional section for registered trade bodies to sign in to provide notifications of changes in company status. As the Trade Association award confirms, this has been well received!

Technical details

The AIC sites are written in PHP and use a MySQL database for storage and run on a linux debian server. The email templates are HTML based and customised for each sector. Emails are sent using a batched cron job, which sends out blocks of emails at a time. All personal data is encrypted using salted MD5 encryption.