A new computer system called ADelphi that will eventually involve the whole Craft is unveiled by Roger Carter
ADelphi is the computer program that runs the membership system for all English Freemasonry at Freemasons’ Hall. It is a very significant program developed upon Oracle, the world’s leading database software. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) system was called ADelphi after the Greek word for Brother and also, because it is a process to obtain information, it is a play on words of the Greek consultation of the Oracle at Delphi.
A programme of development funded by UGLE is now currently underway in conjunction with the Provinces, to extend the basic ADelphi program, which started primarily as a project just for the needs of Freemasons’ Hall, into a system for the benefit of all the Provinces and the membership as a whole. This exciting new system is to be called Provincial ADelphi.
Provincial ADelphi will be of major benefit, as it is likely in time to become the main system by which most Provinces communicate with Masons in their Provincial area, and by which these Provincial offices connect with the Freemasons’ Hall database.
As Masons become increasingly contactable through their use of the internet, their Provincial offices will be able to arrange membership renewal, subscriptions, meetings, Visiting officers and even seating plans through Provincial ADelphi.
The Annual and Installation Returns will be processed through this route, as will letters to Masons about Provincial matters. Soon the Masonic Year Book for each Province will be produced electronically, and then it may be possible for any Mason to quickly access the up-to-date information directly on the internet.
The potential for saving a great amount of time, especially in Provincial offices, and the consequent likely cost-saving is a significant benefit of introducing the system countrywide.
This whole process has been designed to be a collaborative programme in conjunction with the Provinces. Before any development work took place, the Director of Operations at UGLE and key members of the IT Team visited Provinces across the country to explain what was happening and ask them what features they wanted.
A series of workshops with many more Provinces then took place at Freemasons’ Hall to identify precisely the type of specification that was required for the system.
A Project Plan was created and approved by the Board of General Purposes. A set of three specially selected Provinces: Hertfordshire, Surrey and Somerset, were contacted and agreed to be ‘Pilot Provinces’ to test out the developments as they were created, and agree a standard approach on behalf of every Province.
A Project Team made up of the Head of IT, Stephen Fryer, supported by a small team of skilled Oracle developers commenced a programme of work in accordance with the Project Plan. Monthly meetings with the Pilot Provinces were scheduled to take place to ensure that the project progressed at a steady rate.
A module for submitting Annual Returns has now been tried and tested in the Province of Surrey, and subsequently is being tested in Hertfordshire and Somerset. A different module, a process for considering Provincial honours, has been tried in Hertfordshire, and is now being trialled in all three Provinces.
It is anticipated that the modules identified above will be completed, tested and ready by early 2007. A number of further Provinces have already volunteered to be the next to try and test the system.
A project programme is therefore being developed which will identify the next Provinces to join the system, starting with those who have already heard about the benefits of Provincial ADelphi and wish to volunteer.
It is anticipated that as more Provinces see how the system helps them, they will also wish to join. This process is designed to ensure that when the system is fully operational, there are not the same sorts of problems that have occurred in some other national IT systems when they have been introduced!
Keith Gilbert, Provincial Grand Secretary of Hertfordshire, following use of the first modules, commented: “Although we already had an effective database, the introduction of ADelphi has proved to be a first-class tool in enabling us to speed up communication with the Brethren and with Grand Lodge.”
Bryan Craddock, Provincial Grand Secretary of Surrey, said: “It is clear that Provincial ADelphi is the way ahead and it is good to be working together with UGLE on such a scheme”.
Graham Bowerman, Provincial Grand Secretary of Somerset added: “I am pleased to report that the ADelphi system is providing us with a firm basis for the administration of the Province with easy access to up-to-date and accurate details of all our members.”
In addition, Harry Barnes, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset, who has started to look at the way it works, commented: “I found the system very intuitive, flexible and comprehensive.” All responses to date have been very positive.
As well as work on Provincial Adelphi, the IT team have been carrying out associated work on a festivals and donations module for the Grand Charity on behalf of all the other Masonic charities. In addition, there are plans afoot to develop a system to allow payment of subscriptions and other monies by direct debit through ADelphi.
This would enable charity donations to be made directly to the Relief Chest and create a comprehensive system for the collection of charitable donations from brethren.
The Provincial ADelphi system could, in time, be used increasingly as a means of communication between individual Lodges and their Provincial office or direct with Grand Lodge. As the system develops and expands, the possibilities are huge.
With the prospect of individual brethren communicating direct with their Provincial leadership, and even Masonic message boards etc., only time will tell where this will go!
Roger Carter is Director of Operations at Freemasons’ Hall