Three Signs You’ve Found a Good CMS Partner

University websites don’t just wish for, but depend on increased capital for an assorted list of expectations: boost the university brand, look stunning yet be user friendly, and make editing faster and easier.

Choosing a CMS: Open Source vs. Proprietary Software

In choosing a web CMS, each web director must evaluate the needs and ability of their team, the goals of the university, the budget they have to work with and the amount of risk they’re willing to take on.

In many university marketing or web offices, there’s one phrase that’s spoken as a cost-saving incantation ripped straight from Harry Potter and the Budget Savior—Open Source CMS.

This is shorthand for “we’re going to save a truckload of money.”

Until it doesn’t—and you’ve subsequently wasted months or years on implementation, training becomes unbearable, customer service is negligible, and at the end of the day you’ve probably spent a lot more money and expended large amounts of unnecessary staff time.  For some projects, going Open Source works. However, most large-scale web experience projects require a team of knowledgeable professionals available for 24/7 support and training resources – because you never know what could happen. In other words, most web projects require a fully-integrated CMS partner.

In the three years I’ve been using the Ingeniux platform (a proprietary web CMS), there are many traits I’m grateful for in our fully-integrated CMS partner. Ingeniux is a Seattle-based software company that provides scalable solutions for the higher education web, as well as other industries. We decided to work with Ingeniux after a year of evaluating other solutions. We wanted to partner with a company that not only had experience working with higher education clients, but also had reliable expertise in the SaaS (Software as a Service) space (Ingeniux has 10+ years’ experience in this area). On top of that, we needed an agile solution that would allow us to manage a large amount of content, deliver our brand and mission, and support our entire campus.

In the end, we found the solution we were looking for in Ingeniux, but every web team will have different requirements that will dictate their choice of CMS. Regardless of which CMS you choose, there are certain undeniable elements you’ll find in any fully-integrated CMS partner worth their weight.

Communication

In March 2015, Susquehanna University had exactly zero Ingeniux experts on staff; some couldn’t even pronounce the name correctly. To boot, we had a new website manager and a soon-to-graduate student developer. Yet, there was not one moment during initial scope conversations or the many conversations that followed with the Ingeniux project management team that the software or the company felt too big for us. I credit the experience the project managers had within the software and the time they took to learn what we hoped to achieve with the software. This level of communication from the start put us on a path to embrace everything they could offer and set us up for a quick implementation process—from training to launch in under two months.

To this day, we have six-month check-in calls to review our web strategy and identify new opportunities based on their 30,000-foot view of what’s working in the industry (and with over 150 higher-ed clients, they see it all). It helps to know we’re not alone and that they’re helping others like us solve similar problems.

Training and Events

Ingeniux has always been user-friendly, but training programs and customer events really helped our staff learn the ropes quickly. During training, our trainer was well-versed in our specific project before coming to campus and could deliver a customized training with our business goals in mind. Additionally, there was robust documentation available, which we modified and added to for our own training sessions with campus users.

Rounding out the educational resources were the user-centered events, including user conference and training road shows, which offered us a chance to attend sessions and training courses and connect with other Ingeniux users. At the first user conference we attended, we learned bootstrap, how to build our own components and how to implement event tracking. We soaked up all the information we could, and are now in a position to help other schools with what we’ve implemented and made work within the software.

Support

No one likes to talk about it, but how capable is your organization to deal with all of the different possible attacks that exist?

To put it bluntly, taking advantage of the cloud-based option with Ingeniux put our campus in a more secure position. We were able to free up resources that would have been devoted to maintaining servers and security in an increasingly dangerous landscape. When an attack did happen, Ingeniux’s 24/7 support team remediated the issue quickly and without a lapse in service for our site visitors. I can’t begin to calculate the operational losses we would have incurred had the site been shut down for even a day; because Ingeniux was on our side, I didn’t have those conversations with senior leadership.

What Makes a Good CMS Partner?

At the end of it all, we all need to be good stewards of budgets and human capital. Finding a partner who has the experience to guide you through a complicated redesign/relaunch project, has your back when things go wrong (and something always goes wrong), and gives you the tools to improve your experience is both reassuring and like having a wizard join your team—for far less than the cost of an actual wizard.