August 13, 2009

ALA 2009 Conference Session - ERM: The Promise and the Disappointment

There were four panelists. Sadly, these were four of the poorest presentations pulled together in a session. I don’t blame the panelists, as I believe it’s a result of what they were told to do for the session. Each addressed a different ERM – Serials Solutions 360 Counter, Ex Libris Verde (which is no longer being developed by Ex Libris), III ERM Module, and Gold Rush from the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries.

Way too much detail was presented, digging down into the nitty gritty of menus, settings, etc. complete with screen shots. I was familiar with all but one of the products and it still did nothing for me. Someone with no familiarity with any of the products or who was simply investigating ERM would just be lost.

Having said all that, there was information to be gleaned from all of this:

  • Define why you are purchasing an ERM product. Know what you expect to use it for and then match the product to your requirements.
  • Pick your product carefully. Look at how long others are taking to implement, the track record of the company, etc. Verde is a product that has taken many customers two plus years to implement and many still aren’t. In the meantime, they’ve announced no future development for this product while they turn their energies to another similar product. I know from a previous job this product was not inexpensive.
  • Is training available? Is the documentation good? Verde’s training is good; their documentation not. III’s documentation is fairly good; but all training is done on-site at an additional cost. However, to purchase the III Module is probably 1/10 of the cost of what some customers paid for Verde. So, I guess that’s perspective. The Gold Rush presenter had switched from Verde due to it’s complication and then proceeded to bring Gold Rush up in a matter of months. She praised both their documentation and training.
  • Don’t think you have to implement all modules at once. Maybe there are a few features that will be useful and can be brought up fairly quickly. Acknowledge that you may not use every feature from day one, but that other features can be implemented as time goes on. For us, there are several features of the III ERM we could use and then focus on others later. For example, the tracking feature for database problems would be useful, while usage stats (because of product limitations) would only be implemented should the product improve how usage stats are loaded.
  • Consider “out of the box” implementations over a lot of customizations if possible.

I had thought this presentation would be an overall discussion of ERM products as whole, focusing on how people are using them and if the automated process is working. I saw what the problems were with the systems but not necessarily with the idea of using an ERM. Is the ERM system better than the spreadsheet or the Access database? Would other "tracker'" systems provide the same type of workflow? Is it better to go with a product from a company you already do business with or should you simply select the best ERM to meet your needs? How have others defined their ERM needs? If you've used certain features, such as incident tracking, have they been useful when re-negotiating the license or did it just give you a nice report? What features did you turn on to the public? What was the value gained from doing so?

While it was not the session I expected and was a bit too detailed, I did learn a few things and have some of my thoughts and ideas validated, so in the end I am glad I attended.