If you’ve followed any of our recent announcements you’ll know that earlier this year we released our reference tracking solution, Quest. We embarked on its development because our clients showed interest in a new system to record their research and reference requests. Although anecdotal and offhand remarks about the need for a new system were very useful, I wanted to perform a more accurate assessment of the current state of affairs and so in the latter stages of last year I put together a simple survey to gauge the appetite for a new system. I was interested in finding out:
- How do firms currently manage their research requests?
- The percentage of firms considering switching to a new system
- The major challenges experienced with their current system
I received responses from over fifty of our clients and the results made for interesting reading. There was clearly a need for a simple, easy to use system designed for libraries and which integrated with existing firm systems.
How do firms currently manage their requests?
Every firm has an existing approach to managing their requests, some more advanced than others. I grouped the responses under the following five headings:
- 3rd Party Request Tracking Systems – these are purpose built systems meant solely for tracking requests or tickets in the case of IT helpdesk systems – e.g. Quest, Footprints, Heat, IQTrack, Quatrove, RefTracker, Service-Now, Softlink Illumin, Track-IT, Baily Know-All.
- ILS – refers to those ILS system that have a request tracking module built into their core product – e.g. EOS.
- SharePoint – this refers to solutions custom built within SharePoint.
- Custom In-House – systems built by the internal IT department for the library team to manage requests and tickets. Typically not SharePoint systems.
- Physical Notebooks, Outlook, and Spreadsheets – this group represents the combination of “manual” and computer assisted processes. While often assisted by the likes of Outlook and Excel, this group does not use a dedicated system designed to manage requests.
The survey responses were are follows:
Almost half of the respondents had no dedicated system in place to manage incoming requests which I found interesting. The high number within this group (see below) wanting to convert to a system confirmed my belief that implementing a dedicated system to manage requests improves the library’s efficiency. Read on for more information about which firms want to switch to a new system.
Firms Considering Switching to Another System
I was very interested to find out which firms wanted to switch approaches within each of group of respondents. When asked whether the firm was considering switching to a different system, the results were as follows. The red percentages display the proportion of the group that were actively considering switching to a new system.
What can we take from these results?
- 3rd Party Request Tracking Systems (45%) – less than half the respondents using 3rd party systems would consider switching. I would expect firms to be relatively more satisfied using a purpose built system than those not using a system, so this result is not surprising. There were however some firms who would have liked to switch but their IT departments dictate the system they use and make it difficult for the library to independently select another system. It also seemed to be very early in the implementation cycle for many of the respondents meaning the jury was still out on whether their systems were a good fit.
- ILS (75%) – The large majority of firms using their ILS to track requests were not happy with the functionality provided and would like to switch. This isn’t surprising to me as it’s hard for the ILS vendors to provide the required full set of features in an area that isn’t the primary focus of their product.
- SharePoint (0%) – None of the firms with SharePoint systems would consider switching when I posed the question; why is this? These are larger firms with a high degree of technical SharePoint competence in the library team. The SharePoint build was owned and driven by the library which meant the resulting system was very close to their ideal system. The downside of this approach is that it requires a high level of SharePoint expertise in the team and it is harder to support in the long term if certain key library staff leave.
- Custom In-House (85%) – At first glance it might seem strange that such a high percentage of firms with a custom built solution would want to switch. Given my understanding of systems built by internal IT I’m less surprised and it highlights the difficulties of getting IT to build and crucially to maintain a system over time. Conflicting project priorities and the focus on short term builds as opposed to longer term customisability and maintainability are a couple of the difficulties experienced when working with internal IT to develop an custom database system. Trust me, I once worked in a law firm IT department!
- Notebooks, Outlook, and Spreadsheets (77%) – Lastly the most popular category, albeit a very diverse group in terms of approaches. There was broad agreement by the respondents at these firms that although their processes were well established there are definite benefits to be gained by adopting a system and taking much of the manual recording and reporting work out of the process. Many of these firms were actively searching for a suitable 3rd party system.
As an overall figure, approximately 70% of the respondents would consider, or were currently actively looking to move to a 3rd party system.
Challenges with Existing Systems & Processes
The main challenges experienced across all the various approaches, but with specific reference to the existing 3rd party systems were as follows:
- Double entry of billing information > Result: Frustrated users/less efficient team
- Unattractive, unintuitive and overly complex > Result: User frustration and resistance to use
- Lack of sufficient email integration > Result: Less efficient team/poor library marketing
- Lack of useful metrics > Result: Lack of actionable data
- No single view of current requests > Result: Difficulty assigning tasks
- Limited buy-in from library and/or IT > Result: Lack of adoption, poor ROI
The original purpose of this survey was to sense check the effort we were putting into building a new product. It absolutely fulfilled that purpose as well as give us additional insight into the areas we needed to focus on to make Quest a success. I would like to run a similar survey later this year to determine if the market has shifted in the past year.
Building a 3rd party system like Quest able to cater to subtle differences amongst firm processes is hard, and I can understand why in the past many firms have opted for an in-house solution which perfectly matches their process. I believe our team has done a remarkable job of producing a customizable, elegant solution which will support the majority of firms. And if there are changes required to make it work just right for you, we would welcome the opportunity to make those changes as it strengthens the solution.
Peter Borchers, Managing Director