Rehm, Ross: ‘Miscommunication’ played into higher costs for cmich.edu redesign
The overhaul of Central Michigan University’s website system, once expected to cost $550,000, has now blossomed up near the $1 million mark.
Vice President of the Office of Information Technology Roger Rehm, with University President George Ross and Director of Public Relations Steve Smith by his side, released documents totaling the project at $956,950, including $886,605 in payments to Ohio-based Blue Chip Consulting Group. Since November, four months after the targeted August launch date, university officials had publicly pegged payments to Blue Chip at $550,000 plus travel expenses.
In a meeting Friday with members of the Central Michigan Life Editorial Board, Rehm and Ross admitted fault for a lack of communication over costs regarding the cmich.edu redesign.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a while,” Rehm started. “I think there have been a number of miscommunications about the project, and, in reflecting back on all of the various things that have gone, on I fear that some of them are my fault.”
The numbers were released in compliance with a Freedom of Information Act request made by CM Life on April 26, the second such FOIA request of the past academic year. On Oct. 25, CM Life sent a FOIA request seeking “contracts set with companies regarding the cmich.edu redesign.”
During the meeting Friday, Rehm and Ross called the original request “partial.” The April 26 request sought “any and all emails and documents containing the final terms and contract with Blue Chip Consulting Group in regards to the new Central Michigan University website.”
“We all need to do better with communication, starting with me,” Ross said. “Faculty, staff, students – the newspaper, whatever media that’s out there – and when I found out about your second FOIA and it was brought to my attention that we may have answered the strict request in the fall, it wasn’t the question that you were asking. You wanted to know the project cost.”
According to the documents, CMU paid Blue Chip $534,500 for intranet consulting services, lower than the projected $550,000 – the contract CM Life received following its original FOIA request – and $190,000 for internet consulting services.
In addition, the university paid the consulting group $100,000 for launch transition support, less than the projected $110,000, and reimbursed it $16,305 for travel expenses.
However, change orders, or additions and fixes to previously completed work, cost CMU an additional $45,800. According to the documents, CMU had to file a $10,800 change order for SharePoint design assistance in November and one for an iCentral intranet upgrade in December, costing the university an additional $35,000.
More than $70,000 was also spent on licensing and software upgrades.
CM Life published several stories updating the progress on the website between January and its April 9 launch, each time citing its $550,000 cost without correction.
Rehm said the project came in under its $1.5 million budget, citing a $2.75 million allocation in the university’s 2010-11 operational budget for “project consulting,” which included “consulting services for various OIT projects, i.e. web design, student system, student services and data warehousing.”
In an email sent Friday to faculty and students, Ross also referenced a three-year, $843,876 contract with Southfield-based Secure-24 to provide hosting and securing the new website system. Rehm said CMU entered into the agreement one year ago when the project began and called the amount “an additional, sort of related cost, but it’s different and different enough in that I don’t see it as being a part of the project.”
The money, taken from a separate fund in the operational budget, would push the project over the $1.8 million mark.
Rehm: Still some work to do
More than a month following the April 9 launch date, Rehm admits there’s still some work to do, including working with those who manage content to create a more streamlined product.
“The whole idea is that we want to have a site we present to perspective students, to their families, to interested parties of all types,” he said.
Looking back, Rehm said the decision to release the sites two weeks before finals was one he would have done differently, but said the university was too close to the final deadline to wait.
“As it turned out, we were waiting for certain pieces of development to finish up the negotiations with the consultants and ended up at the very end of the window,” he said. “And, frankly, it was just too close. I would have preferred to have had more time. I think everybody would have.”
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