Ottawa digital agency OPIN driving St. John Ambulance into the digital age

St John Ambulance CPR

St. John Ambulance has been helping Canadians improve their health, safety and quality of life for more than a century, but for many years, the charitable organization has struggled to modernize its digital properties.

The organization’s primary website, for example, has been difficult to use, particularly on mobile devices. This has left many prospective customers at a loss as they attempt to find information, make purchases and register for courses. Oftentimes, those customers have ended up turning to competitors as a result, leaving St. John Ambulance with reduced sales and fewer resources to give back to the community.

“It became very obvious that the tool that we were working with (for our online properties), while still functional, didn’t meet the requirements of our customers,” says Philippe Blain, director of national accounts at St. John Ambulance.

In 2018, Blain and St. John Ambulance’s chief decision-makers came together to solve the problem. The organization hired Ottawa-based agency LeapUX as a consultant to develop a strategy and help select a vendor to undertake a complete overhaul of the St. John Ambulance website.

After a selection process involving 12 vendors, St. John Ambulance and LeapUX landed on OPIN, an Ottawa company specializing in a versatile, open-source content management system (CMS) called Drupal. This trio of organizations gelled immediately.

“OPIN fit in like a perfect puzzle piece,” LeapUX CEO Nicholas Marengere said. “We were able to hit the ground running.”

OPIN software
Consultant Nicholas Marengere, left, said “OPIN fit in like a perfect puzzle piece” in helping his client, Philippe Blain – director of national accounts at St. John Ambulance – develop a modern digital presence.

OPIN’s unique value proposition  

From the perspective of St. John Ambulance and Marengere, the appeal of OPIN was manifold.

For one, Marengere explains, OPIN has a proven track record integrating with Microsoft 365, an enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management application. OPIN has also worked with a long list of similar clients in the not-for-profit and healthcare sectors.

Furthermore, as a professional services agency with a unique specialization in Drupal, OPIN was equipped to integrate the robust technology. OPIN is also the only agency in the region offering enterprise-level Drupal support, securing St. John Ambulance’s online presence for years to come.

Finally, Marengere says, he and St. John Ambulance were impressed by OPIN’s use of the Agile method of project management, which breaks large projects into bite-sized portions and fosters constant feedback and communication throughout execution. Thanks to the Agile methodology, St. John Ambulance will receive regular updates, and as a result, no unwanted surprises.

OPIN has plunged head-first into St. John Ambulance’s digital remodel, enacting a multi-year, four-phase plan for the project. As the first phase nears completion, the company’s Catherine Street office is humming with activity.

“This is extremely exciting,” says Josh Awad, OPIN’s enterprise account executive. “At OPIN, we pride ourselves on multi-year relationships with our clients. We prefer not to build something and send the client on their way. This is an integral client for us over the next two to three year in terms of this build, and hopefully even past that.”

For OPIN, the task ahead is significant. Yet Awad and his colleagues are certain of their ability to conquer it, thereby allowing St. John Ambulance to continue its noble and long-standing mission with far greater efficiency.

“Everybody in Canada knows St. John Ambulance, but this is a huge leap into the modern world in terms of their digital presence,” he says.

Enterprise website planning tips


Is your enterprise planning to undertake a project like St. John Ambulance’s digital overhaul? Here are a few things to consider:

Find the right technology

While it’s easier than ever to create your own website, many mainstream website builders – while easy to use – unfortunately fail to meet the complex needs of large enterprises. Open-source solutions such as Drupal work better for enterprises, both from a quality and cost perspective.

Choose the right project management methodology 

Poor project methodology can end up costing you extra money and time. When selecting an agency to undertake your project, consider its project methodology. Will there be frequent meetings to keep you up to date? Will you be kept apprised of the progress being made? If not, you can anticipate cost overruns and project delays. “Scope creep,” an inevitability on large projects with many stakeholders involved, can cause numerous challenges. Choose an agency well equipped to deal with this issue through collaboration and communication.

Select the right hosting option 

There is no such thing as 100 per cent uptime. All systems require maintenance. However, excessive downtime can cost enterprises a fortune. Enterprises should pursue at least 99.95 per cent uptime (4.38 hours of downtime annually). Anything less can hurt your reputation, search engine optimization, and ultimately, your profits. Choose a dedicated hosting provider to combat these risks, and ensure you’re also covered in terms of disaster recovery, data migration and security.

Ensure you're covered post-launch

The project doesn’t end when it launches. Just like any other expensive piece of equipment, you want it to extend its life to maximize its value. Ensure you have the tools and expertise to ensure things run smoothly long after launch. Make sure you’re covered in terms of updates and upgrades, support and maintenance, and the use of analytics tools.

OPIN recently prepared a complete guide to enterprise website planning. Read it for free at