FirstGov to add content management

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The General Services Administration has awarded a $525,000 contract to Vignette Corp. for software to manage content on the agency's FirstGov Web portal.

The award marks the first time the portal has had a content management system. Currently, GSA employees have to manually retrieve relevant information and write HTML and Java code for each page, said M.J. Jameson, the agency's associate administrator for the Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC).

The software from Austin, Texas-based Vignette will automate the process so that employees can generate new pages simply by typing in new content. It generates templates with the necessary code already in place.

As a result, the site can be updated quickly, and information that appears on multiple pages can be updated simultaneously rather than one page at a time, Jameson said.

"When the Columbia shuttle tragedy happened, we took 24 hours to get up what we needed to get up," she said. "If we had had this content management system, the people who do that for FirstGov could have done it from home within 20 minutes."

Casey Coleman, chief technology officer for OCSC, said, "The users of the system will be the subject matter experts [along with] the business people who know the most about the content, as opposed to the coders and technologists who right now have to create each page."

The new system should be running by summer, Jameson said. The contract covers the software license and maintenance for one year and includes four one-year options.

When governments first put up portals, they typically try to meet a deadline without much concern about quality, said Carol Kelly, a government information technology analyst with the META Group Inc.

Fully automating the sites comes later, she said. "It really is the next level of maturity. We've put static stuff online. We can put up forms." After that comes systems like the one GSA has ordered, she noted.

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