With nearly 100,000 students on eight campuses across the state of Indiana, Indiana University (IU) touches the lives of Hoosiers in thousands of ways. IU takes innovation to a new level among institutions of higher education. Whether via the school's state-of-the-art technology innovations and research endeavors, or their exceptional work in the medical arena including the Indiana Genomics Initiative, Indiana University sets itself apart as a predominant leader in the higher education realm. With the recent decision to take on one of the largest optional system-wide content management implementations vendors have seen to date, Indiana University has furthered its commitment to supporting its faculty and staff through technological understanding and innovation.
As a large and decentralized institution, IU faced similar barriers to campus-wide web content management (WCM) adoption as those faced by many schools-- finding and implementing a solution that would allow more campuses and content contributors to get involved with WCM, while still leveraging the web content and infrastructures already in place.
Recognizing these barriers, senior management from the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and CIO came together several years ago to form a task force and create a call for content management solutions to be researched by the school. This task force laid the foundation for IU's involvement and integration of a centrally supported system that would eventually be available for all of the school's campuses to use and implement. IU's Enterprise Web Technical Services (Web Tech) team, a part of University Information Technology Services (UITS), and key stakeholders were charged with researching prospective content management solutions and selecting a system that would best afford IU's disparate campuses and divisions the ability to maximize adoption and leverage existing content and infrastructures.
Prior to selecting a WCM solution, the systems in use by IU's eight campuses were numerous and broad. "You name it and I'm sure it was either researched, looked at, or in use somewhere," notes Amber Harmon, WCMS Project Lead of Enterprise Web Technical Services. Because of this, there was an overwhelming interest in standardizing IU's web content management processes by providing a single centrally supported system that IU’s many divisions would have the option to use. Harmon continues, "we already had a web environment in place here at IU, and we wanted to be able to incorporate content management into that environment while still leveraging not only the existing centralized infrastructure we had in place, but also various frameworks in place at IU divisions and campuses."
Furthermore, because few IU teams were using formalized WCM systems, tasks that with a single system would take minutes or hours, were instead taking up days of valuable developer and content contributor time. For someone like Jim Hoffman, who serves as the Webmaster for the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology website, there were clear hindrances faced by the processes in place. "To edit a page before, it would take between 1-3 days to get information from the user, to my manager, to myself, and then to make the update; and then to give the information back to the manager to check and then sign-off on." This entire process was handled via email, and as can be imagined, for a school as vast and decentralized as Indiana University, making updates in this way was not a scalable process.
After over a year of research and involvement from multiple departments and stakeholders at IU, a Request for Proposal was issued to vendors with an extensive list of requirements that the chosen CMS must meet. Greg Moore, IU Senior Communications Specialist notes, "Out of those responding to the RFP, the management team felt that Cascade CMS was really the one that best met all of the requirements." As a result of this and Cascade's scalability as a push WCM system, Cascade CMS was selected as Indiana's official central content management system.
For ease of deployment and system management, the Cascade CMS system is managed at its core by IU's Web Tech team. This team works closely with the UITS IT Training and Education team to create custom training content and educate IU's users across the state on the content management system. In addition, once a department or school decides it wants to implement content management processes, the Web Tech team helps them identify site managers to get the process up and running. As Harmon notes, "We seek to empower our end users and to have site managers at any school, department, division, or campus where content is being managed. It's not just one team doing all of the implementations, it's really finding those organizations and departments that want to use content management, and then helping them identify their site managers and processes, or in some cases helping them locate additional resources within IU that can consult with them as site managers on site design or information architecture."
As a result of implementing Cascade CMS in this way, in just over a year the Web Tech team has successfully aided the launch of six of IU's sites currently managed by Cascade CMS:
- IU Bloomington Gateway
- IU Bloomington Admissions
- School of Public and Environmental Affairs
- School of Public and Environmental Affairs Arts Administration
- Office of the Vice President for Information Technology
- IU School of Medicine Newsletter
Of the six sites above, by far the largest implementation has been IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) site. Previously managed with another content management system, SPEA worked with Hannon Hill's Services team to perform a full content migration from their legacy open source CMS to Cascade CMS. Jose Montalvo, web developer at SPEA, notes that after experiencing lackluster results with the CMS in use previously, "That's when Cascade CMS was chosen by IU, which I think came in at just the right time." Montalvo continues, "Here is a solution that had been created with our institution in mind, with our resources in mind, and with a support group. So we jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly, because we saw a good solution for the problem that we had."
As a result of providing an optional means for campus-wide content management, Indiana University has demonstrated one of the most successful CMS adoptions seen by vendors to date. Adoption, use, and understanding of the system have begun on a broad scale across IU's schools, departments, divisions, and campuses.
For Montalvo and SPEA, WCM processes have been vastly improved. "It's been a very successful experience because they [content contributors] don't have to rely on me every time they want to update a phone number, or a name, or put new pages up there. But rather, they're empowered completely to set-up their own content, their own images, within the context of the website design we have. So for us, it's been very successful."
For those like Jim Hoffman, for whom page changes would take up to three days previously, these same changes are now made in a matter of hours, if not minutes. As Hoffman notes, "The web CMS allows for distributed content authoring and publishing and also customizable workflow. So if you want to be able to distribute content to the content contributors, it's a good way to accomplish this task."
For Thom Atkinson, IU Bloomington Campus Webmaster, tremendous benefits have already been realized, "Certainly the primary benefit has been the ability to easily incorporate and publish content, especially multimedia content, in a way that doesn't require a great deal of technical know-how." Content reuse and the ability to present the same content in a variety of ways have also been of benefit to Atkinson and Bloomington, "That's the real value, is being able to leverage that [single sourced content] in multiple ways in multiple locations."
Lastly, for IU stakeholders such as Amber Harmon, Cascade CMS has already had a major impact. While the process has been a piecewise one, the benefits are becoming more evident. "If you can get past the learning curve in the beginning the long-term benefits are well worth it," notes Harmon. "You can put this tool in place, but that doesn't necessarily alleviate all of the issues that float around quality content. For us, it has caused important discussions about what exactly it does take to have quality content out there on the Web, and how best to manage it."
With Cascade CMS in place, IU will continue the discussion around the need for quality web content. In addition to fostering discussion and maintaining the six sites currently live with Cascade CMS, the IU team has nearly completed development for sites for the College of Arts and Sciences Biology Department and the Indiana Memorial Union.
Later this year, various teams including IU’s Office of Creative Services will be involved in launching sites for University Ceremonies, Commencement, Founders Day, Freshman Induction, Honors Convocation, Teaching Awards and Faculty Honors, Trustees of Indiana University, IU Gateway, Office of the President, School of Continuing Studies, Office of Overseas Study, School of Music Bulletin, and VP for Public Affairs and Government Relations Federal Stimulus, all of which will be managed in Cascade CMS.Visit