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State of Michigan Undertakes Monumental Website Project, looks to implement new WCMS

In the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, the Legislature approved a budget line item to support several technology updates. Among the approved requests was funding for a new website content management system (WCMS). Looking to reinvent the ways in which citizens interact with state government on Michigan.gov , the state’s centralized website platform, the state initiated the WCMS Replacement Project in late 2017.

In a move to modernize the state's WCMS by addressing outdated system architecture, uncoordinated content, and digital asset management and expanding DevOps and integrated personalization functionality, the project replaces a legacy WCMS, Vignette. Amplifying design and content strategies from the state’s unified branding initiative, the ultimate goals of the project aim to improve user experience for the public, bridge agency content experiences, and create a more flexible and user-friendly content management environment for staff supporting website activities.

"Our current WCMS is supported by near 20-year-old technology," stated John Thompson, Michigan.gov service manager from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB). "When we talk about system architecture, omnichannel content management, robust search, and integrated content personalization, we have real limitations with our current WCMS technology."

SOM Unified Brand

Despite current WCMS limitations, the eMichigan team, the state’s centralized IT governance team for Michigan.gov, has supported the state's WCMS with much success over the years. Michigan placed fourth in the nation for overall government experience in 2019 by the Center for Digital Government, making it the third straight year the state has finished in the top five. The state has also received numerous best-of-the-web and digital project awards through the years.

Recognized as a leader for delivering digital services to citizens, the WCMS replacement project will strengthen the state’s ability to deliver and brand the state’s many online services in a unified approach.

 

The eMichigan team is overseeing the WCMS Replacement Project and is leading the replacement project efforts in three phases. Overhauling over 120 state websites, including more than 170,000 pages and 133GB of digital assets, the team has been working towards a phased 2021 transition to the new WCMS platform. Currently, the team is busy working through Phase III of the project.

Phase I: Needs assessment

Website Team Discussing WCMS UpdateIn late 2017, the state initiated a needs assessment for the project to define WCMS future state goals. Through comprehensive research, value mapping, and concept prioritization, the state developed a WCMS needs assessment in partnership with Accenture to explore WCMS platform options.

“Through mobile journaling, surveying, phone and in-person interviews, using industry best practices, and analyzing satisfaction survey results, the team inventoried needs and developed WCMS technology requirements,” stated Suzanne Pauley, DTMB eMichigan director. “The needs assessment was integral in developing our requirements for Phase II (platform selection) of the project.”

Moving away from often separate and distinct digital agency experiences, the needs assessment focused on concepts and prioritization that sets the stage for global content personalization and predictive government services under a modern WCMS and unified state of Michigan brand.

“When residents come to state government, they don't need to understand how it's organized, how it's siloed, which agency performs which services — really, people just want to get something done," Pauley added.

This approach to service-based content took the forefront in the WCMS technology vendor presentations and demos. It was core to the team's strategy for the WCMS platform selection and is integral for integration and migration processes as they support and expand the state’s unified brand, content, and accessibility strategies.

Phase II: Platform selection

New Website Mockups

Based on ‘A Michigan Welcome’ case study, the team leveraged baseline data and criteria to narrow a pool of technology platforms before furthering the product selection. Through this process, the state’s Digital Council, a team of advocates from across state government focused on modernizing the state's digital experiences, participated in presentations for the top five platforms at the start of 2018. The council looked beyond the sets of features and functions of WCMS to consider opportunities to increase citizen engagement in new and evolving ways.

 

"Moving beyond a technical review, we focused on how platforms could support our future state service-based approach to content," stated Thompson. "We scored technologies based on content authoring user experience, multisite management, forms, taxonomy and asset management, content reuse, publishing and governance, end-user search, personalization, A/B testing, application integration, headless content, and the ability for customization."

The aggregate results from the product demos were used by the eMichigan team and DTMB’s Central Procurement Services team to generate a request for proposal (RFP) for a new WCMS platform. During this phase, the WCMS Replacement Project Joint Evaluation Committee (JEC), a subset of the state's Digital Council, along with a core WCMS review team (and advisory group of subject matter experts), completed the following tasks:

  • Aggregated results from product demos to generate a WCMS technology RFP.
  • Issued a WCMS replacement RFP for a new WCMS technology stack.
  • Solicited bids on the RFP and worked with DTMB central procurement to make an award.

After an extensive review, the state of Michigan selected Sitecore as the state's new WCMS technology platform. Supporting some of the world's leading brands, including Dow Chemical, P&G, Canon, L'Oréal, and Suzuki, along with federal, state and local government agencies, Sitecore will allow the state to create more meaningful citizen experiences by taking a service-based approach to content creation and management.

 "Sitecore has been used for similar solutions at scale to Michigan.gov," said Pauley. "We are excited about the platform's multisite capabilities and, longer term, the ability to personalize content at a global level."

Phase III: Implementation of the WCMS Replacement Project

After the selection of a WCMS technology platform, the JEC, Digital Council, and core WCMS review team focused on the selection of an integration partner to provide project implementation support for WCMS migration of Michigan.gov from Vignette to Sitecore. Initial steps in Phase III included:

  • Issuing an RFP for an integration partner.
  • Evaluating written and verbal proposals from Ricoh USA, Inc., Paragon Consulting, INC., and Rightpoint Consulting, LLC bidders in the RFP process
  • Worked with DTMB Central Procurement Services to make an award to Rightpoint Consulting, LLC.

WCMS Project Digital Council MeetingAfter the selection of Rightpoint as the project implementation partner, the eMichigan team began working with Rightpoint on a project charter and schedule, tech analysis, creation of a joint development plan, and the completion of a user experience (UX) and content analysis.

Central to this work was stakeholder information and requirements gathering, which was completed through agency interviews and workshops. During an initial Discovery Workshop, Digital Council members provided insight into current processes and pain points as they relate to current WCMS technology, content, information architecture, experience, and governance. The interactive workshop provided council members the ability to provide feedback on content management functionality and processes that are needed. Information and requirements built upon data gathered in Phase I: Needs Assessment and the Phase II: Platform Selection of the WCMS Replacement Project are helping guide current migration planning and design efforts.

Current Status

Website WCMS Update Kent YungeOver the last several months, state agencies have been working with the eMichigan and Rightpoint teams to inventory and map content and assets as part of the migration mapping process. The eMichigan team has been busy finalizing designs of the new WCMS under a unified brand, and the Rightpoint team has been completing the development and configuration of the Sitecore platform to meet the state’s requirements. The migration planning and development work is expected to finish late this year, with agency training and site migrations beginning early next calendar year and finishing in late fall of 2021.