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Laying the Groundwork for Successful Database Projects

Ensuring the success of complex collections database projects

Axiell users are no strangers to ambitious projects. With 3400+ sites and 7,000,000 million records in Axiell systems, we often have the opportunity to partner with our clients as they streamline workflows, deploy new data entry tools, and implement system integrations with websites, mobile apps, and DAMS. With each collaboration we learn a little bit more about how we can improve our processes and wanted to share some suggestions that may benefit your organization as well.


Many projects are the outcome of extensive Request for Proposals (RFPs) that were generated years in advance of the actual system selection process. These documents often have pages of requirements for new applications with hundreds of line items marked “high” priority. In many cases, functional requests may have been identified in isolation, based on older versions of technology, or lack significant feedback from current end-users. After seeing demonstrations and viewing the latest functionality of software suites, we recommend that your team review your “must-haves” in the context of your selected solution.

Stephen McConnachie of the BFI, shared his experience implementing the MoSCoW method as part of project management for the BFIs crowdsoucing for film project at our 2016 European Axiell User Group Conference. Watch his full presentation here or jump to the 21:13 mark to go directly to his discussion of this strategy.


A realistic confirmation of your goals in collaboration with your project partner builds confidence that everyone is positioned to succeed in your new venture.


Tools, standards, and methodologies constantly evolve. If an experienced team member suggests an alternate strategy to achieve a goal, be open to modifying your approach. The ability to pivot and tackle a challenge from a new angle often saves money and increases user satisfaction in the long run. Diverging from a pre-defined plan may seem risky, but in reality, it provides the flexibility to meet unanticipated scenarios.


All teams communicate differently. Agreeing on baselines for expected participation reduces anxiety and keeps everyone on the same page. Determining the definition of “done” is a great place to start. Are team members supposed to respond to emails and IM’s within a certain timeframe? How often should project documents be refreshed? Is there a guideline for who to cc on communications? When is code uploaded to Git? Do we have a strategy for resolving disagreements? Starting projects with guidelines for creating an optimal environment for productive teamwork typically increases engagement and pro-actively eliminates conflict.


Each person on a project team brings a unique perspective. Rely on their experience to help you make decisions. If someone estimates a task will take 15 working days, trust their judgement. Avoid the temptation to cajole them into agreeing to 7 in order to stick to a pre-determined timeline. When people override expert opinions, the group will likely blow the compressed schedule and wind up explaining to stakeholders why they are running late.


Shared access to project materials is integral to a project’s success. Applications such as Slack, Trello, SharePoint, and JIRA support teams as they create a repository of information. Consolidating documents and communications in easily accessible channels ensures that everyone always has access to up-to-date requirements and plans. In addition, group calendars can also keep everyone organized and aware of who is where at any given time.


Be upfront and honest about the accomplishments and challenges being managed by the team. Celebrate success and ask for help when it is needed. No one likes unexpected news, but hiding the fact that there is a risk for a time or cost overrun creates often creates bigger obstacles later in the project. When teams openly share status updates, it provides the flexibility to pivot and address issues before they become more serious.


The best way to develop your project management skills is to use them! Every time teams test out a new project approach, it adds to your institutional knowledge. These are just a few of the lessons we have learned and we hope that they help you out as you set out to implement your next great idea.
Our experienced Axiell Project Managers are available for consulting. If you feel your team can benefit from some strategy sessions, please reach out to us at sales-alm@axiell.com.

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