Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: One of North America's largest university web publishing platforms, from marketing campaigns to basic information websites
Year Submitted 2017
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Karl Jarosiewicz Portfolio Manager, Web Publishing Systems, McGill IT Services
Jason Delmarr Senior Developer/Analyst
Mark Styles Senior Developer/Analyst
David De Charette Developer/Analyst
Jesse Sutherland Developer/Analyst
Karolina Marasinska Developer/Analyst
Thomas Fline Developer/Analyst
Lai Yard Lee Web Support Analyst
Lee Yan Marquez Web Support Analyst
Joyce Peralta Web Support Analyst
Name of Institution McGill University
Office Address 688 Sherbrooke Street West
16th floor, Suite 1600
Montreal, Quebec H3A 3R1
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Telephone: 514-398-3151
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Yves Beauchamp
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-Principal, Administration and Finance
Office Address 845 Sherbrooke Street West
Room 531, fifth floor
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0G4
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Telephone: 514-398-6037
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

McGill IT’s Web Management System (WMS) includes McGill’s award-winning homepage and approximately 800 associated websites, representing all faculties and frontline services, the majority of departments, as well as many marketing, informational and interactive sites housed under one central umbrella. By using a centrally-administrated platform with powerful content management and layout tools, we can quickly and efficiently deploy attractive, flexible and clearly branded websites for any publishing purpose. 

The WMS is a content management system built on the open source Drupal platform and includes an advanced site management toolset, content publishing tools, as well as distributed program and course information, news, events, and a biographical profile database. 

Content creation and website ownership is distributed across the entire university. Since 2009, approximately 4,125 trainees have attended training sessions. We currently have 1,700+ web site managers/editors actively engaged in contributing to university web initiatives. 

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

Our centralized service model, which can be adapted for use by small, medium and large institutions, especially publicly-funded universities. One completely supported platform (usability testing, training, documentation, service desk, accessibility and usability standards, and infrastructure) is cost-effective and quality controlled. The WMS is built on the modular open source Drupal platform, which is available for download. In addition to the Drupal core, we take advantage of developer contributed modules from around the globe. We contribute our developed modules back to the community, which includes many other universities. Being part of an international community that develops, audits, secures and shares modules among its members has enormous advantages.

Quality Impact

We are responsible for managing the publicly funded university’s web production investment. Our strategy is investing in uniform high standards across approximately 800 websites. In the early days of the web, individual website owners at universities produced whatever website designs they wanted with varying adherence to branding or web standards. Much depended on whether they had the skills or knowledge to even apply standards to their work. Our system enforces accessibility and usability standards seamlessly without the site owners needing to know or apply them. All of our sites are accessible to impaired visitors, guarantee a uniform user experience, and handle content presentation on all devices and screen sizes. Also, by using a multi-lingual system such as Drupal we’re able to provide support for users and their audiences in both official languages. In 2010, we moved from a homegrown content management system to the Drupal-based platform. In that time, McGill IT has trained over 4,000 site managers and editors to manage a platform of approximately 800 websites.  

Productivity Impact

Custom development normally requires lengthy steps to initiate projects, i.e. securing funds, meeting and hiring developers and designers, documenting user requirements, testing interfaces and designs, getting approvals from senior management, etc.) and can typically take three to 18 months. Our service provides a turnkey solution that enables publishers to create sophisticated sites within a few hours or a few weeks, depending on the amount of content they wish to publish. By eliminating cost from the equation, all our websites benefit from the same functionality and high standards, meaning that the institution can maintain a uniform level of branding and quality across all of its sites. Technologies and aesthetics change regularly, but most institutions build websites that address only current trends. Single custom productions can cost upwards of $100,000 without even offering a clear business advantage. And they silo innovation within a single project. We're able to move everyone forward as technologies and aesthetics change. Even existing sites inherit the benefits and improvements. Moreover, if functionality is required for a special project, our system allows stakeholders to hire developers to produce modules that can be incorporated into the common code base, thus satisfying special needs. 


Our 10-member team is small relative to the size of our institution, and our centralized business model leverages high value functionality for the common good of all of our users, not just the few with large budgets. All of our development goes into a single code base, allowing over 1,700+ site managers/editors to use advanced web building tools. This publishing platform is provided as a service and sites can be provisioned in minutes. Templates work like Lego pieces allowing site managers to be creative while still adhering to an identifiable brand. We focus our efforts on high value work, and this means saying no to some ideas so the product remains sustainable over time. Instead of trying to support expensive one-off projects, we’re constantly improving one system, creating reusable modules, adding and managing the value of the product. When trends inevitably change, we can update all approximately 800 sites through a multisite management tool, addressing design and/or functionality. 

Supporting Documents WMS-info-resources.pdf