Southern Alberta Institute of Technology


The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), a polytechnic institution in Calgary, Canada, is considered one of the country's top five research colleges. SAIT is one of Calgary's oldest post-secondary education institutions and Canada's first publicly funded technical colleges. It offers over a hundred programs, primarily in technology and business, to over 14,000 students on its multiple campuses. The Institute prides itself in fostering a community of thinkers, creators, and champions leading change and reimagining the workforce of tomorrow.


SAIT’s primary digital strategy goal is to attract the best and brightest students through an enrollment-focused website that provides a superior user experience to its visitors. Despite having highly competent marketing and technical teams, SAIT struggled to quickly and seamlessly iterate its website due to challenges with its content management system.

Those key challenges included:

Difficulties for non-technical users

SAIT's non-technical users found the interface of their old CMS confusing. Without HTML knowledge, end users were unable to add page elements such as simple buttons, tables, or calls to action. As a result, the web team had to spend significant time on clean-up and other mitigation efforts, which was exasperated by the lack of actionable reports in the system.

Vendor support:

To build out new templates in the system and extend the functionality of the Institute's website, SAIT's web team needed responsive technical support from the CMS provider, which proved challenging. Therefore, the team was often tasked with finding workarounds.

In addition, SAIT lost confidence in the longevity of the CMS, as new features and enhancements were not released on a regular basis. The web team became concerned about incurring technical debt.


Once SAIT’s CMS provider pivoted in favor of other industries and their contract neared its end date, SAIT prepared to go to RFP to find a new vendor. The Institute knew it was essential to partner with a vendor who focused on higher education and was able to continuously deliver product functionality to support the unique needs of higher education clients.

Evaluation Process

SAIT’s marketing team started the initiative to replace its CMS by identifying the desired outcomes of the change and key requirements that the new system had to fulfill.

  1. SAIT wanted to partner with an innovative company that understood its business needs and with whom the team could build a robust and communicative partnership.
  2. SAIT sought a CMS environment that gave content contributors without coding knowledge the ability to produce great work efficiently without having to rely on developers to help with simple CTAs, such as buttons, alleviating bottlenecking.

After the initial evaluation phase, the team shortlisted possible products, arranged demos and testing environments to explore, and asked follow-up questions. But most importantly, the team involved clients and asked them about their opinions, then made a final decision in favor of Cascade CMS, based on strategic needs and desired outcomes.

Solution & Results

Cascade CMS by Hannon Hill provided the solution to SAIT’s primary digital strategy goals and helped the web team conduct asset and navigation audits, followed by a content review and rewrites of strategic areas.

With built-in reports, sensible workflows, and Cascade’s ease of use, content contributors without coding knowledge were able to work more efficiently and reduce publishing times.

The introduction of Cascade and its user-friendly interface has generated more interest into system access. SAIT currently has twice the number of contributors it used to have in its old system, not including administrators.

This is what end users had to say:

“I’ve never used Cascade or done any web content before, but I found the whole experience fairly straightforward. Thank you for the wonderful training!”

“I find that Cascade is user friendly, especially for those that are newer to using a CMS.”

Smart add-on features, such as tools to assist with checking accessibility and spelling mistakes, helped SAIT's team to stay compliant with web accessibility standards.

SAIT's migration process went seamlessly and the team was able to rewrite the entire codebase in just six months.

Because of its efforts and successful website revamp, the team received positive recognition for their efforts and the following awards:

  • Gold Winner - Institutional Website - Website Refresh and CMS Migration – EDMA Awards
  • Gold Winner - Institutional Website-Update/Refresh - Website Refresh and CMS Migration – EDMA Awards
  • Gold Winner - Refresh/CMS Migration - Website/Design - MarCom Awards
  • Gold Winner - AVA Award – Website Redesign

Working with Hannon Hill

Jonathon Olenick, Manager of Digital Experience, had this to say about working with Hannon Hill: 

"The modern consumer faces a lot of ennui in their business relationships. One can wait for hours to get to helplines or may have to wait for days to get help, depending on who you contact. The same can apply to B2B relationships. Some vendors can take days to get back. This is the opposite of the experience with Hannon Hill. Hannon Hill offers the best customer support I've experienced from a tech company. They are responsive, friendly, knowledgeable, and thoughtful. 

I consider them industry leaders.

Their customer service, training, and development services are all top-notch. They keep on top of development cycles and are communicative, thoughtful, and nuanced in their approach. The relationship with Hannon Hill feels like a true partnership. We feel vindicated in our choice and look forward to our journey ahead with them."