Centralized Web Content Management in a University Setting

Matt Riley, CIO, University of Montana
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Matt Riley, CIO, University of Montana

One of the great challenges of IT in a university setting is web presence among the many academic and administrative units and departments across campus. The University of Montana, located in the college town setting of Missoula, Montana has been able to meet the web content management challenge for most of the nearly 500 unique sites associated with the university. “I think that you need some compelling reasons to approach web content management at an enterprise scale in a university setting,” says UM’s CIO Matt Riley. “For UM in 2013, factors including a need for consistent/coordinated branding, web accessibility across all sites, and a budget crisis were all factors in UM’s ability to mobilize the campus around the need for a unified effort.”

"Cascade Server platform from Hannon Hill, that provides a robust and scalable environment for UM’s needs"

As the campus realized the need for coordinating website presence and the resources behind it, central IT was ready with a web content management solution, Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server. The central solution could be housed on multiple servers, virtual servers and/or in the cloud. Additionally, UM found it possible to bring together Amazon cloud services for storage and virtualization in conjunction with Cascade Server to create a robust and highly scalable web platform for the campus. Through the opportunity created with the technical back-end, members of the web community throughout UM were poised to meet the challenges of bringing UM an accessible, functional, coordinated and highly marketable web presence. Now the issue focused on getting the web-focused people around the university working together.

For UM, the guiding force was with our leadership in Marketing, who helped initiate a team of web designers and developers around campus to come together under a project that would both build marketable web presence for UM on the Cascade Server content management platform, and create a set of web templates that departments and units all over campus. The project, deemed ‘Ponderosa’ by the team, was something where central IT found value in the utilization of the platform, collaboration with distributed units, ability to address website accessibility and security concerns. Distributed units’ web development, support and design personnel throughout UM found value in the Ponderosa project through its compelling offering of a platform, shared support and alignment with campus goals. In reality, many problems with web servers, web presence and support existed in distributed units, for which they had neither the funding, nor manpower to address. Buying into a concept of a centralized a web platform took pressure off these units locally, allowed them to influence web template design and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to provide robust, contemporary web presence in a way that met compliancy and came under a shared support model—which are all things that are difficult to achieve within distributed departments and units across a university campus.

By late 2013, UM had deployed a new campus web presence, exhibiting the beauty and functionality needed for our marketing efforts. In addition, project resources continued working into 2014 and beyond, creating a set of web templates to complement the new site, strategically working with major academic units design and migrate more of the marketable web presence, and creating processes allowing the campus to take advantage of web design, support and self-help resources. The effect or outcome is that web presence at UM, once a highly distributed and uneven mess that was difficult for anyone to get their heads around, is now a highly centralized, yet collaborative effort across campus that affords opportunity at an institutional level to rapidly adjust web presence based upon strategic goals of the institution, while allowing departments and units across campus a platform for creativity in design and utilization of sites. All of this is accomplished on one unified platform, the Cascade Server platform from Hannon Hill, that provides a robust and scalable environment for UM’s needs that is especially cost effective for the opportunity the platform provides.

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