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Implementing a new website system in your organization

June 11, 2010
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Change can often be a hard thing for groups—even progressive groups.  Getting a staff team to willingly adopt new software or a new website can be challenging.  Especially for staff who always feel a shortage of time in getting the important work done (be that advocating for the homeless, organizing a campaign against logging old growth or working to get a school set up in small Central American village), taking time to learn something new can be a struggle.  

How can you build a sense of buy in for a decision to change the way your website looks and functions?  How can you help staff feel a sense of usefulness in committing time to training and being active participants in building, updating and moving forward with a more interactive website?

These are not easy issues to grapple with, but they can be core to the success of an organization moving to a content management system (CMS) based website using Drupal.  I find change difficult myself, and am usually reluctant to change anything about how a computer program works.  If it fits the bill, I just want  it to keep doing what it does with minimal interference on my part.  My partner had to drag me kicking into using Linux—but now I can’t imagine having to be reliant on proprietary software.  

It was an easier sell to convince me to try using Drupal at my then workplace.  I was incredibly frustrated to have a website that had been custom built for us, but that we really had no way of easily updating.  While it had been set up for us pro bono, it rapidly became pretty useless.

The idea of having a site that would be easy to update was appealing as was the notion that we could be more in control of it.  Staff members could take on whatever role they felt comfortable with.  Perhaps they were happiest just writing articles, while perhaps someone else in the organization quickly felt comfortable uploading new content.  There could be a variety of roles and ways to make the site work.  It could be set up in a way that was more reflective of a team that worked collaboratively.

If you are part of a larger organization, perhaps you already have someone who is responsible for your website, but it may be that it is going to be a job that falls to someone who is already stretched.  Being able to share out the work can be a way to make it less onerous.  Perhaps everyone takes on responsibility for their own program area, or it can be a task that is rotated (like cleaning the coffee area or taking minutes at staff meetings, but hopefully better than those tasks!)

In many ways, effective training may be the most important tool in encouraging staff buy in.  Most of us are hesitant when it comes to taking on tasks we are unfamiliar with or feel we won’t be able to do.  While setting up a Drupal site requires some complex skills, the tasks of uploading content and editing existing content are pretty straightforward once you have a few basics.  

Once staff sees that this can be an easy-to-use tool that will allow them to post current information, connect with target groups, advertise events and programs, post recent photos or videos, then it becomes less of another task that seems outside of the “real” work, and more another tool for getting the “real” work done.  It doesn’t get the coffee area cleaned, but it will have other rewards!