University Web Developers

University Web Developers

The University at Buffalo, over the past few years and in a fairly large and ambitious project, implemented a content management system (Adobe/Day CQ5) and developed a process/recommendations for website transformation. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where I work, was one of the three university partners (along with CIT and University Communications) on the project and several of our sites were in the pilot.

This project was sanctioned and supported by university leadership, including the president. Yes, this is a top-down effort.

This was not merely a "CMS project". The project team worked with outside consultants to develop user and usability-tested templates, mental models, content strategy, information architecture, et cetera. The CMS was only part of it, but it is one of the most visible parts. The outcomes of the project were practices and recommendations on how a department/school/office should go about transforming (not merely "importing") their website as part of moving to a CMS-hosted site.

We have (and will continue to have) highly distributed web development efforts. There are many, many people at the university who maintain a huge number of websites. There are an equal number of opinions.

But I'm not concerned so much with the opinions. I'm curious about how one deals with the naysayers, those people who had absolutely no involvement in the project (for whatever reason) and now, seemingly, have an axe to grind.

For instance, I recently heard that at least one individual is claiming that this project (and by extension, the CMS) has been a "disaster" for my school. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As near as I can tell, this is an attempt to start a whispering campaign designed to prevent that particular department from moving to the CMS.

Have you encountered similar situations? What did you do?

Thanks!

David Anderson

Director of Strategic Digital Communications

Office of Communications

School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

University at Buffalo

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David, I think everyone who has ever worked on a web or software project has had to deal with this. 

I think one of the best ways to handle this is to take it to the community.  Make presentations with real stats on how well the system is doing, how much time it saves web publishers, the percentage growth of content updates, etc.

You will always have people who have an ax to grind because some people need to complain about everything because they have no life outside of negativity.  But, if the people who matter know the project was a success, you can just chuckle in the back of your head by knowing the naysayers are just making themselves look foolish.

I do not tolerate passive aggressiveness in a work environment. Either you voice your concerns and why, or you keep your mouth shut. That might be a bit aggressively aggressive on my part.

But in seriousness, if you know who is saying what, I wouldn't hesitate to confront them. "I understand that you have some concerns about X. Let me assure you, we have worked hard to account for such scenarios. If you can point out specifically what you are worried about, I'll be more than happy to send over all the information you would need to make an educated decision based on it. Please remember, we have an open door policy, and you can come directly to us if you have questions or concerns. We have worked very hard to create a model that is informed based on user data and experience, and while we know that might be frustrating for some of us on this side, it's all geared towards ensuring our users have the best experience we can possibly provide, which is well worth a little work on our end."

Then BCC their boss.

Oh, wait...

But in seriousness (again), I usually try, very democratically and non-confrontationally, to put people into a position where if they are disagreeing with something irrationally, then they need to back up their position. I do that in part because I also accept the fact that I could be wrong about something, and if that's the case, I want them to feel like defending their position (and winning) is actually worthwhile. Web design by psychological warfare.

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