An education game changer, the Singapore Management University (SMU) models a unique approach to university education in Singapore. It offers a wide range of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degree programs in the disciplinary areas associated with six schools, as well as in interdisciplinary combinations of these areas. Its new way of teaching laid the foundation for SMU’s innovative education and research programs. In 2019, the university was ranked first in Asia and third in the world for Archival Research (All Topics) and first in Asia and second in the world for Archival Research (Financial Accounting) in the Brigham Young University Accounting Research Rankings. SMU’s Master of IT in Business (MITB) program was ranked first in Asia for the second year in a row in 2019 and 14th worldwide out of 83 Masters in Business Analytics program from 18 countries globally. SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) is the only Singaporean business school and also one of the youngest business schools in the top 1% globally to hold the honor of being triple accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), AMBA and European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).
Serving as a virtual extension of its campus, the SMU website provides a variety of information and services for the students, parents, faculty, alumni and academic partners who use it. From accessing the University’s academic programs to learning about how SMU is tackling societal challenges through its research, users count on the website to get information, conduct business and communicate directly with university departments. But the university’s previous web content management platform was a combination of disparate solutions, which made scaling of web publishing difficult.
In 2012, SMU was using an Interwoven CMS that pushed static HTML pages, and business users relied on various web design and development tools to author or modify existing pages. As SMU was powering its previous website via a number of standalone solutions, brand consistency suffered because not all business users were savvy in the use of the web authoring tools. The layout control was lacking, resulting in inconsistently rendered web pages. Mobile responsiveness was also absent. Content was largely static and frequent updates were needed. As the updates could not keep up due to the inefficient update process, a lot of the content was outdated and orphaned. Training was needed constantly for both the CMS and the authoring tools. The situation was further complicated in that access to the content folders was only available within the campus only. It became clear to SMU that they needed to quickly transform their hosting solution and their content processes if they were going to be able to scale and cope.
SMU evaluated both Drupal and another solution in order to find a streamlined solution that would help improve efficiency. They felt that content updates should be done with a built-in WYSIWYG tool, instead of a separate product. The solution should offer opportunities for users to interact with it and should display different content by using a combination of server-side and client-side scripting. It should also offer solid template control and multisite support. Ultimately, Drupal's scalability, customization options and general security won them over. SMU started hosting their Drupal site on university infrastructure and moved to the Acquia Cloud in the following year. Besides the performance boost (vs. the cost incurred), SMU also tapped on the expertise within Acquia’s excellent support. Moving to Acquia Cloud relieves its team of the need to manage the infrastructure, as well as sharpens the team's focus on the application. Acquia’s streamlined content creation and editing processes empowered content owners to produce content without requiring technical support, offering SMU stability and scalability within a predictable budget.
It has been a smooth-sailing and worry-free 7+ years on the Acquia Cloud. Availability and performance has been top-notch and support is prompt. High on SMU’s list of likes were the speed of response for incidents of critical severity and the alerts for security updates. Migrating to the Acquia Cloud was done by the internal team and the process was relatively painless; SMU had a good onboarding from Acquia’s support team. Compared to 5 years ago, SMU has seen its main university site’s page views rising steadily by 25% to about 8 million (2019) and bounce rate decreasing to 15% from 60% before — a 4X reduction. SMU has not seen any drop in Acquia’s service level now, even after moving to a consumption-based model. In fact, SMU looks to achieve greater resilience with the automatic scaling to meet traffic spikes and hopes to adopt Cohesion to accelerate site-building and Acquia Lift to personalize web experiences for SMU alumni and existing students. Currently in the exploration stage, SMU is keen to implement these new extensions this year.