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Open Source Bridge - How Two Fools Made Themselves Indispensible From Their Basement Office

Chris Chiacchierini, Mason Bondi - Oregon College of Oriental Medicine
  • 50 staff, 250 students
  • university originally chose proprietary commercial cms for $15K
    • used for marketing site
    • only one of 5 people in the world using it
  • attended open source conference and learned about open source cmses
    • "holy shit, we just got snowed"
    • chose Joomla! for ease of use
  • didn't want to give up on open source cmses
    • went to library, asked if they'd be interested in putting up a site using oss cms
    • did this all under the radar, wanted to wait until it was too late to go back before anyone knew
  • through this a lot of institutional knowledge is being built, and since people had freedom they were starting to get more creative
    • class materials being put online
    • financial information about student loans
  • lots of people and departments were using the open source cms
  • once it was opened up to the students, it really started to take off
  • two parallel forces going
  • got call while he was on vacation -- marketing site got hacked
    • could now go to executive council with security concerns and propose switching over to the open source cms
    • was getting hacked every couple of days
  • executive council asked how much it would cost
    • couldn't believe cost would be $0
  • 4-5 departments already using the open source CMS loved it
  • what about the rest of the community?
    • every single office at the university has a stake
    • lots of departments only updated static information once a year
      • weren't interested in doing anything with the CMS, or are too busy
    • e.g. grades--wanted to put grades online
      • would be vastly more efficient than mailing, but hard to make people change
  • a project management cycle that works
    • opportunity -> needs analysis -> cost benefit analysis (proof of concept) -> project plan proposal -> approval -> design, build test -> implementation & training -> review
    • most often the people with the money aren't the ones who have the technological know-how so there's a lot of politics involved
    • a lot of the project management cycle is done in stealth mode
    • technical people tend to want to take the ball and run with it and tell everyone to get out of the way, but this doesn't work without a sponsor
    • need to get a sponsor at the executive level
      • often best to get the person who has the power to pull the rug out from under you to be the sponsor--they get part of the credit
    • need to sell the idea to a sponsor in the opportunity phase
    • still selling hard in the needs analysis phase
      • can do some of this in stealth--pick people you like and trust to get a little bit of insight into what the needs are
    • after this, set up a needs analysis meeting to ask for feedback--make it clear this is the one chance people have to offer feedback
      • better than going office to office--gets everyone in the same room
      • people see what the impact is outside of their own department
      • also lets people gripe if they want to
    • in cost/benefit phase have to make sure the proof of concept is in place
      • can't only look at cost as cost of the software--also involved is implementation, training, cost of support, etc.
    • project plan proposal--where people who gave feedback see what will actually be implemented
      • even though it won't be exactly what each person wanted, they'll see the bigger picture
    • approval -- doesn't only mean budget, but once something's approved there's no turning back
      • if you're not sure you can follow through, stop before approval
      • after approval you HAVE to deliver
    • implementation & training
      • second tier thing they implemented was putting course materials online using moodle (course management software)
      • no way could get everyone involved and get all the instructors to get all their materials online
        • students weren't excited at first either, but once they used it they won't go back
      • had a goal of rolling out three classes per quarter as a pilot
        • chose instructors that taught enough classes that most of the students would be involved
        • none of the courses are exclusively online but there are pieces of the course you can only get online
      • followed faculty around for three weeks, constant contact, asked for feedback from both instructors and students
        • important to get everyone comfortable
      • what they wanted to happen started to happen--students didn't want to deal with printed materials anymore
        • students started talking to faculty members whose courses weren't online
      • building things out slowly builds inertia, but always keep the costs in mind
      • as far as timing goes, as long as you can keep showing progress, specific deadlines aren't that important
      • if possible getting isolated focused time with people is ideal for getting things ramped up
        • can avoid ongoing and future training, also gets people thinking more creatively
    • review
      • constant cycle
      • some formal review, some informal
      • important to make incremental changes so the solution continues to meet the needs
  • before the cms project started, the IT guys were seen as a necessity
    • now people are looking at the IT department as something that can help with solutions
    • creating a lot of work for the department
  • through a successful project you can gain "street cred"
    • create a working relationship with other departments


Brandon Moser said…
My friend @jhadow did the same thing with his Radiology dept at Univ of Vermont. He also used Joomla and it has been really successful.
Matthew Woodward said…
Funny how often this happens. ;-) Was a great presentation.

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