DM Review Published in DM Review in July 2003.
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Prince George's County Saves $300,000 in Annual Site Maintenance with Rhythmyx Content Management Solution from Percussion Software

by Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor

REVIEWER: Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor, chief technology officer, Prince George's County, MD.

BACKGROUND: Prince George's County, Maryland, is located in the Baltimore/Washington corridor, bordering Washington D.C. and 37 miles south of Baltimore. According to the director of the office of information technology and communications, Terri N. Ware, "We needed a cost- effective and efficient way to respond to our more than 800,000 Prince Georgians, who were increasingly inquiring about electronic interaction with the county government." In 2002, we initiated a redesign of our County Web site, including a content management solution intended to lay the groundwork for our planned eGovernment effort. After an extensive vendor review, we selected the Rhythmyx Enterprise Content Management System (CMS) from Percussion Software. Working under a tight, 90-day deadline, our Web provider implemented the redesign and focused our Rhythmyx solution on Web site content that requires the most frequent updates. Since that successful initial implementation, more than 60 additional processes (content types and workflows) have been developed, implemented and released. There are more than 40 users trained and using the Rhythmyx system on a daily basis. Eventually, we anticipate that all of the County's departments will use Rhythmyx to serve Prince Georgians online as well as meet our internal needs. Implementing the Rhythmyx CMS has resulted in providing Prince Georgians with more accurate, relevant and timely information; augmenting Web site traffic by 250 percent with increasing use of county services; and savings of more than $300,000 annually in content maintenance costs.

PLATFORMS: Web server: Compaq ProLiant running Windows 2000 and MS IIS5. Rhythmyx CMS server: Compaq ProLiant running Windows 2000 and MS SQL server as the content repository.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our Web site must deliver accurate and reliable data to serve all Prince Georgians, including our visually impaired users. To accomplish this goal, we rely on more than 50 content providers throughout 30 County departments. However, before we automated content management, our Web site lacked sufficient management control over content approval and data standards. There were conflicting design approaches, online navigation was inconsistent and data was difficult to locate. For a solution, we use Rhythmyx to create "controlled decentralization" of the Web environment. It enables our managers to control look and feel through standardized design templates and to control content activity via workflow approvals while allowing the various content providers to deliver more dynamic content with faster response times. With Rhythmyx, our Web content is more consistent, navigation is predictable, we're meeting 508 compliance for the visually impaired and we've put a change management process in place that will enable us to ramp up our phased eGovernment initiative all based on the newly established standards and controls.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Key functions of our Rhythmyx Content Management solution include Web templates that standardize look and feel, but give the necessary flexibility for content providers to change data as needed; the ability to easily design custom workflows that create unique internal approval processes for different departments for example, a missing child notice must be posted immediately, while a press release is sent through a more lengthy approval cycle; and simplifying management as the volume of content increases. Rhythmyx enables us to easily update and keep content fresh, to update all instances of content with a single click and also automate content expiration.

STRENGTHS: Rhythmyx enables us to manage our Web sites effectively and efficiently, while delivering the quick online response time that would be cost-prohibitive if we were relying on outside contractors to implement changes.

WEAKNESSES: Setting up the initial templates in Rhythmyx required some XML programming that seemed beyond our in-house skill set. However, we have worked closely with Percussion to ensure a transfer of skills. Our technical people have been involved from the beginning, which mitigated our initial concern.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our vendor review focused on quality and ease of training, flexible product functionality, cost and ongoing site maintenance. We found Rhythmyx to be a much better value, now and in the long term.

DELIVERABLES: Rhythmyx outputs Web content as ASP pages (which include HTML).

VENDOR SUPPORT: Accessibility of the Percussion support staff was a big factor in our purchase decision, and they have continued to be responsive throughout our implementation. Percussion works with us. They maintain active involvement throughout the process.

DOCUMENTATION: We have an in-house specialist who designs curricula and is a trainer by profession. She has found that training our content providers to use Rhythmyx is very easy, and the documentation is straightforward and self-explanatory. She loves teaching Rhythmyx; and, coming from her, that compliment is very significant.

Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor, chief technology officer, Prince George's County, MD.

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