How Carleton chose WordPress - and sold management on open source

For Danny Brown, the epiphany came shortly after he walked in the door at the offices of the vendor that supplied Luminis Content Management Suite (LCMS), the software that powered Carleton University's website.

Brown, manager of Web services, was pushing hard to move off of the commercially sold CMS, which was falling behind the times, in favor of WordPress, an open source competitor that has risen to become the most popular CMS on the Web. "I could see it was night and day in terms of what I could do with WordPress [versus] our enterprise CMS," he says. But top management was skittish about moving from commercially supported software to "free” open source software that relies on a community support model. "They were scared about a lack of support," Brown says.

It was Brown's visit to Sungard, the provider of LCMS, that changed everything. "The eye opener for me came when I went to get training. I met the developers, and it was only two people. Then I looked at who was developing for WordPress, and it was in the thousands."

So Brown got to work selling the benefits of the migration to his management. To address management's concerns, Brown offered to purchase a commercial WordPress support contract from Automattic. Then he agreed to phase in WordPress gradually, first adding it to LCMS as a complementary blogging tool before exploiting it as a full-blown Web CMS alternative. Today, 80% of the University's public-facing Web pages are in WordPress -- and Brown's team has never had to use that commercial support contract.

The move to WordPress turned out to be a prescient decision: "After I made the pitch and sold [management] on WordPress I received a letter from Sungard saying that they were discontinuing the [LCMS] product. It felt good to know that we weren't stuck," he says.

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