Content Management Made Easy

Content Management Made Easy

Client Name University of Colorado (CU Denver)

Location Denver, CO

Category Sitefinity

The University of Colorado (CU Denver) web content team had a unique challenge on their hands. They made an executive decision to migrate their very public facing customer portal from Sharepoint to a new content management system. Sharepoint had become increasing difficult to manage and support especially given how large the organization had grown over the past few years.
Their portal is home to five campuses each with numerous departments operating independently as their own mini-site. Department content mangers were spending more time fixing issues with the system rather than generating new content. Developers spent more time trying to keep Sharepoint running rather than adding new features to the system that the organization desperately wanted.
After an exhaustive search, CU Denver chose the Sitefinity Content Management System (CMS) for managing all of their 30,000+ pages. CyberLancers was able to help the University of Colorado take full advantage of the Sitefinity platform and roll out a working solution in months as opposed to years. And we did it by leveraging our expertise in the Sitefinty platform and the existing Microsoft Infrastructure already in place and the wonderful internal teams that already were great .NET developers, designers, and content authors.

Problem

How do you consolidate over 50 Sharepoint sites spread across the entire organization and manage the content for over 30,000 pages and associated assets? Sitefinity is a great platform which has numerous features and is incredible flexible which means you can implement in any number of ways. That is where CyberLancers came in.
University of Colorado sought out a local Colorado technology partner that had successfully implemented large-scale enterprise Sitefinity websites in the past. Rightfully so, they wanted to plan out as many details as possible up-front and try to avoid as many pitfalls as they could. CyberLancers was fortunate enough to be chosen as that partner. Our no-nonsense approach to architecting Sitefinity and our willingness to be brutally honest about what the product can and cannot do made us a good fit.
Leveraging the existing staff and infrastructure was critical to the success of this project. Everyone from the University Web Content Team brought with them tremendous experience in .NET development, content management, design, system architecture and of course invaluable business knowledge. However, not a single person internally had any direct Sitefinity experience and that is where we helped. We immediately recognized the immense talent of this group and started working on a plan to start architecting the system while at the same time training the group on the ins and outs of Sitefinity. As we do with most of our clients, our staff became entrenched as valued members of the team acting as experts to help answer questions and overcome obstacles on the spot.

Solution

Our approach was relatively simple. We reviewed each of the business drivers as a group and made sure we were able to identify a high-level technical solution to achieve that goal. This was invaluable in helping us get up to speed quickly. Then with the entire team’s help we held two, all day “developer sessions” to plan out and architect the best solution possible.
We brought on two of our solution architects so that we could address Sitefinity questions or shortcomings right on the spot. After those meetings, the entire team was confident we had the best architecture possible and our chances of successfully delivering the new portal were extremely high. We also knew we were leveraging Sitefinity to its greatest potential at that moment in time. The following is an overview of the major milestones associated with this project.

  • Project and environment setup for SiteSync and automated builds. First step was setting up the solution in Visual Studio and automating the build to defeat browser caching and simplifying deployment. This is essential in this day and age, to prevent mobile devices from caching styles and javascript which typically renders the site broken. Setting up the environment next was essential so that we had a plan in place for SiteSync. We knew we wanted to have a staging server that exactly mirrored production which is where all campuses and departments go to launch new “sites” so they can be audited and proofed before going to the live production environment. SiteSync in Sitefinity is a very useful tool, but if used incorrectly it is very easy to lose content so it had be implemented and tested early in the process.
  • Prototype and build the most important, highest risk items first. In our case we knew that there was a severe limitation with Multisite in version 8.x and 9.0 of Sitefinty and was not a viable option. We knew we had to implement a custom solution using page properties to allow site sync to work properly, but still give each department total control over their specific area of the site. Templates per campus cross matrixed with 20+ departments per campus allows University to support 60+ sites with over 30,000 pages all from one management console.
  • Security. Security was essential and like most large organizations, CU Denver has a single-sign on solution to help manage the users and permissions for the entire organization. Overriding the built-in security provider was paramount to ensure that Sitefinity leveraged their existing security infrastructure. One of the challenges we ran into was in version 10.x of Sitefinity they completely changed their security provider model which broke custom implementation. The new security features in Sitefinity are better for the community at large, because it now allows for more common security models, such as open id, but was a tad bit frustrating to say the least. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
  • Work with Progress directly to address issues with the core product. This is where I must give Sitefinity high accolades. We have a wonderful relationship with the engineering team at Progress and some issues were deemed so important we were able to have them addressed immediately and roll those out benefiting the community at large. One of the issues we identified that just got fixed in the latest 10.x version of the software is the ability to play videos stored in the Sitefinity database on iOS and Mac devices. CU Denver and CyberLancers discovered the issue early and were able to create a custom solution that we provided back to Progress which in turn was folded back into the core product.
  • Integration with third-party Content Delivery Network (CDN) for managing all larger video assets. For larger assets it makes sense to store those in a CDN for taking advantage of bandwidth and speed. However, since there are hundreds of content managers within the CU Denver organization and each one has a great deal of control over their particular department or area, we had to allow both the built-in features of Sitefinity as well as our custom components to work virtually identical. Content Mangers don’t realize they are using a custom component to expose their assets, they just think they are adding a new video and don’t worry about where it comes from.

Business Benefits

“How do you eat a three ton elephant?” Well you don’t because I love elephants, but as the old adage goes, “One bite at a time.” When dealing with site this large we knew this was going to be a slow transition. Each department is responsible for migrating their own content to the new system and cleaning as they go. Not only are they improving their system they are improving their content. We were able to stand up all the features needed within months and now University can slowly transition departments in a more manageable approach. By rolling out the product quickly, CU Denver immediately starts to gain a return on their investment, all the while lowering risk by not breaking any of their existing infrastructure in the process.
Getting a handle on all your digital content and assets across your entire organization can be a daunting task especially when most of that content is locked in antiquated systems that are difficult to use. University of Colorado Hospital knew they needed a new integrated solution for managing all their digital assets, putting the power of content back in the hands of the people that create it. Sitefinity was a big part of that solution but implementing a Content Management System of this magnitude, necessitates a partner that understands the product inside-and-out. CyberLancers was honored to be chosen as that partner and was thrilled to help CU Denver deliver the portal on-time and on-budget while helping train their internal team become experts themselves so they can fully support their site.

Next Steps

Our team has specialized in .NET development for over 20 years now, and was very accustomed to implementing enterprise level websites. Prior to Sitefinity we used a variety of enterprise level CMS and e-commerce platforms. We had always wanted to consolidate and choose the best platform available and when Telerik first introduced Sitefinity we started using it immediately. We have been working with the product for over 8 years now, and though the first few versions were incomplete, Sitefinity has now matured enough to handle virtually any CMS need.
Don’t just take our word for. We invite you reach out to any of our clients and discover for yourself what makes CyberLancers the best choice for getting the most business value from your technology. Let us put our knowledge to work for you. If you are in the process of evaluating enterprise level Content Management Systems and have a firm investment in Microsoft technologies then please contact us today (sales@cyberlancers.com) for a 100% free “Developer Session”. We will sit down with you and your entire team and help walk through that decision process of what the best technology fit might be for your organization. Even if that turns out Sitefinity isn’t the right fit for you, we will likely be able to connect you with right folks that are the right fit. As we tell all of our clients, we are completely technology agnostic, but unfortunately, you can become experts in a few areas at a time. In our case that is .NET development with an emphasis on implementing Sitefinity as your Content Management System.