Memory institutions are notoriously bad at specifying (digital preservation) system requirements. Why would that be? Because we lack business acumen? Because digital preservation is still so new to most of our institutions? Because we lack IT knowledge? It is probably a combination of all of those. I was talking to Mike Thuman of Tessella, and he told me that most institutions end up copying some specifications or requirements that somebody else has drafted. And those will be copied with minor alterations by yet other institutions. In the end, you will get the monstrum in the title of this blog. Or you end up asking for a 4-wheel drive that averages 100 miles per gallon and fits into half a (European) parking space.
So, Mark Evans of the same Tessella gave the Austin PASIG audience some vendor’s advice about requirements. And just in case you wonder, let me assure you: in this case you can trust the vendor, because poor requirements cause problems for everybody – both the vendor and the client!
Mark told the audience that the “requirement gathering process” is especially critical:
In conclusion, Mark offered some general suggestions:
Mark stressed that drawing up requirements for a new system is a real opportunity to take advantage of IT to fundamentally change the way an institution operates. At the same time, he stressed the need for realistic expectations. 4 wheel drives just don’t make 100 miles a gallon!
Many speakers, including Mark, noted that we have to work on a joint vocabulary if the digital preservation institutions and IT are to work together successfully. He recommended the glossary at www.archivists.org/glossary. I’ll be sure to check that out before finalizing the final reports of the NCDD working groups on storage and preservation.
Thanks to Mark Evans for making available the slides.
And: to be continued …
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