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Good Times: How to Select a Library Automation System, Part 2

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By Mark Maslowski

In my first post on this topic, I shared a few guiding principles learned during our history as a preferred library automation and knowledge management application provider. If followed, these will ensure a successful implementation and a fruitful commercial partnership. The first set of factors for consideration was internally focused; in this post I’ll share some suggestions that focus on the external environment, and by the way:

If you’re thinking of building it yourself…beware!
  • Organizations document many failed attempts to build applications themselves. For example, one company spent over 100 person months developing an application before giving up and buying SydneyPLUS software – they were up and running in a week.
  • Often, solutions built in house no longer meet requirements by the time they’re ready to launch. 
  • Internal cost of building an application can be high, and often the solutions aren’t fully documented.
  • There is often no support for enhancements or bug fixes, and given the time to results, the original builder has often left the company by the launch date
Carefully evaluate commercial versus open source products 
  • Purchase price isn’t the same as total cost of ownership (TCO), which includes support and customization costs
  • Open source products have their own inherent costs, often difficult to itemize, anticipate, or estimate
  • Choose between commercial and open source products based on your goals, needs, and your available resources – don’t forget that you do need staff to implement and maintain open source platforms
Consider hosted versus licensed software
  • Vendor hosted software ensures that it will be maintained and upgraded – it’s their responsibility, not yours
  • You’ll always have the latest enhancements and bug fixes
  • Hosted software has minimal impact on your IT infrastructure and staff resources, lowering the TCO and removing complexity
Ask potential vendors what product support and enhancements you’ll receive
  • What support, upgrades and bug fixes are included?
  • What happens to support if you customize?
  • What does the quality of support tell you about the supplier’s attitude toward its customers?
Develop a realistic implementation timeline and share it
If there is an event-based launch date, such as a partner meeting, internal conference etc., make sure that your vendors know about it and can confirm that meeting the date is realistic. When you think about timing, remember to include testing (and time for users to beta test) so that you have worked out any issues prior to launch, and finally, adjust for any events that will impact the schedule, such as holidays, staff PTO etc. Share your preferred kick off date and drop-dead launch date with your potential vendors; if they cannot meet those dates, it should be a non-starter.

Making the final decision
You will have learned a lot during the pre-selection process. It’s important to look, one more time, at your goals and requirements, and to make sure that the products on your short list meet them. As insurance, you should get demos of your favorite two products again, and don’t be shy! Vendors like you to ask questions and fully evaluate their products. (And if the vendors don’t like to help you, do you really want their products?)

You’ll need to contact a few references given you to by the vendor, and in addition to that, you should get informal input by checking listservs and the Internet to see what has been said about the supplier over time.

Go over the pricing and contract terms with a fine toothed comb to make sure there are no surprises after the contract is signed. Make sure to observe your organization’s policy on contract review – involve someone from Procurement or Legal if required. Two sets of eyes are always better than one. Then, make your decision: confidently choose the product that is right for your organization, regardless of whether it’s the marketplace favorite.

Good Times: How to Select a Library Automation System, Part 1

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By Mark Maslowski

Once you and your manager have made the decision to invest in a library automation system, the fun begins. Through the years and over the course of many client relationships, we’ve seen several guiding principles emerge, which if followed, will ensure a successful implementation and a fruitful commercial partnership.  In this first of two posts let’s take a look at the first stages of the pre-selection process – assuming that you have already done some homework and have a few vendors in mind.

Get your priorities straight
First and foremost, you are buying library and knowledge management applications from a software provider in order to support a business strategy and to fill important functional requirements.  It is critical that at every step of the way, you test each decision against these two sets of requirements.

Plan your software selection process

  • Schedule adequate time for the due diligence
  • Include key decision makers, e.g. management, IT staff and library staff

Lay the groundwork

  • Make sure you have management support for the funding and staff time you need
  • Confirm real requirements versus nice-to-have 
  • Consider staging your requirements based on what’s vital to startup, versus longer term needs

Assess your existing resources

  • What software do you already use?
  • Is your data in a format that can be easily converted?
  • What internal IT resources do you have?  Are in-house programmers available to you and will they make you a priority? 

