University of Saskatchewan Case Study


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About

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) was founded in 1907, just two years after the creation of the province, with the mission of providing a traditional and innovative post-secondary education to the youth of Saskatchewan. Located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, the U of S is a center of excellence for education, research, and service. The university is a diverse yet integrated institution where nearly 20,000 students and scholars interact with national and international colleagues in a broad range of academic activities. Equally important as the university's mission-- To achieve excellence in the scholarly activities of teaching, discovering, preserving and applying knowledge --is the university's web presence, through which it conveys this message.

Challenge - Centralizing Collaboratively

With 15 colleges, three graduate schools, and six affiliated and federated colleges the University of Saskatchewan is a highly decentralized institution.  The U of S follows a decentralized website management model, with hundreds of web publishers across campus and thousands of pages of web content, and as a result consistency of information across the organization is a considerable challenge. Up until a few years ago, the U of S, which has 14 distinct IT shops, was a textbook example of what happens in a decentralized environment. The university had over 600 sites being managed with a variety of disparate systems (including multiple web content management systems) and so many servers that the actual number of them was difficult to identify. To address the need for a more centralized and efficient way of managing web content, while still allowing the various colleges and departments across campus to manage their own web presence, the U of S began researching formal web content management systems (WCMS).

From the very beginning, the U of S used a collaborative strategy to ensure the system chosen would be a good fit from a campus-wide perspective. The first phase involved an informal investigation group that researched and demoed an initial list of systems, including those already available at the U of S (Plone, Luminis and Drupal), in order to get an understanding about what was possible with web content management. The second step was to form a formal selection committee. To ensure a deep understanding of the university's needs at an institutional level, technical and functional representatives from seven of the U of S's academic and administrative units formed the official WCMS selection committee.

The committee started by writing the requirements for the WCMS system to be chosen as a group. Collaborative requirements gathering paved the way for a consensus amongst the university's constituents when selecting a WCMS.

Solution - A Unanimous WCMS Decision

Using the collective requirements, the WCMS Selection Committee issued an RFP and evaluated vendor responses before selecting Cascade Server as the institutional web content management system. The functional and technical representatives from all seven units agreed unanimously that Cascade Server was the best for the institution because it provided the flexibility to do what was needed and focused specifically on web content management. "We really liked that [with Cascade] we have the flexibility to distribute the control to the different IT units across campus, and then centrally, we can manage the global settings and provide access to the environment when people want to get on board,” said Simone Knapp, business analyst for the WCMS service.

After selecting Cascade Server, the U of S immediately started its implementation project for the campus-wide web content management service. With a focus on consolidation and standardization, rather than enforcement, they defined the institutional WCMS service as an opt-in service (rather than opt-out) and developed a three-pronged strategy to help get the multitude of groups up and running with their web content management efforts.

Centralized management, decentralized operations

For the colleges, units and divisions on campus that have their own IT shops, getting up and running with Cascade is as simple as designating a site manager, receiving training and gaining access to the system. For those without designated IT teams, there are two options--a free pre-packaged site (created by the central WCMS team) that provides standard elements and functionality; or, for those with departmental budgets, the U of S has a fee-for-service web development unit that can create customized sites in the WCMS.

For those choosing to partake in any of the three offerings, the institutional WCMS service provides consultation, training and technical support, including access to sample websites and layouts, training manuals, best practices and a monthly meeting for WCMS developers. Colleges, units and divisions are responsible for content creation, migration and maintenance. Although the system is centrally managed, its operations are decentralized.

“Our WCMS team philosophy is to foster collaboration and cultivate effective partnerships with our stakeholders that transcend traditional boundaries,” explains Monisha Shukla, manager of the WCMS service. “We succeed when our stakeholders are successful, whether they do the development themselves, use the pre-packaged site, or partner with the web development unit.”

Results - Making Positive Change for the Institution

The U of S is continuing to build momentum with their inclusive campus-wide web content management strategy. Over 60 colleges, units, centers or affiliated organizations started using the system in the first six months, and the number continues to grow steadily. Many of the larger colleges and administrative units are managing their web presence with Cascade Server, including the College of Arts and Science, the College of Graduate Studies and Research, the Edwards School of Business, and all senior leadership units. The Student and Enrolment Services Division moved its Program and Course information from a homegrown system into Cascade, and currently the College of Medicine and the University Library are migrating from their open source systems into Cascade. In a little over a year, the U of S had 70 sites publishing live from Cascade Server, with 33 more in development; 270 people have accounts in their system.

As a result of acquiring and implementing the campus-wide web content management system, the U of S has begun to witness some key benefits. By empowering the people who own the content, it is easier to ensure that published information is accurate, relevant, current and consistent. This prevents technical people from becoming the bottleneck for posting content and allows them to focus on more value-added technical work. Cascade Server is making positive change for the institution.

Rick Bunt, Chief Information Officer for the U of S sees improved information quality as a key benefit of Cascade Server. “Our institutional WCMS service facilitates sharing information across websites that previously would have been managed in unconnected systems. This reduces the need for duplicating information in multiple web servers and improves the quality by pulling information in from the website that owns it.”

Furthermore, for those teams that previously had limited access to an IT resource, the three-pronged strategy implemented by the central WCMS team at the U of S has also had a direct positive impact. There has been an increased proliferation of the U of S visual identity from people that don't have their own IT group. Cascade Server provided the ability to make an easy-to-use, pre-packaged site available to the community which has really provided the U of S with a strengthened web presence overall.

Lastly, much of the university’s success is attributed to the collaborative approach taken from the very beginning of the process. Relationship building and collaboration have been fundamental to what they've accomplished.

To measure satisfaction levels, the U of S central WCMS team administered a satisfaction survey on the WCMS system to everyone with user accounts in Cascade Server. "Ninety percent [90%] of respondents said they would recommend the system to others on campus," said Knapp. "We are really pleased with the product. Any time someone asks us we tell them how happy we are and how well it's meeting our needs. We've been able to successfully implement an institutional system in a decentralized environment."

Future Plans

Moving forward, the U of S central WCMS team will work on improving the university’s WCMS offerings for the community. This will involve further developing the pre-packaged site option and possibly building a smaller version of it for individual faculty and research groups. The team also plans to explore mobile outputs and has recently begun using Cascade Server's site-content model, which debuted with the release of Cascade Server 6.0.

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http://www.usask.ca/