You did it. You’re finally in a place where you have the budget and the “OK” to invest in a better museum Collections Management System (CMS). It may have taken you a while to get here.
For many museum staff it can take a long time to build and make your case, to convince decision-makers, and to cobble together funds for both one-time and annual costs. It’s finally your time, but you’re not sure what’s next. The pressure is on to choose the best fitting CMS for your museum collection and you’ve likely never been through the CMS procurement process before.
Feeling Overwhelmed is Understandable
First, I want to affirm that being overwhelmed at this point is completely normal. Unless you’ve had reason to become well-versed in several dozen CMS platforms and you’re familiar with what a procurement process entails, it’s completely reasonable to be a little fuzzy on next steps. This post will outline the big ones so that you have a sense for “what’s next”. I then encourage you to dive into the Additional Reading at the end of this post, and pick up a free copy of my e-book: How to Select, Buy, and Use a Museum CMS,courtesy of Lucidea Press.
Charting a Course Toward a Better Museum CMS
The following list outlines the activities that occur from when you decide you’re shopping for a new CMS, to finally implementing and using your new CMS. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does help to outline the shape of what your procurement process will likely take and the activities (and details) you should consider as you get started.
- Identify what your museum requires for the procurement process.
- Put together a procurement team.
- Familiarize your team with what your CMS options are.
- Put together your requirements so that you can choose the *right* tool.
- Research CMS products and compare them to how they appear to meet your requirements.
- Contact a selection of CMS vendors to setup demonstrations and evaluate each CMS against your requirements.
- Make a selection and (typically) enter into an agreement with the successful vendor.
- Research and work with your CMS vendor to get a sense of what configuration and implementation will entail.
- Make a project plan for configuration and implementation as this stage in the process can take a considerable amount of time.
- Setup use instructions, establish best practices, and receive/deliver training to all staff who use the CMS.
The Duration of This Work
The duration of how long the procurement process will take depends on a few factors:
- How familiar you (and your team) are with the CMS options.
- How lengthy the specifications need to be—often dependent upon how many functions or roles intend to use the CMS.
- How many demonstrations the team may need to see in order to choose a select a CMS with confidence.
- How much configuration or customization of the CMS is needed or requested by the museum.
- How much data and digital assets need to be migrated, how easy (or not) it is to find and import them, and how clean the data is.
For some museums an off-the-shelf CMS is just what they need and the duration of procurement is just a few months. On the opposite side, I’ve seen the procurement process take a couple of years as both customization and migration where highly complex.
The path towards procurement can be daunting; however, it’s so worth it if you’re moving towards a CMS that will better fit the museum collection and your needs. If a new CMS is in your future, I strongly encourage you to start familiarizing yourself with what your CMS options are, what your museum procurement process may be, and any items that may impact your procurement process—for better or worse.
I’ve collected the following posts to offer as additional reading. These posts help to build on today’s topic and offer next steps or further detail to help support you in your work.
Rachael Cristine Woody
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