University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Hi All - I know this has been asked multiple times before, but with the ever changing world of web dev, I'll try it again. We're in the process of re-designing and everytime we think we've got it, someone (at a deans level) wants something different.

At this point, we're thinking of bringing in some outside help to deploy a Drupal. Out current re-design is on hold since we don't have any drupal "experts" here.

What have you done when you ran into a situation where the demands exceed staff resources?
- Bring in outside help
-.Start a new plan
- Something else

Any ideas, thoughts or feedback is helpful.

Thanks So Much!

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I would suggest two perspectives here.

1) Your Web site is the most important marketing piece that your institution produces. As such, senior leadership (above dean's level) should be on board. As part of the early buy-in stage, such decisions as budget (which speaks to your second point) and process (i.e. how does this stuff get approved, at what stages/frequency, and by whom; a discussion of the parameters of success would also be important -- targeting the expectations and tastes of STUDENTS as demonstrated by user testing, not administrators).

2) When demands exceed resources, there is a problem. Ideally, this problem would be headed off early in a project plan. or as soon as it arises. When the scope of the project grows to the point that it can no longer be completed on time or within budget, then you need to adjust the scope in such a way that you can stay on target. I should probably add to the process list above a discussion and definition of scope of the project, how that scope can be changed, and who can approve those changes. I would think that this requires senior leadership buy-in, and that your senior leader (VP) needs to be the person that handles the politics of keeping the scope in check with resources. It is probably up to you as a project manager to be in communication with your senior leader (VP) and let him/her know as soon as the scope creep issue comes up. Resources can be staff time or money to bring in outside expertise for certain parts of the project.

Do you know what kind of budget you have for this project in terms of both staff time and money for external resources? Based on my past experience, I have had to intervene in redesign processes that went out-of-scope and re-architected our entire site, which I made very clear I could not implement on time if changes were not made to reduce or eliminate that.

Our last two designs had demands that exceeded staff resources (no Web design staff in house) so we were forced to bring in outside help.

-Steve
Steve - thanks so much for your valuable feedback. As stated, we're with the idea that the web is the prime marketing tool. Targeting students is one thing we need to do and only had a small response from our current students on a survey. Getting prospective students to take it would be awesome, I'll approach our admissions and have a survey sent out to them. That's a very key point you make in letting the target audience set the goals.

As for demands on resources, we did get in over our head. Lessons learned from a new CMS system that was a learn as we go and senior leadership buy-in. As you can imagine, it's a political issue...more of they know what they don't want rather than they know what they do want.

Our budget at this time is basically $0 in tems of software/support and now we're at the point you in your past experience. It's on hold now while management re-evaluates resources. I think with a new system, bringing in outside help that know the system is not only crucial to meet the demands, but also serves as source of training us on the particulars of the system.

Did you experience a boost in learning from outside help, or did they come in and do the the job then leave. I certainly would not want the latter to be the case.

Very much appreciate your valuable feedback! It will be a big help to share this with my management team.

Mike
I am confused. You seem to be discussing "site redesign" and "CMS implementation" as one project. I think they are probably better conceived as separate, concurrent projects. Since we had two separate projects, our experience with an outside designer would not apply to your experience bringing in a Drupal expert to teach you how to use it.

Coincidentally, we are presently procuring a CMS from a vendor. We rely on their expertise and knowledge transfer to teach us how to use it. This is a classic case of where "free is not free," and the costs of bringing in an expert to teach you how to use free need to be compared with the support structure you can get from a commercial CMS provider.
Hi Steve -

It is a re-design and CMS implementation as one project. Sorry I didn't clarify that in my first post. We've got through a good part of the learning curve on Drupal as a CMS though there are some things that are still puzzling us, so we were hoping a Drupal expert could help us with the theming/design and also answer the few nagging issues that are requested.

I'm aware of the "free is not free" issue. Under these economic times, it was so much easier to pitch a system that has no up-front cost. While I favor a supported system, that didn't happen so have to work with what we have.

Both times you brought in outside help that's what I was thinking would be the best way whether it's supported or open source. Now if we can find a themer and developer in one person, that would be ideal :)

Thanks Again for both your replies, they both provided extremely helpful input.
I couldn't help but notice how similar of a situation we share. I too work at a college with extremely limited resources (both financially and personnel-wise). I'm also implementing not only a redesign project but a new CMS (drupal, in fact) campus-wide. It's a tough, grandiose task that I have been willing to take on (with the help of a couple of IT members - although this isn't their primary job). For the longest time (2 years), I couldn't get an ear from senior staff of the importance of this project, until I spoke directly to the college president. Now, within the last couple of months I've seen great signs of movement. We've just signed on with Longsight (http://www.longsight.com/) to host our website and while I'd love a full-time drupal developer, I'm settling for a temporary contracted one.

What's interesting is the move to Longsight pretty much costs equally to the amount we spent with our license and upkeep for our existing CMS (Ektron). I can also use their support hours for development such as portal creation, later on if I need, and/or online training for our editors.

As for redesign, I've created the 'basic ideas', formats, etc of how I'd like the site to appear and function. The contractor will work on actually executing my 'design' to create the themes and functionalities in Drupal...hopefully...as I'm in the process now of creating the job description.

I'd like to know how your status is as of late. Perhaps we can bat some ideas around.

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