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Turning Information into Inspiration

From time to time, we all get stumped by how to tackle a challenge, or even to work out what our next step is. How do we find the inspiration for our next light bulb moment?

This post was inspired by Rosie Forrest and her Adlib visor. Rosie is one of our users who made Adlib hats for the team at the Imperial War Museum. The crew there is doing some amazing work with CMS / DAMS integration, reporting, and barcoding.

Rosie Forrest and her Adlib Visor
Rosie Forrest and her Adlib Visor

In our offices, I often good naturedly ask our Research & Development team “what did you build for me today?”. It’s like having a human Magic 8 Ball – sometimes the answer is something I already knew and other times… well, it’s unexpected. Those serendipitous discoveries almost always spur some new ideas I can implement in our training and professional development workshops.

I had a similar experience at the recent Axiell UK User Group meeting with 250 users representing sites across the globe. So many members of the Axiell community are doing incredibly interesting projects with their systems and data. I walked away from the 2-day program brimming with inspiration.

The presentations are now online and I encourage everyone to browse and explore the delightful treasure trove of slideshows and speaker notes posted here: 2017 Axiell UK User Group presentation materials. Talks ranged from implementing DAMS to barcoding to mass moves.

While each site’s experiences are unique, almost everyone I spoke with about new and ongoing projects had some similar observations.

Try something new

Someone has to be the first. Without an innovator, there isn’t any one to learn from. Thanks to adventurous technology users, we have a great set of adventurers to pave the way: the Natural History Museum adopted web-based workflow using Sapphire; the Imperial War Museum helped to create the initial iteration of Axiell DAMS; the Horniman Museum performed a gallery decant with Axiell Move in seven weeks, including a gallery audit and applying barcodes. Even if you aren’t an early adopter, whatever you’re trying is still new to you, your team, and your organisation.

Help the next person

Whatever you do, there is probably someone else ready to try it after you. Write a paper, give a talk, or post to a list-serv and share your experience. Whenever I chat with a user who has just finished a big project, I ask them, “what three things do you wish someone had told you before you started?”. People often ask for copies of RFPs for tenders, but why not ask if someone is willing to share project plans, budget figures, or lessons learned? These artefacts take an extraordinary amount of work. Passing them along establishes a smoother baseline for the sites that follow in your footsteps.

Embrace your own scale

Not all projects have to be enterprise-wide or cost a lot of money. Sometimes scrubbing a single data field, creating a new report, or adding a single web page to enable online searching of collections is the right step for a site. I’ve seen curators cheer when someone adds an image to a report or writes a formula that reverses an artist name format so that records sort in the preferred order. Progress is important regardless of scope and any accomplishment moves us forward toward our larger goals.

Talk about your problems

During networking events, I invariably hear people comment that it’s a relief to hear that others are struggling with the same challenges. Spoiler alert: it’s never just your site. At this year’s conference, we had a speaker open a session specifically stating that they didn’t have an answer to the scenario that they were about to present. They openly asked for suggestions and created a lively discussion around available options. Not only did that exchange connect people facing the same conundrum, it helped raise the profile of the conversation within the Axiell team. P.S. if anyone has a strategy for updating locations in the database after removable drawers are re-housed in different cabinets based on taxonomic classification or locality, send up a flare – people want to meet you!

Keep it SMART

When embarking on a project, break your endeavour into goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Having a clear expectation of what needs to be completed, how we define success, and when we are committed to being finished creates focus and keeps us accountable. Tackling a project as a series of well-defined steps allows us to pivot earlier in a process by supporting constant assessment and evaluation.

Have you done a project or have a challenge that you’d like to share with the community? We can’t wait to hear about it. We’re accepting session suggestions for our next Axiell User Group Meeting in Pittsburgh October 11 – 13, 2017: 2017 Axiell North America conference registration.


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