Be open to adjusting your workflow and protocols

  • Automation imposes order, and your current processes might include tasks you don’t need or want once you have suitable software

The above are important internal factors; in my next post on this topic, I’ll discuss some critical external factors that should be taken into consideration when selecting your LAS.

DBTextWorks 14.5 – Delivering Style and Substance

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By Warren Ganz

The DB/TextWorks product suite reminds me of a car that a good friend of mine purchased in his younger years and continued to drive well into his 30s.  It’s an amazing car, to this day one of my favorites.  He drove that car for many, many, years, while the rest of us changed vehicles once or maybe twice.  One afternoon he stopped by to show off a new car, or so I thought.  I assumed he’d finally come to his senses, traded it in, and upgraded to something completely different and new.  However, the car he pulled up in seemed oddly familiar, and on a closer look I realized it was the same car.  But there was something different. He had given it a paint job, and most importantly used a modern color.  This amazing classic car  is now setting a new standard.  Brilliant!  And this is exactly what we have done with the DB/TextWorks product suite.  It’s still an amazing piece of software, and with a fresh coat of paint done properly it really shines.

It’s true that this DBTextWorks 14.5 release is most notably a UI refresh, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  When new users look at the product, hopefully they’ll ask:  “Wow, what does it do?” and they’ll want to take it for a spin.  At clients’ request, we’ve replaced over 400 “classic” icons with modern-looking industry-standard images that display more robustly in various toolbar sizes.  This was no small feat.  Optimizing a user interface is always a delicate process – there are as many possibilities as there are stakeholders.  With your invaluable input and after many spirited internal reviews (fortunately there were no fist fights) we reached consensus and then we made it happen. We have an improved product that we are proud to show off, as it truly is an ageless beauty.

I encourage you all to upgrade to version 14.5; we guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Riding the Rails with Presto – Thoughts on Implementation

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Posted by Erika Halloran

Recently, the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics was awarded to a snowboarder named Sage Kotsenburg for his performance in the Men’s Slopestyle competition. The Slopestyle event is making its Olympic debut this year; the athletes go downhill while performing a series of difficult tricks on strategically placed structures.  
Although I don’t know a lot about Sage Kotsenburg, I think it’s pretty safe to assume he didn’t “ride the rails” or perform a "1620 Japan Air Mute Grab" in his first season strapped to a board.  While Olympic athletes are widely considered to be the World’s best at their respective sports, they still start with the basics and add frills progressively as their experience grows.
Successful Inmagic Presto administrators follow a similar path.  The teams with the most successful Presto implementations choose to excel at using Presto’s core functionality before unveiling the bells and whistles, ultimately  leveraging all our tools (which are more than enough to perform the software equivalent of a “1620 Japan Air Mute Grab”) as their experience grows.
If Presto lets you provide your end users with their first opportunity to search a Catalog by themselves and easily retrieve relevant records with a few keystrokes, they will undoubtedly be pleased and impressed.  They’ll see it as a win – the equivalent of a snowboarder who can now confidently ride down a “black diamond” trail.  This is no small feat, especially when they used to slide down the mountain being expertly towed by a skilled Librarian. 
Furthermore, since Presto launch announcements spotlight features that are “coming soon,” users can eagerly anticipate the day they’ll discuss their own research in Presto’s Forums, read comments about the latest additions to the Catalog, and maybe even become published as Presto Blog authors.  Imagine their excitement when, a few months down the road, you announce the incorporation of these options.  People who’ve become accustomed to using Presto for their research will be excited when they discover that it “just got better.”
The urge to immediately enable every feature of a new software product is a strong one, but it sometimes pays to fight it.  Most successful implementers start by thinking about what the users need and providing them with tools that will help them do their jobs, while also letting them know what is possible down the road. 
Once you have configured Presto to meet your users’ needs, thinking about what they’d like becomes fun and exciting.  Perhaps the users themselves can help decide which features will take center stage in the future, and you can focus on a strategy for providing these features in a way that will create excitement and encourage active engagement. 

