2015 Conference

How to Boil the Ocean

MPD2 kicked off its second presentation with the crazy title of “How to Boil the Ocean” from the Washington University in St. Louis web team. Chris Amelung and Ted Elsas shared how they were overwhelmed with web duties on a campus creating breaking news almost daily. As Chris pointed out, “the university can help put a rover on Mars but we struggled to launch a website on time.” In 2013, they had to change gears. Their work order system had hundreds of tasks with essentially two years worth of work on deck, staff were managing 12-15 tasks at time, and routine busy work was keeping them from promoting critical sites and keeping them vibrant.

They started a six month fact finding experience with their key clients. On the plus side, their team was given kudos for professionalism, but overall no one felt that any work was completed on time. The loudest voice in the room got service, and they didn’t even know how many websites were on campus (later found out 800+).

After the dust settled, they spent a year crafting a plan. They selected 25 core sites to support and created mechanisms to outsource the rest to approved vendors. Essentially, their web team moved over to Public Relations in order to become the content group and left supporting the infrastructure in IT.

As part of this review and reorganization, they prioritized support and gave the power for a lot of content to department providers, killed projects with no hope and are finally making strides to enhance and improve key sites. It is an ongoing process. Staff can find support at a self-service website ( and their team can stay focused. As Chris pointed out, their motto says it all: “One Team, One Mission, One Culture.”

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