Customer Spotlight: University of Saskatchewan

By Lauren Murray — Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 at 11:00am

Cascade CMS Customer Spotlight-University of Saskatchewan

I recently spoke with Kyla Hoffman at the University of Saskatchewan to hear what they are doing to keep their engagement high within Cascade CMS.  On average, the U of S has about 65-70 concurrent users.  When talking about how they encourage engagement with their users on campus, Hoffman noted three key areas of focus: training, their content management strategy, and where their content is managed.


Understanding the importance of why your content matters starts with training. While Hoffman’s department does not support training for how to write for the web, they do focus on the importance of why you want to add content to Cascade CMS.  Their users do not come in for training unless they are specifically designated to be working on a website, and they are required to bring in content that they will be adding to their website.  

During the training, they go through the process of how to use Cascade CMS and what content should be posted. For example, if someone would like to post a PDF, instead of training them on how to post the PDF, they focus on why they would want to post it and whether it would be better to have that content as a table.  Placing a heavy focus on the why behind the content has helped users pay more attention to what they add to their website.

Training focuses on two different aspects of content: are you the one creating and managing the content, or are you the one consuming the content.  This helps their users understand that using Cascade CMS is just one part of the content process, not the end result.  During training, the web team constantly reminds their users that no technology is perfect and can’t be exactly what makes sense to the user. However, if they know what they’re using it for and why they’re using it, it makes the how of using it easier. This mentality helps limit any frustrations their users may have.

Screenshot of menu on website

Hoffman has mentioned that over the past few years when she has hired new developers, she focuses more on an understanding of business needs and communication skills.  For example, the developers that work on her team need to be able to communicate with their end users (and their communicators).  They need to be able to relate to them in a way that facilitates addressing business needs instead of individual needs.  They are expected to be able to talk to users and prepare documentation using the same technology and processes, such as how to present different content based on a particular audience.  

An example of this can be found on this blog by one of their newest developers, Joel Farthing.  This post, as well as many others, shows their users that the technical team is more than just programmers.  

Screenshot of web guide for university of saskatchewan

Hoffman’s expectation for her programmers is that “they are able to really understand the needs of their users and address them through quality customer service.”  What they have discovered is that their users are becoming more comfortable asking questions about best practices. This increased trust in the technical team has helped users feel more empowered because they have a person connection with the team, which Hoffman thinks has been a contributing factor in an increase in engagement.

Content Management Strategy

With a goal of focusing on who the audience consuming their content is, the university helped each unit on campus create their own content management strategy.  Recently, there has been a big push to maintain content and keep it up to date.  One example of how they have done that is to dedicate a site owner to each site.  Having a site owner has increased accountability for keeping content relevant and up to date.

The university also started a web user group that talks about communication on campus and their business needs for online content.  This group helps reiterate the importance of managing content.  The web team has discussions with the group to determine what they need, which leads to higher engagement within Cascade CMS.

Another big initiative on campus is the ability to share content across the university.  When a new blog or news article is created, web services allows that content to be tagged with keywords.  Each departments can search for tags relevant to their content and share articles on their website. Hoffman said that this has helped increase engagement on campus because now their users want to be seen writing and publishing articles and like having their name published on other department’s websites.

Where Content is Managed

While they’re not directly responsible for engagement, there are tools that can be used when talking about what types of content and data can be managed through Cascade CMS.  Some content has to be moved into Cascade CMS and some is managed elsewhere.  For example, the College of Nursing, whose site just recently launched, had to move into Cascade CMS because they were publishing directly to the web server.  Hoffman mentioned that this has helped them consolidate their technology infrastructure and has “forced” discussions of where content is managed.  “Because technology convergence is a strategic priority of ours, we limit the custom builds - so, for example, we don’t allow custom websites like we used to.  We also don’t spin up small web apps for the sake of convenience.  We exhaust existing options and focus more on configuration rather than customization.  For example, by building our templates in Bootstrap we’ve greatly reduced the need to respond to individual preferences for how a website ‘looks’ and are able to use our resources to focus more on content delivery.  This, in turn, has allowed us to get users more engaged as we now turn our focus to the idea of a U of S standard web features roadmap.”

If you'd like to be featured in a Hannon Hill Customer Spotlight blog post, please contact Lauren Murray at

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