So as you embark on your first trips down the “Inmagic Presto slope,” you might consider resisting the urge to ride the rail or go off the jump.  But once you’re comfortable… by all means, have at it!  You’ll have fun with the features and your users will feel the same way.

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part Three: What, Where, When

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Posted by Jason Buggy

In my previous posts on the buying process I mentioned that in my experience, an effective purchaser of KM solutions needs to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, HOW, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN questions.  In Part Two, I shared the “Why, Who and How” of it all, and I shall now reveal the “What, Where and When” questions!

WHAT:   When you can answer these questions for yourself, it will help you present a compelling case to your manager.

What is the size and scope of the project and solution that you are proposing?
What will we be able to do better today that we were unable to do yesterday?
What are the overall goals of this project?
What are the criteria that will gauge the success of the proposed solution?
What are the reasons (once you’ve decided) for selecting the proposed vendor?
What happens if you do nothing?

  • This is an extremely important question; be sure to present the answer to this without catastrophizing – there will be many real world scenarios that powerfully demonstrate problems with efficiency, effectiveness and cost.  Select examples that clearly show the pitfalls of a non-KM approach.  Since you already know who your stakeholders are (See Part Two of this series ), you can provide tailored input that resonates with each of them.


WHERE:  This isn’t as straightforward as it used to be.  There are readily available cloud services and hosting solutions that are as secure as your in-house environment; many organizations look at these as ways to offset hardware and personnel costs.  You must understand the protocols for where you should have the solution installed.  For example, if you work for a financial institution, there’s a high probability that your management prefers installed software, rather than using cloud services.   Vendors who only provide cloud services solutions are nonstarters in this scenario.  Make sure you fully understand your company’s security parameters before you decide where the software will reside.  Again you’ll need to consult with your IT staff to understand their preferred scenarios and support model.

WHEN:  As mentioned, it’s a good idea to definite “go live” date; this dictates when you must sign the contract and get it to your vendor.  Also important is knowing:

When will you be ready to train your end-users and administrators?
When is your IT staff available to work with the software vendor?

The IT team will definitely be working on several different projects at the same time - while also putting our unexpected fires along the way.  It’s  very important to make sure you are working closely with IT to make sure you know when they are available to help design, further develop and maintain the selected solution.

I know this is a lot of information.   I’ve taken the key components of the selling process and flipped them to help my (hopefully) future clients navigate the buying process.  After all, the hardest selling job is never performed by me, the sales person - it’s done by our clients trying to convince their companies and colleagues to allocate budget in order to buy our solutions.  That is not an easy task!

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part Two: Who, Why, How

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Posted by Jason Buggy

In my previous post on  the buying process I mentioned that in my experience, an effective purchaser of KM solutions needs to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, HOW, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN questions.  I shall now reveal the “Why, Who and How” questions that you’ll need to cover!

WHY:  To quote Nancy Kerrigan, “WHY…WHY…WHY?”  If the answer is “well, I would really like one to make it easier for me to do my job,” that’s insufficient.  You’ll need to make a legitimate business case to get the approval you’re looking for, specifying  “day in the life” challenges that would be eliminated or made significantly easier with a new KM system.  Do you understand the drivers that create the need for your company to spend additional dollars on new software? Answering the following will help you to focus:

  • Why are we looking at this now?  
  • Why haven’t we done this in the past?  
  • Why would this make things that are currently problematic, better?  
  • Why would I need to purchase a new piece of software? Do we have something in place already that is underutilized? 

WHO:  It’s good practice to have the support of multiple people from different departments.  Make sure you understand the position and requirements of everyone with a stake in your purchase.  Definitely get your IT team involved early and make them a partner in your process.  They can help you understand the most important “who” related question:  Is the implementation of the proposed solution part of a larger effort within the company, and if so, who is the main decision maker for the overall project?

  • Who are the key stakeholders for your proposed solution?  
  • Who will benefit the most from having instant access to our corporate repository? 
  • Who will help implement from the IT side and end-user/admin side of the house?  
  • Who has the budget for this?  
  • Who will sign the contract?  
  • Who will issue the PO and how does this happen?  
  • Does the vendor we are looking at meet our corporate requirements for doing business?  

