Planning for your Archival CMS: Initial Steps

Margot Note

Margot Note

July 06, 2020

Once you have secured permission to start your collections management system (CMS) project, you should set up recurring meetings, decide on your purpose, and examine your processes. These team discussions allow you to scrutinize workflows within your archival repository and plan for more efficient processes.

Checking in Regularly

Set up face-to-face meetings for those involved to keep everyone focused. These meetings provide an opportunity to address questions, concerns, and problems. Regular meetings help the team meet milestones, completing the project on time. Because achieving milestones requires team members to complete their assigned tasks, it is essential to develop a realistic timeline. A robust task management system will not obviate the need for regular meetings. The meetings will offer the team opportunities to compare notes and will expose problems that may otherwise go undetected.

In addition to status and milestone meetings, regular communication between project members is necessary. Provide management with reports or documentation as the project progresses. Note each meeting’s content, as well as decisions made, and distribute this information to team members who cannot attend.

Establishing the Purpose, Scope, and Plan

Determine the purpose and scope of the project and define its boundaries. Describing what will and will not be accomplished avoids future surprises caused by unrealistic expectations. What does the institution want to achieve? Will the CMS only manage collection information, or will it also present the collection to the public? Who will provide input to the selection? Who has the authority to make decisions?

Think next about the project plan, including the plan and details of each project phase. Consider the schedule; what would be a reasonable period to determine the best solution? If the time to implement has an inflexible deadline, this factor will drive many decisions. Since technology projects impact the entire organization, institutional calendars can drive implementation timetables. The project manager must outline each phase of the project, assigning staff members tasks and deadlines. Draft goals and objectives to help enumerate the tasks.

Interview key stakeholders in the project. The project team should survey staff for information about their requirements, how they would expect to use the system, and how they wish to see collection information used. What features are they looking for in the new CMS?

Exploring Processes

The CMS implementation process offers an opportunity to inspect processes, policies, procedures, and organizational structure. System analysis examines the types of collected data, the people who use the data, what they use it for, and the activities that make use of the data. In addition, organizations should address the management, process, and technology challenges they face. The integration of a new system allows for redesigning the repository’s operations. Before making those decisions, though, examine existing processes with the following questions:

  • What types of collections does the organization have?
  • Who enters what information, where, and how?
  • Who has access to information, where, and how?
  • How is information retrieved, by whom, in what formats?
  • How is time spent in the current collection data workflow?
  • What are the processes’ pain points? 
  • How complicated are the workflows? Will the new system simplify them?
  • What are the process redundancies? Where is time wasted?
  • What is the collection size and scope? How will the institution address interoperability and scalability in the future?
  • What is the current state of the website? How is data about collections accessed by the site? 
  • How many disparate systems between departments exist? How is information shared between departments? 
  • What tasks are archivists unable to complete in their current situation?

Understanding Your Needs

After all this examination, your team will have a better sense of the CMS you anticipate. Archivists use systems to reveal collections, but articulating the specifics of the direction for their CMS project allows them to choose the best option for their unique needs. 

Margot Note

Margot Note

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 here, and sign up here to register for her upcoming webinar, Illuminating Collections Management Systems Requirements.

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