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Create a unified vision for content management

In a recent ad hoc study of higher education institutions, we discovered that half of about 40 schools lacked a unified vision for content management. Divisions existed between IT and marketing or worse, across academic and administrative units.

A common story was a past CMS effort plagued by a few starts and a lot of stops; and now the "silo" mentality-every group for themselves-was either quickly nearing or had already taken hold. More than once we heard, "That's just the culture here and it's not going to change anytime soon."

Justifying an investment in a CMS in higher education is largely a cost-savings, more than a revenue-generating, proposition. The hard returns provided by a CMS solution is managing an enterprise-wide website with minimal effort and fewer people while maximizing technical infrastructure and development.

Without a university-wide vision for content management, to be boldly honest, the future for these institutions will be worse than having an HTML-only website.

Aside from increased and redundant costs for technology, training, support and staff to maintain multiple CMS solutions, having every group go it's own way proliferates the silos.

Creating a vision for content management across a university is not easy, but no matter what level you're at, you can get it started. Just start small and be informal. The goal here is to shape opinions, not set policy. Here's a few suggestions...

  1. Talk to colleagues across campus with the same challenges you're facing. Team up and work together to invite still more into the discussion. Think of this group as the "agents of change."
  2. Don't spend time commiserating about problems and obstacles. Focus on opportunities to build relationships and promote dialogue on the issue.
  3. Invest time with those who are barriers to progress, starting with lower-level employees and working up. Chat over lunch or an afternoon coffee. Learn about their challenges and listen to their take on the issue. Be honest, but not threatening. They may likely feel the same way about the issue as you. Ask for their help. (Note: This may take more than one chat.)
  4. Reach out to IT and/or marketing, especially the web staff, and get them on your side. (If they are the obstacle, see #3.)
  5. Identify leaders who could champion the CMS issue. Even if they don't know they will be your champion yet, it's good to consider early-on who has the political clout at the executive levels to help.
  6. Create a value statement for a university-wide approach to content management. Define it with your group of change agents. Refine it with input from mid-level managers.
  7. Connect with those who influence your champions. Leverage your network of colleagues to communicate the needs and value statement with these people from multiple angles.
  8. Wait. Give the message time to spread and sink-in.
  9. Actively recruit your champion. Let him/her run with it, and be there for support.
  10. Hit a dead end along the way? Don't lose hope, start again. Change takes time.

Some may wonder if only investing time to get a top-down decision would be faster. Yea, it might. But the risk is fickle support among leadership and departments, because some will feel forced to change. Building a unified vision from the ground-up keeps your support at the top strong and the base solid.

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