HOW:  It’s good project management practice to do a reverse timeline of the buying process. Start with the date you envision having your first user log-in and perform a search, then go backwards.   For example:  let’s say it’s January 20, 2014.  Your first user should log in on June 30th, 161 days from now.  Your contracts department typically takes 30 days for legal evaluation and to issue a purchase order; you also know that it takes 4 weeks to implement the solution and that your preferred solution has a waiting list of 4 weeks, so you’ll need to order by March 30, 2014 in order to be up and running by June 30, 2014.  But wait, your company requires an investigation of 3 vendors for any new software - that will take 20 days; they also require a Request for Proposal – that will take 10 days to write and get approval before release, plus 3 weeks for the vendors to reply …you see where I’m going with this.  So if you don’t know how your organization makes purchasing decisions, you may ultimately be unable to make the purchase, or will likely experience delays that prevent having the solution in place by the “Go-Live” deadline.  In addition to knowing how decisions get made, you’ll need to know exactly how you’ll roll out the platform.

  • How will you implement the solution - will you have internal support or be relying on the vendor to perform most the work? 
  • How much budget do you have?   (Knowing this will help eliminate vendors who are outside your price range and save you valuable time ; there is very little point spending 1.5 months talking to a vendor only to realize they are 200% high than your total budget). 
  • How much time and money will this solution save my company in the first 6 months, 12 months and 24 months?  (Also known as ROI – “return on investment”)

In my next (and final) post on this topic, I’ll share the “What, When and Where” of the buying process with you …please stay tuned.

Securing Approval for a KM Solution Purchase – Part One: Convincing Leadership

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Posted by Jason Buggy

I’m a sales person with Inmagic, and when I sat down to write a blog post for you, our loyal customers, it dawned on me that perhaps you (and hopefully some prospective customers) would like some best practices on HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN BUY SOMETHING, in general.

Just before the Christmas break a prospect told me that they would not purchase our solution, but they didn’t want me to feel bad, because they were not purchasing anything.  “The VP of X did not really grasp why we needed a KM system, or what it could do for us, so she wouldn’t sign off on the project.”  These are the WORST words a sales person can hear.  I’m giving something away, but here is a little secret:  we don’t mind losing a deal here or there to a competitor.  It drives us to be better and in reality, there are times when someone is looking for something soooo specific, that there truly is only one right solution, and you know from the beginning that may not be your product.  That’s okay, it’s easy to tell our managers “we lost because of A, B and C.”  But when you walk in and say, “we didn’t get approval, they are buying nothing,” that’s typically a result of the sales person not understanding a prospect’s needs and internal approval process.  

As a sales person, I have a process that I follow to help me understand when things will happen, what the likelihood is that they will happen, and by what date.  For you, let’s call this the sales process in reverse…let’s call it the buying process.  In this specific example, let’s assume you’ve made the decision to purchase a solution to your KM challenges. In a three part blog post, I’ll share some purchase approval and process best practices gleaned from my years in sales, and if you get even one pearl of wisdom , we’ll both be happy.

First, be prepared to quickly explain exactly what knowledge management is all about to your non-KM practitioner colleagues.  I’ll run with the Gartner Group’s sophisticated definition, which I have blatantly poached from a most EXCELLENT article in KMWORLD . “Knowledge Management is a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets.  These assets may be databases, documents, policies, procedures and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual workers.”  That is from 1998, and I must say, it still holds true today.  Add a pinch of tacit knowledge here and a smidge of social components there and that definition could have been written yesterday.  To really bring things on home for your colleagues and management you’ll need to give concrete examples that show how the above concepts apply to your organization – in terms of its information assets and its needs.

You must be able to show and convince leadership of the importance of implementing a KM strategy at your company.  To do that you will need to have answers to a number of WHY, WHO, WHAT, HOW, WHERE and WHEN questions.  In my next post on this topic, I’ll share those questions with you.   I find that working through them with my prospects really focuses the process and is mutually advantageous.  If you are well prepared with information and answers to share with your management, you stand a better chance of getting approval for a purchase you may have spent a good amount of time and energy evaluating.

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