Friday, 4 September 2015

Further planning work on the new Acquisitions module

Many of you know that PLS has been actively working with SirsiDynix to develop a new web based acquisitions module.  Its more than just acquisitions tho' - it will include all of the functionality of our current selection software, as well as provide additional functionality and features we don't have at present.  We're really excited by all that this project will deliver for our network & we're also excited by our progress to date.  I have to say a huge "thank you" to SirsiDynix the company & their development team who've taken on this project!!

While I have made passing references to this project on this blog I have been reluctant to publish too much information as much of what we are co-designing with SirsiDynix is a new product which is commercially sensitive.  However I do want to pay tribute to the professionalism of the SirsiDynix team and to update you on the work we've been doing with them.

As I mentioned elsewhere 3 SirsiDynix staff spent a week in Adelaide in January, locked in the PLS meeting room with a group of our staff doing detailed scoping work on a "better than P2" product.  They also visited libraries and one of our suppliers as well as meeting with relevant key library staff.  

Since then PLS staff have been involved in weekly teleconferences with the developers in Utah as they work to turn the ideas into functional software.  What we've seen to date has been great & we've demonstrated a few screens at the recent SirsiDynix product tour of Australia. 

As it was time to completely "unpack" more of the detailed functionality of the software, three PLS staff have just spent a week in the SirsiDynix offices, working with their staff to document functionality and software design.  It was a really exciting but tiring week as we had to track through all elements of our current system, eliminate bits that don't work as we want and take into account changes in technology since we built "P2".  Of equal importance has been ensuring that the software will meet the needs of all libraries, not just ours.  We became familiar with the fact that Montreal has 4 different taxes that apply to the purchase of books & that any system will need to track all 4 tax streams.  And some library consortia actually work across national boundaries, so need to work simultaneously in multiple currencies - and so on!!

Below are a few pictures of our week's work.

The picture above shows something that a PLS staff member said looked like Tetris - an old computer game.  It actually comes from the software development techniques being used by SirsiDynix which is "Agile."  And the team told us that what we were doing was "epic grooming".  Its interesting to see how normal English words get used so differently by the computer world!  Effectively we were taking large "stories" - i.e. the complete ordering process or receiving process, and breaking them down to their component parts, and being very specific about who does what & in what order, as well as documenting all the dependencies and contingencies that attach to each stage.

We used the frosting on the glass to also delineate what we needed to be in place by "day one"- i.e. when the software goes live, and then what is needed, but not necessary from day one.  We also documented some "nice to have" features that will come later.  the coloured tags attached to the sticky notes towards to bottom of the board indicate features that need to be delivered in a sequence after we go live.

The picture below is one that PLS staff member Tricia Knightly took - a bit of an artistic take of the wall.  From the closest couple of sticky labels you can see the sorts of details we were working on. 

Interestingly, the use of the sticky notes was crucial as we debated whether items were essential on day one or needed shortly thereafter.  I recall one sticky note getting moved 4 times as we debated the process.

The good thing about being in the SirsiDynix offices is that all of the development team could drop in from time to time to contribute to the process and to here our rationale for doing things a certain way.  Below is a photo of the development team, along with the PLS staff who were there.  There are a couple of other people including a senior engineer Mark & a user experience designer Jared who are part time contributors to the project who weren't there at the end of the week when we took this shot.  Mark & Jared work on other projects as well as this one.

The "product owner" - or team leader is Mike Hilmo, who is doing a sensational job in driving the project forward & translating our needs into software!  Mike is standing to the left of Jo Freeman as you look at this picture.  And just to use another Agile term which is a bit weird, Marcie - who is standing in front of Tricia Knightly is the team's "scrum master".

The next stage of the project is that the team will calculate the amount of effort it will take to complete all of these epics, and then we should have a much firmer sense of when "go live" will be.  We should know this information within a month.  At this stage we're going for software completion by June/July next year, with time for refinement & training to follow, and then looking at the 1st selection list being on the new system well before the year is out. 

We believe that we should have enough functionality completed by the November PLSA quarterly meeting to give library staff a pretty good walk through what will be in place by then.  We'll also keep you posted on this blog and elsewhere as things progress.

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