Looking back over 2015
Our New Combined Library and Archive Solution
During 2015 we added archival system functions and new capabilities to manage images into the Soutron system to achieve a combined library and archives application. Adherence to ISAD(G) standards as well as incorporating locally defined needs were major design goals. The system provides the means to structure collections and present content in a simple clear manner. When viewing records in a hierarchy they can be browsed and displayed within the Collection hierarchy tree. This has value for clients who don’t have a formal archive function but may want to put documents into folders and structures need to reflect such a hierarchy. This new capability is displayed to maximum effect in the new Soutron Search Portal where layout and design is flexibly applied.
In October we saw this new solution come to life for The Wiener Library. Since 1933, The Wiener Library have been collecting material related to the Holocaust and now house over 17,000 photographs, 70,000 books and 2,000 document collections.
By working closely with The Wiener Library, Soutron was able to develop an innovative, flexible and configurable solution with a very clean, modern look and feel. View the Case Study to learn more.
Research & Development: Knowledge Services
Throughout the year development work is undertaken that is necessary but may not be released for some time. It prepares the way for extending the application for Knowledge Services. One such R & D task that has been identified is the extension of Search to allow, “nested searching” to be performed. This has been initiated by the need to deploy knowledge management systems that demand particular search capabilities given the types of data that need to be captured and stored. This feature will work alongside another new facility that allows a very flexible cataloguing/record data entry form to be designed to replace or work alongside the existing cataloguing form. It will allow data entry forms to be designed using sections and sub fields and be laid out with fields across the page. The new “nested search” capability supports the added field structures that will become available with the data entry forms designer. More and more clients are using Soutron for Knowledge Services and if you want to explore this part of the application we are very interested in hearing from you.
Soutron Nested Searching Example
New Server Network
The year has seen us migrate our Hosted and Managed Server Network onto a new platform inside our Data Centre. This gives us much more flexibility to scale servers and resources without interrupting processes and will improve the reliability and back up facilities. Our Data Centre is in fact split across two locations in the UK – Reading and Birmingham and backups and disaster recovery services uses the resources of both locations for additional security.
This was a major piece of work for our technical support staff and it took over two months to plan and complete. The amount of effort that goes on behind the scenes to set up and maintain servers for the hosted environment for the most part goes unnoticed – thank goodness! It does however consume many man-hours every month to monitor servers, check firewalls, respond to situations that arise when resources are blipped by external parties trying to “connect” or a spike in usage occurs. These tasks are hidden from view but are essential for the reliability of the service and performance. System monitoring and planning is vital together with reviewing security so that data and resources are protected at all times.
A busy year ahead
A very important part of our commitment to clients is the maintenance of the application. We believe that this is about more than applying fixes to problems that are reported. Keeping an application up to date means applying new technology as it comes available. Future proofing. It is also about designing the system so that it is easier to add new features in the future or incorporating new and emerging needs – such as access to data and systems via mobile devices. This is really important. Sometimes tweaking what is already developed is not sufficient. It requires re-engineering the system. For example, to take full advantage of new web development technologies such as HTML5, which drives mobile computing, the software programs have to be re-developed using MVC – a new web development toolset.
We committed to this re-engineering of Soutron in 2014. First by investing in a new Search function that you can now see appearing that has resulted in improved performance and a more flexible design. Improving the look and feel of pages, menus and performance are uppermost in our minds when re-engineering takes place, not simply making the code better and easier, more efficient to manage.
Before changing the functional modules we have to think about the System Management functions first. You will now start to see changes to the system configuration routines as we rethink how these configuration tasks should be performed.
One of the changes is a new menu system that is being introduced in 2016. It will improve navigation, increase the speed of moving around the application and prepare the way for the changes to each function as we re-engineer the modules. One of the first functional areas that will see this new design and system engineering applied is Loans, Reservations and Requests. In recent weeks, the new re-engineered loans function has been in testing and we like what is coming out of development: a much faster process; a cleaner design; new features.
Ongoing Research & Development: Development Workflows
A major objective for Soutron’s R&D in 2015 was to speed up the release of new features and enhancements to clients. In the past, we would see features once developed being collected on the server waiting to go out in a scheduled “new release”. This would often take several months before an opportune time was reached when all code could be “frozen”, tested and released. This year has seen us prepare for a major change in the way we develop and release features. Our adoption of ‘agile’ development methods mean that new features will now be released into production and therefore into the hands of clients as soon as they are ready, no longer waiting for the “major release” that has characterised development to-date.
Working closely with our new communications manager, Paul Johnson, we will be able to share news of features and improvements as soon as they are ready using a variety of mediums so that those of you that want the latest feature can request it via the helpdesk and get your hands on some of the exciting new things much quicker than you have been able to in the past.
Of course, we recognise that some clients prefer just one upgrade per year and that is fine you will be able to continue do so – the choice is yours. What we want to ensure is that our new features are not sitting on the shelf gathering dust!
2016 Focus Groups
Graham Partridge is setting up two or three focus groups in 2016. These will be by invitation to those who have declared a passion for or are heavy users of a particular module or area of the system. We will use GTM sessions to introduce new features / improvements to gain early feedback as part of the development of our new next generation LMS.
Graham Partridge and Craig Parsons will lead these, using storyboards to walk through possible workflows before they are developed. This will allow us to explore ideas with users to ensure all changes are for the better!
If you would be interested in being part of a focus group please click here for details. The sessions will be limited (purely for productivity reasons) to 5 or 6 people although if there was high demand we could arrange more than one.
2016 Spring User Group
We plan to have a user group meeting sometime during spring 2016 and further details of this will be made available in due course. Our user group meeting is a great opportunity for us to provide our ideas and plans as well as a fantastic opportunity to hear directly from our clients and to have open and productive discussions around all aspects of Soutron’s service and offerings.
Details will be made available early in next year.
We are on the move!
We are planning to move to new offices in 2016. We have been at Highgate House for the past ten years and it has served us well, but we need faster bandwidth to do our job. The countryside that we live in at the moment is fantastic Derbyshire green hills but not conducive to 100Mb bandwidth. And no matter what we do the limit seems to be about 6Mb. Hardly sufficient for a household these days let alone a business!
We will be moving to The Coach House. It’s near to the centre of Derby, within striking distance of fibre optic. Won’t that be fun – speeds like you never believed possible! We acquired the building last year. It is very old and has had to be completely gutted and is in process of being renovated. It was originally built in 1784. As with all development projects you can never say exactly when it will be ready, but it is expected to be 2016. We will keep you posted!
The Travelling Librarian
Are you following the Travelling Librarian? Many of you may already know, Graham Partridge loves to get out and visit clients. Graham feels it is essential to get out and spend time with fellow librarians, “it is important to hear and see how our clients are using Soutron and what they like and just as important, what they don’t like”
Graham sees the tasks of managing research and development and looking after clients as one. By going out and meeting with clients he gets a much clearer feel and picture of how people use systems and what affects people the most. This allows us to identify areas for improvement and that feeds into ideas – learning and knowledge intertwined.
You had better watch out as Graham is now using Twitter as a medium and a fun tool to communicate what he is up to in R&D as well as where he is when travelling around. Follow Graham @gapartridge on Twitter today.
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