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What can documentation do for me? 10 questions to help you choose a collections management system

Choosing a collections management system (CMS) is a big investment for an organisation, and the decision should be based on strategic aims and objectives, and both collection and user needs. If you are considering investing in a new CMS, here are some top tips as well as questions to help you in planning.

1. What resources will you need?
This is a big commitment – don’t forget to consider resources like staff and volunteer time, skills and training required as well as the budget.

2. What are your users’ needs?
Assess the needs of your users’ including staff, volunteers, visitors, researchers etc.

3. Are you considering everyone?
Include colleagues from a range of disciplines in the process, to implement a system fit for your whole museum.

4. Who isn’t using your CMS? Why?
Are there people who don’t currently use your CMS? What might they need, and how could you encourage them to engage with it? How can you make them understand the benefits in a way that they can relate to?

5. Is it future proof?
Consider how your collection may change and grow, as well as future uses people may have for your CMS.

6. Have you given yourself enough time?
Ensure you have the time to do the research and deliver the project effectively – project management is key.

7. Could you upgrade your old CMS?
Can you fall back in love with your existing CMS through system upgrades, tweaks and/or training and support?

8. Do you have a feature checklist?
Consider what software features you need – audit trails, screen designers, thesaurus control, import and export?

9. Can you get a demo?
Speak to the providers about your requirements and ask for a demo. A good CMS provider will be more than happy to talk to you.

10. Have you considered standards?
If you are aiming to achieve Museum Accreditation then you need to be implementing at least the 8 primary procedures of Spectrum, the UK collections management standard. Spectrum Compliance is a formal testing process that ensures that any Unit of Information Spectrum requires can be found in a system, or the developer can demonstrate where you should locate the information. Spectrum Compliance is an attribute that only Spectrum Partners can have. Why not compare Spectrum compliant collections management systems using our choose a CMS toolkit.

Date created: 2016