Cost-Effective, Value-Added Web Strategy
- $125k initial purchase cost
- $1,000s licensing & upgrades
- $100s - 1,000s added functionality
- $1,000s ongoing support
- $1,000s staff development time
- $1,000s faculty and staff planning & committee time
- High web profile, strong marketing of the College
- Recruitment of high-caliber faculty & students
- $1,000s from donors
In its search for a web content management solution, the Smeal College of Business carefully identified its requirements and then evaluated several commercial systems.
The College's ultimate choice: Open Source.
The commercial CMS that met the majority of Smeals' requirements had a price tag of $125,000.
Smeal's WebLion partnership costs a fraction of this amount and provides continuous support, training, and product development. The enterprise-level Plone content management system is available free of charge.
"By adopting Plone and partnering with WebLion, we've put in place a highly cost-effective solution," says Chief Information Officer Ginger Breon. "We've been a WebLion partner since 2005, and considering all the gains we've enjoyed, our investment in WebLion is still far less than the $125,000 we would have spent up front on a commercial CMS."
Licensing and Upgrades
Commercial software frequently includes upgrade fees as well as additional charges for expanded numbers of administrators and other users.
Plone has no licensing or upgrade fees, and of course there are no costs related to the number of users.
Added Functionality and Customizations
— Ginger Breon, Chief Information Officer, Smeal College of Business
Paying for a commercial CMS may or may not buy the source code. And added features and customizations (if the latter is an option) frequently come with a price tag attached.
The ability to customize, enhance, and create with Plone is free of charge. In addition to adapting Plone’s built-in features to fit its needs, Smeal's Web team has adopted several of the more than thousand add-on Plone products. The team has also built its own custom Plone products to handle news delivery, video, and other tasks.
Training and Support
The individuals responsible for Smeal's web site used to spend their days typing content changes into static Web pages. Joining the Plone and WebLion community has led to professional growth opportunities that have changed their lives:
- Delegating content maintenance has enabled them to learn programming and software development, site integration, web design, information architecture, usability and accessibility, and many other high-end skills.
- Job satisfaction has increased significantly, leading to less burnout and staff turnover, more creativity, and more productivity.
- They benefit from long-term professional development that would have cost thousands of dollars if purchased from training organizations.
- They have evolved into a highly skilled, agile, and innovative web team.
"A common argument against open source is that there's a 'hidden cost' of training required to learn the technology," says Breon. "But we have found that this translates into professional development. Instead of investing in a commercial service, we are investing in our people."
Partnering with WebLion expands Smeal's Web team to include WebLion's specialists. "This has proven to be a more sound investment than hiring additional staff," says Breon. "We can call on this extended team during times of need rather than hiring additional programmers who may end up with less to do during slow periods. And when we don't need WebLion's assistance, those specialists are helping other units around Penn State."
Time to market
Creating new sites, redesigning sites, and implementing new features used to take months to accomplish. Now these projects takes weeks, or days. This efficient turnaround has streamlined the preliminary design and planning phase of projects and has reduced expensive committee time.
Smeal's world-class web presence plays a critical role in getting the message out to key stakeholders, recruiting better faculty and students, and promoting the College to potential donors.
"Choosing an open source CMS has significantly lowered Smeal's expenses over the long-term," says Breon. “But that’s only the beginning of the return on investment. Teaming up with Plone and WebLion has brought a great deal added long-term value to the Smeal web presence.
"This system has allowed us to present ourselves in the way that we want to be presented, to convey the messages that we want to our stakeholders. It enables us to highlight the wonderful things that are happening here in the College—the top-notch research that our faculty are doing, how our students are learning inside and outside the classroom, and how we’re changing their lives.
“It's not always easy to put a dollar figure on all these gains, but that’s the real long-term value of the partnership.”