Content Management

Start Smart: How to Select a Collaborative CMS Committee

Charged with evaluating a new content management system (CMS) for your campus? Once you have conducted a needs assessment, your most important first step is creating a selection committee.

business team sitting around tableBegin by setting boundaries and clearly defining your mission. Provide members with a detailed needs assessment on which to base decisions and refer to it often throughout the process. Also, create a “contract” up front outlining what is expected, defined responsibilities, and your pledge to keep meetings limited, on track, and productive. Simple ground rules established early will make the process run smoother and more efficiently.

Next, think broadly about your committee selection. In addition to department representation, a solid selection committee will have a healthy mix of listeners who contemplate what is being said before asking questions, one or two facilitators who know how to keep conversation alive, and complex thinkers who look beyond the bells and whistles.

You may need to include a couple of team members for the sake of politics—inclusion, even when you don’t necessarily need their input, goes a long way in gaining buy-in to the process and ultimately, the decision.

The most successful committees will include members with a variety of personalities and approaches from the follow areas:

  • Finance knows the budget, and just as important, knows where to find additional money if needed. The more closely this person works with top administrators, the more influence they will have on those administrators. Having an ally can prove instrumental when unexpected but necessary costs are discovered, or additional features are desired.

  • IT experts understand the framework various systems are built around, so they can easily judge whether a CMS is right for your campus. Likewise, IT professionals understand security protocols and any limitations with plugins and existing software. If possible, find someone in the IT department who is good at explaining the technology in layman’s terms to the rest of the committee.

  • Marketing guards your institution’s brand and works to turn prospects into actual students. Representing the public-facing side of your website, they will have their fingers on the pulse of up-and-coming trends and be keen for features with the most responsiveness.

  • Administration can help negotiate contracts and “sell” the committee’s CMS choice to other administrators. When the top level of an institution understands and gets excited about the possibilities of a new CMS, they become your best advocates campus-wide for buy-in and adoption.

  • End Users are key to selecting the right CMS. Think critically about who your end users are. Are they faculty members? Students? Administrative personnel? These individuals use the CMS day in and day out, so it is important to consider their feedback. Include multiple end-user team members with various technical abilities who also represent the broad range of processes and problems that end users encounter.

  • Trainers/Content Managers are responsible for interacting with and training end users (content editors) on the ins and outs of the CMS. Think about who this is on your campus… does this job reside in IT? Marketing? Whoever spends the most time training end users should be represented on your committee, because a well-trained group of end users is essential for a successful CMS implementation.

  • Compliance/Accessibility Experts understand the importance of compliance and can guide the rest of the committee to the solution that meets the rigorous compliance/accessibility Who on your campus leads the compliance discussion? Is it IT? The administration? Other stakeholders? Whoever it is, make sure you include them in the CMS conversation.

How large your committee should be is debatable. Some schools keep it small so that decision-making is easier to control, with members seeking input from their various departments, but with the committee ultimately making the final decision.

Robert Heyser, Director of Web Communications at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, used a different approach after creating a detailed assessment plan. “We had two groups of 20 people representing essential stakeholders, everyone from students to faculty,” Heyser explained. “Everyone has an opinion and we knew that getting a consensus would be hard, but we could continually go back to the data to verify what we really needed. Communication was key, as well as perception. We wanted everyone to know that what we were doing was based on data.” Heyser’s committee routinely emailed stakeholders to keep them apprised. “By allowing them to walk through the process with us, everyone was always informed and never surprised.”

No matter what part of campus each team member represents, make sure you have people who are willing to commit to the lengthy process, respond to emails in a timely manner, show up prepared for all meetings, and ask questions. Look for members who are well-connected in the education community. These players can reach out to their colleagues at other schools who have been through the process and glean their advice and suggestions on everything from the process to vendors.

To learn more, check out our new guide for evaluating web content management systems.

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