Web Maintenance Made Easier: A Campus-wide Collaboration

A big ‘welcome’ to #heweb16 conference attendees! The following content was presented during poster session #PST12.

About Michigan Tech

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, home to 7,238 students. We offer more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and humanities.

Overview

Website Landscape

Our CMS is administered by the Digital Services team within University Marketing and Communications (UMC).

  • 1 CMS template
  • 100+ widget and page layout combinations
  • 10,000+ webpages
  • 150+ public-facing websites

Our team consists of:

  • Seven working professionals:
    • manager
    • one front end developer
    • one programmer
    • one maintenance specialist
    • three project managers
  • A student team of four:
    • two general CMS students
    • two programmer/front end students

In addition to our CMS, we manage:

  • a blog system to let departments push their news
  • a calendar system to let departments advertise their events
  • a webserver with PHP

Web Maintenance

Web maintenance is decentralized at Michigan Tech.

  • Each website not specifically controlled by UMC must have one main liaison.
  • Having at least one backup is encouraged.
  • Some liaisons are responsible for multiple websites.

Liaisons are trained by the maintenance specialist to make simple and even some complex updates in the CMS and are responsible for daily web maintenance. Larger projects, such as new website sections or complete overhauls are scheduled with the Digital Services team. Overall, we have more than 70 CMS liaisons.


Formula for Success

Web Governance

University Marketing and Communications is empowered by University Senate policy and supported by the Executive Team to manage the University’s web reputation. Our approach is to set up partnerships and share responsibility with campus in making our websites a positive reflection on the University and something to be proud of.

UMC presents large changes to the CMS or web templates to the University’s IT Governance Committee. Additionally, UMC manages a CMS Maintenance Steering Committee comprised of representatives from across campus and seeks feedback on potential changes.

Sharing the Burden

Web maintenance flows through our CMS liaisons on a daily basis. Most departments have assigned liaison responsibility to a pre-existing staff member. Job titles of liaisons include:

  • Administrative Assistant
  • Assistant Director
  • Digital Content Manager
  • Director of New Media
  • Lab Manager
  • Office Assistant
  • Outreach Coordinator

New liaisons go through at least 90 minutes of CMS training, provided by the maintenance specialist. Additional follow ups are sometimes required. Student workers are also permitted to be hired by individual departments.

CMS/maintenance questions are funneled through a common email address which populates a ticketing system that the Digital Services team manages.

Some departments have realized the great importance of their website and have created a new position to handle maintenance:

  • College of Engineering: position created to manage 11 websites within the college
  • College of Sciences and Arts: position created to manage 13 websites within the college
  • VP for Students Affairs and Advancement: position created to manage websites for 10 key departments underneath VP

In some cases, funding was provided by the department. In other cases, funding was split between UMC and the department.

Outreach and Education

Customer service is key. UMC performs outreach and provides education in a number of ways.

  • Digital Services organizes a Web Marketers group that meets every other month to talk about best practices and new trends in the industry.
    • Anyone from the campus community can attend.
    • Meeting summaries are provided via an email list.
  • The Digital Services team manages three email lists:
    • CMS Liaisons—all CMS liaisons
    • CMS users—all CMS users
    • CMS Learners—a voluntary group of CMS users interested in learning more about the CMS and about web marketing.
  • We have a Campus Communicators group aimed at educating and networking anyone in a communications related position.
    • Anyone from the campus community can attend.
    • Meetings are held monthly and cover a variety of topics.
    • Meeting summaries are then provided via an email list.

Through our Digital Musings and Webmaster’s blogs, we are able to document education and training about web marketing and the CMS. Through our email lists, we deliver new content once or twice per month.


Helpful Tools

CMS Maintenance Specialist

The Digital Services team has one professional staff member dedicated to CMS maintenance. They know the ins and outs of the CMS, train users, communicate updates, and are the face for customer service.

  • CMS expert
  • Manages student team
  • Provides user training
  • Communicates updates
  • Face for customer service

Ticketing System

We use a centralized ticketing system to manage questions and maintenance requests that a typical liaison cannot handle.

  • Student workers are empowered to manage tickets and respond directly to clients.
  • We average ~120 tickets per week.

Student Team

Our student team consists of two general CMS students and two programmers.

  • Create new content or sites in the CMS
  • Perform maintenance tasks and manage tickets
  • Custom programming projects
  • We spend 1,900 student hours each year

Summary

Tactics

Key steps to help create environment of successful shared maintenance.

  1. Get buy-in at all levels.
  2. Get funding. Even just a little helps.
  3. Make it voluntary, but incentivize.
  4. Tout success via email, newsletters, and face-to-face communications.

Lessons

Do

  • Make your own sites/pages great
  • Outreach and network
  • Ask for resources
  • Trust student workers
  • Talk about advantages and successes
  • Stay on brand

Don’t

  • Make all departments participate
  • Allow everyone to have a website in your system
  • Give departments access to the website backend
  • Over customize

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