Monday, 3 May 2010

LMS musings: customer management

I wanted front-line staff to have the opportunity for a bit of structured brainstorming amongst themselves without (at this stage) being prompted or led by somebody higher up in the food chain. But I also wanted to avoid their feeling left to flounder so I circulated a note to help get them started. The responses to date have been very useful. I wish we were currently able to free them up for a get-together to bounce ideas around more thoroughly, I know it would be very productive.

Library customers (not only borrowers!) management — brainstorming the business needs

We want you to think about how we would use a new library management system (LMS) to manage our customers, and not just borrowers.

If at all possible, we need to include all our customers in the system and if at all possible we need to have auditable data about all our customer transactions. In reality this isn’t always practicable or desirable but we need to include as many customers as possible.

What we want you to do:

  1. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Or some post-it notes if you prefer.
  2. The questions are:
    1. What information do we need to be able to provide services to our customers?
    2. What information do we need to make sure that we’re providing the appropriate services for each customer?
    3. What information do we need to make sure that we’re putting the right resources (staff, stock, events or whatever) in the right places to deliver these services?
    4. How do we prove that we’re earning our keep and doing it right?
    5. How do we prove that we’re meeting the needs of the whole community?
  3. Forget about what how we do things now.
  4. Think about what we should be doing now and what you think we will need to be doing in the future.
  5. Don’t worry about putting the ideas you have into any sort of order, just get the idea noted down while you remember what it was.
  6. Once you’ve got your ideas noted down you might want to come back to them and decide whether each one is something:
    • We need;
    • We want; or
    • We would like.

Before you start, have a look at a few issues that we need to bear in mind…

All systems begin and end with somebody wanting something to happen.

A computer is not a system and a system does not need a computer.

Your business needs are:

  • What needs to happen at the beginning?
  • How will you know it has happened at the end?
  • Don’t get bogged down with the intermediary steps; and definitely don’t get bogged down by “this is what we do now”
  • At this stage of the game you’re wanting to know whether the system delivers the end product.

The way that you work with a new LMS will be very different to the way you work with Dynix.

  • Different systems will work in different ways. I guarantee that any new library management system will not work like Dynix and will not be “a more modern version of Dynix.” For better and worse it will be very different.
  • The technical installation of a new LMS is the easy bit. The hard bit is changing the way you work so that your business processes take advantage of the most efficient and effective ways of using your new system to deliver your services, rather than bodging the new system to mimic existing business processes and compromising the services in the process. This is referred to as process re-engineering. This needs to be a constant process, starting as early as possible during the installation and continuing until you start installing your next management system.

Don’t confuse process and product.

  • Do you want that green flashing light because the system’s designed to give you a green flashing light or because you want the system to tell you that something’s just happened? In which case, would something else do the job just as well?

Think about how you as a customer would want to interact with the Library Service.

  • The Library Service is not a building, and a building isn’t the Library Service. We can, do, and will increasingly provide library services beyond the walls of the library building.
  • When you log onto an e-commerce site like Amazon or Tesco Online; or onto a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter, the system…
  • Provides you with information/advertising based on your previous activities;
  • Provides you with information/advertising from resources/people you have said you’re interested in; and
  • Provides a personal service to you.

So can, and should, your LMS.

Help sheet
(Only to be used as a last resort if the blank sheet of paper’s getting to be too intimidating!)

Seriously, only use these questions if you desperately need a kick-start to get yourself going. We want as many ideas and perspectives as possible and we don’t want you to feel that you’ve got to follow this structure.

  • Who uses the library?
  • What are the different needs of different customers?
  • What do we want them to do?
  • What do we want them not to do?
  • What do they do?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Were we any use to them?
  • What else do they do?
    • Where?
    • When?
    • Were we any use to them?
  • What information do we need about them?
  • How do we keep their custom?
  • How do we market our services to our customers?

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