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Open Source Cloud: Case Study

Commercial and Open Source Options: A Strategic College-Wide Initiative

The Search for Integrated Content Management, Portal and Business Intelligence Software

Wellesley, the prestigious liberal arts institution for women, is revamping its Web presence to boost functionality and provide a richer and more consistent experience for prospective and current students. The college's extensive evaluation of commercial and open source software and related services led them to select Bluenog ICE, an integrated content management, portal and business intelligence software solution. A commercial product built on open source projects, Bluenog ICE will be used to develop and maintain Wellesley's new Web presence. When implemented, Bluenog ICE will integrate with Wellesley's ERP, SunGard Higher Education's Banner, and calendar and event scheduling tool, R25.

In this article, Sastry Taruvai, head of Bluenog Solutions Group, describes Wellesley's evaluation and selection process, why they selected Bluenog ICE and where they are in their implementation efforts to date.

Overview
With over 50,000 pages, Wellesley's website serves as the primary informational source for prospective students and their families and for students, faculty, staff and alumnae. So, over a year ago, the college's president and entire senior staff launched a strategic overhaul of their website that would reflect the college's overall message, experience, community, and goals. A consistent navigational interface across the entire website and a compelling online impression coordinated with other Wellesley promotional materials were key institutional priorities. The ability to foster better communication with internal / external users was also an important goal.

Setting the Bar
First, an outside firm, iFactory, was engaged to help define navigation requirements for Wellesley's new website. As part of this requirements-gathering process, iFactory reviewed what worked - and what didn't - on other colleges' websites. They also interviewed content providers across Wellesley College as well as representatives from across the website's user community.

This illuminated a number of requirements that needed to be addressed. For example, the site's largely decentralized approach to content management made it difficult to keep content current, accurate and consistent. Wellesley also lacked a formal process for consistently updating or publishing new content on the site.

Another key requirement was the need to centrally create and maintain content, yet make that content accessible from a variety of interfaces. Based on an analysis of actual internal and external visits to the site, Figure 1 indicates the breadth of user interfaces the desired solution would need to support.

The new web presence would also need to integrate seamlessly with Wellesley's existing infrastructure. Access to key transactional systems, including their ERP solution, Sungard Banner, their calendaring/scheduling solution, Resource25 (R25), and Oracle databases, was considered a must-have. Last, they had deployed some initial portal applications using Oracle Portal and Luminis, (Sungard Higher Education's self-service portal component) that would require potential integration, or possible replacement, in the future.

Armed with a clear set of requirements and strategic objectives, a cross-functional project team was formed that included individuals with more technical background from their Information Services division (IT) as well as technical representatives from the Admission Office and Alumnae Association. The team then began an extensive process to evaluate and ultimately select the best content management system to meet Wellesley's new web presence needs

A Methodical Selection Process
Thanks to the thorough requirements gathering and project planning efforts with iFactory, Wellesley had a good sense of the sitemap and wireframe for the new site prior to beginning the CMS selection process. The search began with a Request for Information (RFI) in the late summer of 2008. At this stage, they cast an intentionally wide net to ensure they considered all viable commercial, open source, and commercial open source options. The project team developed the RFI's criteria to reflect their near- and long-term website goals. After a thorough review of the eight RFI responses they received, the field was narrowed to four vendors.

This short list of four vendors was then asked to provide a comprehensive response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP (see Table 1) expounded on the RFI's criteria, which enabled the team to narrow potential vendors to short list of three alternatives - a commercial CMS offering, an open source CMS, and Bluenog ICE. Each of these three vendors was then asked to present their solution to the project team as well as content providers from different departments.

More Stories By Sastry Taruvai

Sastry Taruvai is co-founder and CIO of Bluenog and is responsible for the Solutions division. He brings a wealth of senior management, consulting experience and achievements to Bluenog. Sastry is a seasoned IT Professional with over 20 years of experience providing top notch technical leadership. Before founding Bluenog, he was a Technical Architect with BEA Systems helping BEA Professional Services reach newer heights in terms of quality consulting and providing customer value. Prior to BEA, he was Technical Director at BroadVision, helping to run the Consulting Practice. Sastry holds dual master degrees in computer science and chemical engineering from Cleveland State University.

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