University-Wide Web CMS Implementation – Failure, Then Success

This is an oldie but a goodie. Myself, Sean McMains, and Jeff Snider told the experience of two CMS implementations at Texas State University – one a huge failure, the other a huge success – at the HighEdWebDev Conference in 2008. The presentation was a rousing success (I think we were a few votes away from being voted the Best of Track).

The highlight comes where we all three answer a question in unison as to why a very good web committee’s report was ignored – “Politics!”.

Here’s the rough transcript of the moment:

James:  We’re in a university, what do we do? We form a committee. So we actually form a really good committee. We get people all across the university at all levels that we know we’re going to need buy-in from a very talented group of people  – and then we promptly ignore them. Alright, another mistake.

So they come to meetings and the meetings are just death marches. It’s PowerPoints from the project manager with updates. And then when the committee is asked to so something, the work that they do isn’t seized upon it, isn’t used productively, so they quit coming. They’ve got things to do with their time. So again, we’re kind of stumbling here right out of the gate.

Jeff Snider: Yeah, this committee, our best example of what they did is they came up with this brilliant web style guide that never, sort of like, it’s still in a drawer somewhere. It was never released.

Audience 1: Why not?

Jeff, Sean and James in Unison:  Politics.

[Much Laughter]

James Buratti: Look at that, we weren’t even looking at each other! Politics. If I had a better answer I’d gave it to you. It never made it passed the certain point in the administration and we weren’t a level where we can find out why. No idea.

Below is the presentation description and you can listen to the entire presentation here.


Conference Presentation Description:

University-Wide Web CMS Implementation – Failure, Then Success

Texas State University is a mid–sized public university serving 28,132 students. In 2003 it embarked on a project to implement a university-wide Web content management system. After three years the project was in shambles; only a dozen websites were using the system, potential customers were avoiding the CMS, the development team was highly stressed and the original project manager was off to greener pastures.

Fast forward 18 months…

Within six months a new CMS was in place and at the end of its first year of operation 120 university websites were live in the system and over 500 users had been trained. Customer satisfaction was very high and 95.9% of users surveyed said they would recommend the system to others. The team was less stressed (it’s still work, right?) and were very happy with a product that what was faster, easier to program, easier to teach, more reliable and much less expensive.

We’ll present what went wrong and what went right so you can learn from our missteps and good ideas.