Moving to a new Collections Management System (CMS) is an opportune time to evaluate how museum staff use it in their daily work.
There may be processes in place that are no longer useful, or staff could benefit from additional functionality in the new CMS. Understanding our historical use of the existing museum CMS will help to inform how we want to use the new system. This knowledge will help guide configuration decisions, the use of record templates, and the construction of effective workflows that include the CMS.
Gather Data: Begin with a high-level evaluation to understand the CMS areas that offer the greatest support to museum staff. There are several information gathering activities that reveal 1. How the CMS is currently used; and 2. How the new system could be used.
Activities to gather data:
- View the CMS dashboard
- Conduct informational interviews
- Document use cases
- Identify high-priority areas
CMS Dashboard: View the CMS dashboard for a data capture of actual use in the system. Not every CMS will have a dashboard or place that gathers user data, but if yours does, this is the first place to start. Check each user type (e.g., registrar, assistant cataloger, curator, etc.) and document the areas of the CMS they typically work in and what type of data they regularly create, edit, or view.
Informational Interviews: Regardless of whether the current CMS has a dashboard or not, I recommended conducting informational interviews as these can capture both current use as well as anticipated or aspirational use. Both areas of information can be incredibly helpful when formulating project workflows as well as new CMS configuration.
Document Use Cases: Leveraging the informational interviews you performed in the previous step, mock up 1-page (or shorter) use cases to help illustrate what each staff member currently uses or hopes to use the CMS for, and what their desired outcome is. These use cases can serve as quick reference guides for how the new CMS may be able to better support each staff member in their work.
Identify High-Priority Areas: In an ideal world we’d have infinite time and access to tools to help make our jobs easier. However, in reality, we often need to prioritize where our time and energy are spent. This is why I recommend identifying high-priority areas of the CMS that could greatly benefit museum staff and focus resources in those areas first.
Perform an Evaluation: Once you’ve gathered sufficient data from the current CMS and your colleagues, it’s time to evaluate. Review each set of data: CMS Dashboard, Informational Interviews, Use Cases, and High-Priority Areas. Highlight insights you’ve gained that will help to inform the CMS implementation.
Create a Summary Document: Finally, pull together a summary of each of the areas you gathered data for and outline key takeaways and action items for the new system. The data gathering and evaluation you’ve performed will assist with CMS configuration decisions in high-priority areas, the creation of record templates in high-use areas, and crafting effective workflows for each of the use cases.
The work performed in this phase of acquiring a new CMS is an important investment into your and your team’s work. A well set up system with templates and efficient workflows helps everyone consistently perform their jobs well—perhaps even faster and more effectively than before.
Rachael Cristine Woody
To learn more, please join us for How to Prepare for a New Museum CMS, presented by Rachael Woody on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. (Can’t make it? Register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording and slides afterwards). Register now or call 604-278-6717.
Never miss another post. Subscribe today!
Tips from museum expert on how and what information to gather for creating, reviewing, critiquing or asking questions of the museum budget
Now we understand DEAI as a permanent program, museums are including it in budgets, which requires reprioritization
Staff and Programs are two areas within the museum budget that are ripe for evaluation when attempting to determine a museum’s values and priorities
Museums communicate what they value through a mission statement, strategic plan, annual budget, slush fund allocation, and fundraising activities