These are strange days that bring upon us fresh challenges in both our personal and business lives.
Thus far Soutron has been able to continue operating as normal, using virtual meetings and communications technology to perform our tasks and provide support and training to whoever needs assistance in our community of librarians, archivists, records managers and information professionals. Only one member of our team has been unfortunate enough to be infected with Covid-19 and he is at home trying to overcome the illness. Everyone else is working from home. Sadly, our normal modus operandi of visiting clients in person is no longer possible and the Travelling Librarian is now the Stay at Home Librarian!
The development of our application continues at a pace and I am pleased to share the news that the next release version 4.1.5 is now in testing with a small number of clients who have graciously agreed to help test using live production systems. There are some bugs we need to fix and test further and once these are addressed to our satisfaction we will announce the release formally as being available.
This new release contains many changes and enhancements and bug fixes, some 450 or thereabouts, making it one of the largest releases we have performed for some years. Within it is a new Administrative interface to manage the backend database configuration. This was necessary to ensure that new features we are introducing can be more easily managed and lays the foundation for further improvements in forms layout and management when we redevelop cataloguing and thesaurus functions. This will take us further in our quest to re-engineer the entire application so that we can be certain the system is both fully supported well into the future as well as taking full advantage of available new technologies when they materialise.
An example of this is the new “Bootstrap” technology we use to control the layout and performance of the Search Portal. It is not an obvious technology for the vast majority of us, but it is an essential component and makes Search better by using it. The new release incorporates this new technology and as such we will need to amend the Search Portal forms manually, when upgrades are performed to take advantage of it. We have already amended our standard Search Portal themes but any custom interfaces will need some effort to apply the changes. This means we will take time to implement the new release and will need to schedule time with you to carry this out, thus making the roll out a number of months to accommodate all clients. If you have an urgent need to upgrade we will try to prioritise needs accordingly.
As a company our philosophy is to develop database functionality to make the application easy to configure so that it can be applied to a variety of information, archive and library management needs. By enhancing and expanding the capabilities of the application, we hope that the library and archive can be more useful to other departments in the organisation. Better value for money and greater prominence to the Library and Archive are our goals. To address this we have created a new API with extra functionality and program calls so that integration with third party systems is easier and offers better performance. It is not an obvious function, day to day, but integration with other applications in an organisation is a critical building block allowing sharing of data.
Some clients make use of the EUS facility (End User Submission) that provides the facility to have end user submit data and files into the database from the Search Portal. This has been completely re-written and presents a new very simple form data entry facility with new features, all set up within an entirely new Database Configuration function.
Introducing Document Review
Using EUS as a starting point we have introduced an entirely new set of functionality that allows end users to submit documents to be reviewed by others in a workflow that is audited. We have called it Document Review (some might call it Digital Review since it could apply to images and video materials as well as Documents) making collaboration possible on a single document that is to be published or approved.
We are licensing this functionality separately to the Library and Archive system, but in keeping with our tradition of making code available to existing clients, it is free of charge for those who wish to elect to use this functionality and have a maintenance and support contract in place at the time of release. The set up and implementation of the system is performed using menus and forms through Database Configuration, and if we are called upon to assist we will need to make a charge for time and materials expended to assist with the setup.
The plans for development post 4.1.5 are shaping up and Thesaurus Management is the next in line to be re-engineered. Consultations with heavy users of this part of the system have been conducted and we are drawing up new designs to make use simpler, faster and more productive. Personally, I find this very exciting as the Thesaurus was the first piece of code to have been developed in 2008/9 and we now have the chance to revitalise it and simplify it considerably, without losing any functionality. As a result of the development of EUS and DR we have moved the data entry form forward in our schedule for development and you can expect to see changes in this part of the system in the next release in the New Year.
I have performed a number of training sessions with clients Online this year. This gives me the chance to see how systems have been implemented and are being used. It gives us great insight as to how data management can be improved and it is a reminder that initial data migration is extremely important. It defines how systems are searched and used and when we look at how much time we spend cleaning data compared to simply moving it into place. Time spent on data migration is often undervalued. However, I think it is the right thing to do and encourage anyone who is looking afresh at their data and wondering if it could be better presented to consult with us and let us find out if there are ways it can be improved.
Let me finish by saying how grateful we are to those clients who invite us into their strategic planning. We welcome any participation in new initiatives that you may have as a result of Covid and expanding the reach of your services. We are all looking forward to the New Year, but we still we have much to bring through in the final few weeks of 2020.
Producing a new release of the software is an intensive activity. It demands more and more time to test and document, given how extensive the Soutron application is today, but it is one of our most enjoyable areas of work. As well as repairing and removing bugs, we are in the midst of re-writing every part of the application so that it provides greater performance and is easier to use. This is very exciting as it gives us the opportunity to re-think how to approach a workflow or function, all with the aim of making life easier.
We will contact you directly when the 4.1.5 upgrade is available.
Best wishes – Graham
Graham Beastall – Senior Consultant and Managing Director. Graham’s background is in Accountancy, Public Administration, Organizational Theory and Library Technologies with a deep technical understanding of databases and web technologies. More posts by Graham.
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