ABC readies ‘biggest ever' technology project

The ABC is preparing to deploy the first stages of a CMS overhaul next month with the media giant set to replace its ageing content system by 2012.

Head of technology at the ABC innovation, Craig Preston, told CIO the project was a necessary move for the ABC.

“We’ve been looking for a number of years to replace our CMS system which we built in-house in 1997. In July 2007 we decided to start looking for a dynamic, off the shelf content management system. We then moved into the RFP process which was conducted under commonwealth government guidelines,” he said.

Preston and his team selected the commercial CoreMedia CMS for the project and engaged NCSI as the prime contractor.

“CoreMedia and NCSI have teamed up to implement the CMS at the ABC. They started work here in September last year and have done extensive training with our in-house solution experts, Java developers and super user support group,” he said.

Preston said the new CMS is a big step up for the ABC, with greater collaboration and Web 2.0 components.

“The difference between this system and the old system is that this one is dynamic. We’ve rendered all of our pages on the fly as they’re requested. It will allow much more customisation and personalisation for the end user. We’ll be able to integrate it with more third-party tools like Twitter and Facebook. User generated content and content aggregated services are also on the table.

“CoreMedia delivers a rapid rate to publish and a reduced transfer time. It’s a move for the whole of the ABC. This is the biggest single technology project the ABC has ever run. It’s going to affect the working lives of a quarter of the organisation,” Preston said.

The first stage of deployment will go live in September with the news section of the site set to be finished in March next year. The entire project will be completed by 2012.

“We’re launching a small site release and we’re going live at the end of September with that. It’s a small, low risk and low exposure site that allows us to test all of the systems, training and assumptions on how it’s going to work and function.

“We expect to be finished all of the implementation by the first half of 2012. The ABC has a lot of sites and content. At the moment we have over 500 top level directories of which about 60 are live and very active,” he said. Preston said the new CMS will provide greater integration between the ABC and social networking websites, as well as an enhanced end user experience.

“We’d like to be able to run feeds directly to Twitter and Facebook. Having a direct connector to these sites will allow us to have direct contact with the public. We will also be expanding opportunities for people to add their own content to the ABC website; a move that will give us power to build social activities around our site.

“We’re looking to get major ROI on the project with greater improved time to market, reliability and improved user experience,” he said.

The news is the latest in a string of changes to the ABC’s online presence. Earlier this year ABC TV announced plans to move its online TV service iView to the iPad and deployed a major overhaul to the design and content of its TV websites.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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