York U. to overhaul content management across Web portals

Palomino Inc. has retained York University as its largest client using content-management services on its extensive Web site.

Canada’s third-largest university

opted for the Toronto company’s signature product, WebPal Content Management system, initially for its research area, a few faculties and in its technology group, said York CIO Bob Gagné.

WebPal will also manage the content of administrative departments, areas for prospective students and public-relations sections, added Markus Latzel, CEO of Palomino, which typically does work for medium-sized business, associations, unions and universities. Palomino’s goal is to manage all of the university’s Internet and extranet sites using WebPal.

He said the site for potential registrants, for instance, contains course information, schedules, announcements, and registration procedures and requirements.

York plans gradually to deploy the platform, with the first stage being rolled out in conjunction with a large university Web design in fall, said Gagné.

“”Web content implementation of any product is complex and a big change in paradigm, I think, for people that are used to using other products to maintain their Web site,”” said Gagné.

“”People are used to using a tool like Web Editor, in our instance, or like Dream Weaver or Front Page or any other kind of Web site development tool. Those are good, but it’s a real challenge to maintain standard look and feel and templates and that kind of construct.””

York was in the market for an improved system because its Web site has “”hundreds of thousands of pages”” that must be maintained according to the university’s decentralized structure. Gagné said it’s tough to manage a system that has so many departments with a presence on the Web, but even more difficult to try to “”bring some notion of a consistent look, feel, navigation to all of that information.””

He said the university began to examine the issue of content management several years ago, but was dealing with an immature market that actually saw a few potential vendors go under. So it retreated from the idea.

York eventually chose Palomino, whose WebPal technology grew out of a research effort at the university, in part because its offices are still located there, he explained.

He said York, which is experienced in managing large Web sites with diverse content, raised some challenges for Palomino that “”began to stretch their thinking”” in dealing with big sites.

As a result, Palomino built features into the product to help a big customer like York, notably common content elements spanning the entire site or content that can be re-used in multiple contexts, said Gagné. As well, York accelerated the firm’s strategy to deliver Linux and Mac clients.

At the same time, however, Latzel said York departments and faculties can keep their own existing Web servers and workflow models to update sites.

IBM is also contributing architecture and design work for the project, which will then be implemented within WebPal and used for ongoing site maintenance.

In what Gagné bills as a “”unique”” arrangement, Palomino’s first large enterprise customer has signed a multi-year deal for site-wide licensing and support.

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