A significant and perennial trend in archives is the creation of digital collections. Rapid innovations in technology have led institutions, both small and large, to create a presence on the web, and many are looking for systems to expand resources, support knowledge, and share history easily.
No Automatic Updates
For archivists who use legacy systems or ad-hoc methods of collection management—such as Access databases, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents—updating a finding aid, posting changes on a website, or displaying images from a new collection require many laborious steps. In a past position I held as a lone arranger at an international nonprofit, I spent countless hours updating minor changes across the many tools I used to maintain the collections. While I documented these changes and followed the procedures I created, I always feared that I would record the information incorrectly or incompletely.
Archivists often do not have the option of entering data once and having their system automatically updated. In an ideal world, they should spend less time concerned about the challenges of making information flow seamlessly and more time and energy on maintaining physical and intellectual control of their holdings.
To remedy these issues, archivists can re-develop their workflows, purchase new systems, or extend system modules to replace existing systems to achieve integration. Making information systems integrated within a department or organization is challenging. Furthermore, consideration must also be given to the cooperative partners or other information systems in an organization.
The Curse of Spaghetti Code
Integration of internal and external systems without proper tools is complicated. The lack of a powerful integration solution can make business processes challenging to maintain, as data resides among various applications. Many archival organizations implement custom integrations to manage the challenges of creating seamless connectivity with point-to-point integrations between applications and services. Although this approach enables the communication between applications, it is neither future-proof nor scalable. Making multiple, small connections between systems creates coding that is tangled and unstable. Ad-hoc methods to connect systems make changes difficult. As the collections grow and the number of integrations increases, the coding between systems becomes complex, fragile, and expensive to maintain. As a result, archivists must wrangle “spaghetti code”: unstructured, difficult-to-maintain source code.
Archival repositories without an integration solution often resort to manual data entry. This method requires archivists to transfer data from one application to another by hand, which is arduous, time-consuming, and prone to mistakes. Even if archivists can maintain limited connectivity to certain services or duplicate data in multiple systems, the work lacks scalability.
Improved Business Processes
Archival organizations seek a solution to synchronize applications and systems internally and to connect externally to user portals. Business process management strives to improve processes and align patron needs with organizational objectives, making repositories more efficient and innovative.
Moreover, workflow automation promotes efficient interactions between process models and data models. Business process re-engineering works towards improving efficiency by helping archival organizations evaluate and implement best practices for process automation and business integration. Critical governance and operations processes can be automated and synchronized to ensure that the archives follows standards.
The CMS Solution
One solution is a collections management system (CMS). A robust archival CMS offers business process automation, which connects the information flow among systems. Integrated business processes are essential for organizations looking to connect systems and information efficiently. It allows for the automation of business processes, integration of systems and services, and the secure sharing of data across applications. Overcoming integration challenges allows archival organizations to connect systems on the front and back ends.
An integrated portal supported by a CMS eliminates manual data entry and simplifies the synchronization of data. It allows archivists to enter collection updates, and users to access a comprehensive gateway to materials that offers the ability to search digital contents across collections.
Margot Note, archivist, consultant, and author is a guest blogger for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archival collections management software for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Read more of Margot’s posts, and register here for her upcoming webinar, “CMS Essentials for Success #2: Integrated Portal” on February 17, 2021.
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