Web CMS Project Background

The MSU Web domain is a primary, highly efficient and effective communications tool for recruiting new students, supporting fundraising efforts and communicating with alumni, donors and the public at large. Consisting of hundreds of thousands of Web pages with an unknown quantity of developers publishing content, the MSU Web domain is extremely large and cumbersome to manage especially across all campuses.

A content management system (CMS) was identified as an important need of the university more than 8 years ago. At the time the initiative was forward-thinking, however, now it is considered the best practice among universities in managing Web content. MSU is now in the minority of universities not using a CMS to manage Web content on a large scale. The requirement of ongoing funding for FTE and licensing has been an obstacle to approval and implementation. Because the CMS would be used by every single unit of the university in all four campuses, no single entity has stepped forward to fund it. The need for a CMS continues to grow and the lack of a CMS implementation costs the university in time, effort and lost opportunity. The lack of a CMS also significantly increases the likelihood MSU websites will be used for illicit activities or compromised due to a successful cyber-attack that may disable MSU’s Web domain for days at a time.

Problem:

The MSU campuses and agencies have a distributed model of website management that is daunting for non-technical people to use, manage, maintain, and coordinate consistency in content, look and feel, usability, accessibility and security. MSU websites are vastly inconsistent in the quality of user experience, inefficiently managed and vulnerable to considerable security risks.

Currently, if the university wanted to implement a domain-wide change and enhance web accessibility to those with disabilities, it would have to do so manually one page at a time across hundreds of thousands of documents. The last domain-wide change on the MSU-Bozeman website, initiated nearly two years ago, is still in progress with many thousands of pages waiting for conversion. A CMS would allow all pages to be changed simultaneously, by one user. Similar changes in information, design and branding could be implemented globally as well. This would save the university thousands of hours in time and allow the university to be more adaptable and flexible to change.

The exact number of positions managing Web content is in constant flux as these duties are often assigned to student or entry level administrative associates. However, a safe estimate is that the number exceeds 200 on the MSU-Bozeman campus alone. Anyone who manages Web content needs to purchase a software license for Contribute, Dreamweaver or other Web development software and some modicum of software training. A CMS would largely eliminate the need for licensing and training. It would also markedly ease the challenge of content creation and updates for all but the most technically savvy Web content managers. The amount of labor saved annually could easily be in the thousands of hours.