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Case Study

Temple U Solves Content Management Challenge

With roughly half a million pages of content on more than 500 well used Web sites, Temple University faced a huge challenge in getting content management under control.

Temple, located near downtown Philadelphia, has some 34,000 students across 17 campuses around the world. Using a Web publishing product from Adobe called Contribute, thousands of users--literally anyone at the university with the right permissions--now can participate in posting and updating website content themselves. The decentralized system is saving the university significantly by allowing university departments, rather than the IT department, to create, edit, publish, and control their own Web content.

"It really has changed our whole organization. It takes the pressure off [the computer services] group," according to Sheri Stahler, associate vice president of computer services at Temple. "Instead of doing a lot of maintenance,... we can focus on new design."

Contribute was originally launched in 2002 by Macromedia, since acquired by Adobe, as an easy to use Web publishing tool for users of its Dreamweaver Web development toolset, now an Adobe product. Contribute now offers Web publishing features including the ability to update both websites and blogs with little or no technical expertise. Dreamweaver templates can be created to ensure consistency across multiple related sites, something that Temple has done.

Users at Temple are thrilled with the system, Stahler said, because control has shifted from IT to individual departments, which can now create their own approval systems for content and decide themselves when and what to post. "They don't need to hire a Webmaster. Instead, they just need a content manager."

Centralized Control
Contribute allows the computer services department to create standards of control such as global designs, logos, headers and footers, while allowing departments creativity within the those templates, according to Karl Horvath, assistant director for computer services at Temple.

The university's savings are too large and diverse to even enumerate, Stahler said. "Schools [within the university] that thought they were so unique that they had to go to an outside vendor are now realizing ... [that they] have so much control over their content with Contribute."

As an example, she cited Temple's medical school, one of the IT department's first customers to move to Contribute. The medical school had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an outside vendor who designed its Web site. "It was very hard to modify; it was hard to update," Stahler said, and the site's usability was poor. The medical school content, now in Contribute, is managed by the medical school itself, resulting in huge savings.

"This approach was easy [and] didn't require a lot of training for the end user.... I just can't say enough about it," Stahler said. And the overall cost of Contribute, she said, was a fraction of what she had originally planned on spending on content management.

In terms of a return on investment, Stahler also pointed out that making timely changes to Temple's many websites enhances marketing and recruiting capabilities for faculty as well as students.

Lightening the Load
Under Temple's original system, Central Computer Services would make changes to websites as requested. But as interest in the Internet grew, so did the need for extensive content maintenance. Change requests from users were entered into a queue; depending on the request and the size of the change, an appropriate action could take weeks. Funneling all changes through the IT department had become an expensive and unwieldy approach. "The workload on us was ... overwhelming," Horvath said. "We were falling behind. The more popular the Web got, the more work we had to do."

In response, the university began a lengthy selection process for a solution that eventually narrowed the search to five products, including costly high-end content management systems and open source platforms.

In eventually selecting Contribute, Horvath cited the product's price, compatibility with the open standard LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) for organization of information directories, and ease of use. Temple also wanted a product with a solid ability to control workflow--that is, a method to communicate and control who had permission to make and approve website changes.

Use of an LDAP-compliant system has allowed the university to maintain its single sign-on system and portal server. Through the single sign-on system, a new Contribute user from within the university can be authorized to create or edit Web content very quickly. And the product's ease of use has created a growing base of everyday users, freeing IT staff for more complex programming tasks.

Temple uses Contribute not only as an editor for websites, but for managing the updating of online publications as well. Schools and colleges that must update course information for their catalogs each year can post, review, rewrite, and post the content again, all using Contribute.

The gradual move of Temple sites to Contribute has been made easier by the fact that, unlike some proprietary systems, Contribute can be used to edit any Web page, no matter its origin, Horvath said. Users can thus edit older sites that haven't yet been moved into Temple's Dreamweaver-created customized templates.

"They can get right in and start editing,' Horvath said. "Anybody who wants to edit, can edit. We have everybody from the deans of schools and colleges, to administrative assistants, editing Web pages. This was unheard of a few years ago."

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About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected].

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