Feb 24, 2009

Welcome webinar participants! Day 1 discussion...

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Hello again, everyone. Thanks for joining today's session.

As I mentioned earlier, managing content is a strategic choice in which a CMS package is only part of the total solution.

To get the discussion started, how many of you feel your institution is truly ready to embark on this adventure? And, if not, what are your challenges? Expectations, culture, overly-simplistic view of the issue, budget? For those needing to build momentum, let's chime in to help.

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Answers to questions during the webinar will be posted below as we assemble them...

Q: Doing an audit as described in the session for a large university website seems outlandish. Thousands of pages and hundreds of departments. How do you do something like that?

Excellent question. Yes, it is a daunting task to take-on your entire website. But if your CMS scope includes your entire website, at some point you're going to have to face it. It's coming, one way or another.

If there are thousands of pages of content on your website, I'll gamble and say your website has probably become the dumping ground for everything everyone wants "on the web." The phrase "yea, let's get that posted on the website," has been used way tooooo much. (Hopefully, your nodding in agreement.)

If this is the case, you want to strongly consider a content management strategy that includes a segregation of your content between internal audiences vs. external audiences; which means an internal portal may well be in your future. It also helps bolster the case for higher standardization and clearer publishing guidelines with administrators.

The only way you're going to know for sure how to segment and scale down this much content is to take a full accounting of exactly what's out there.

[shameless plug] This is where hiring a company like ours makes sense. [end shameless plug]

But if you only want to get an idea of the content that's out there, to help keep your CMS project moving forward, here's a quick plan:
  1. Group common websites at a high level first, like by administrative unit or college.
  2. Choose a minimum number of websites to detail audit for each group. I'd recommend no fewer than five. (If you had 100 directories and broke them down into 10 groups, you'd cut your detailed audit number by half. And if you're auditing fewer than 20 directories in a website with over 100, you may want to re-group or raise your minimum.)
  3. Audit those groups in detail, by categorizing file types, average last update date, type of content, applications used, etc.

Patterns should start emerging between directories in the same group. You might also notice patterns between groups.

In a scaled-down content and information audit, you'll likely face bumps when the "rubber hits the road" in the migration phase; especially with those departments you didn't audit. It's Murphy's Law: Those will likely be the ones that have that weird, quirky little web application they won't want to give up, and they will be the squeakiest wheels on your campus.

Jan 23, 2009

Create a unified vision for content management

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We’re excited about our first series of webinars, Planning for a CMS, this week. For final preparations, we called a few of the over 40 institutions who signed up. We chose those schools with multiple people registered, assuming CMS was likely a hot topic on their campus. Learning more about their needs, we could make our sessions more relevant for everyone.

We discovered that for half of the schools we chatted with, a unified vision for CMS seemed to be lacking. Divisions existed between IT and marketing or worse, across academic and administrative units.

A common story was a past CMS effort plagued by a few starts and a lot of stops; and now the “silo” mentality—every group for themselves—was either quickly nearing or had already taken hold. More than once we heard, “That’s just the culture here and it’s not going to change anytime soon.”

Justifying an investment in a CMS in higher education is largely a cost-savings, more than a revenue-generating, proposition. The hard returns provided by a CMS solution is managing an enterprise-wide website with minimal effort and fewer people while maximizing technical infrastructure and development.

Without a university-wide vision for content management, to be boldly honest, the future for these institutions will be worse than having an HTML-only website.

Aside from increased and redundant costs for technology, training, support and staff to maintain multiple CMS solutions, having every group go it’s own way proliferates the silos.

Creating a vision for content management across a university is not easy, but no matter what level you’re at, you can get it started. Just start small and be informal. The goal here is to shape opinions, not set policy. Here’s a few suggestions...
  1. Talk to colleagues across campus with the same challenges you’re facing. Team up and work together to invite still more into the discussion. Think of this group as the “agents of change.”

  2. Don’t spend time commiserating about problems and obstacles. Focus on opportunities to build relationships and promote dialogue on the issue.

  3. Invest time with those who are barriers to progress, starting with lower-level employees and working up. Chat over lunch or an afternoon coffee. Learn about their challenges and listen to their take on the issue. Be honest, but not threatening. They may likely feel the same way about the issue as you. Ask for their help. (Note: This may take more than one chat.)

  4. Reach out to IT and/or marketing, especially the web staff, and get them on your side. (If they are the obstacle, see #3.)

  5. Identify leaders who could champion the CMS issue. Even if they don’t know they will be your champion yet, it’s good to consider early-on who has the political clout at the executive levels to help.

  6. Create a value statement for a university-wide approach to content management. Define it with your group of change agents. Refine it with input from mid-level managers.

  7. Connect with those who influence your champions. Leverage your network of colleagues to communicate the needs and value statement with these people from multiple angles.

  8. Wait. Give the message time to spread and sink-in.

  9. Actively recruit your champion. Let him/her run with it, and be there for support.

  10. Hit a dead end along the way? Don’t lose hope, start again. Change takes time.

Some may wonder if only investing time to get a top-down decision would be faster. Yea, it might. But the risk is fickle support among leadership and departments, because some will feel forced to change. Building a unified vision from the ground-up keeps your support at the top strong and the base solid.