Making Knowledge Work

October 30, 2010

Making The King’s Fund Go Further

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — virginiahenry @ 5:36 pm

LIKE 19 was as good as it promised to be.  The evening started with a relaxing drink with lots of lovely LIKE folk, and a quote from Louis Pasteur – “chance favors the prepared mind” – from our main speaker of the night, Ray Phillips.

Ray is the Head of Information Services at The King’s Fund, and has around 20 years’ experience in information work.  Before he got to The King’s Fund, he’d developed a certain wariness of vendors: he had wanted to upgrade a health service library system, been assured it would cost maybe £2,000-£3,000, and then been told by a smiling salesman that it would, in fact, be 4 or 5 times that much!  The guy even had the audacity to say “It does look a bit like we’ve got you by the balls, doesn’t it?”.

At The King’s Fund they needed more from their Unicorn library system than it was delivering.  They wanted to get away from using a fixed server  (stuck under a long-suffering member of the IT team’s desk) – maybe using Cloud . They needed modern functionality and user interfaces.  They wanted to integrate their library system with other services such as a new customer relation management system, and a proposed eLearning platform.  They wanted to be able to do seamless searches across the King’s Fund Website, and take advantage of RDF categorisation.  Not a wildly ambitious wish-list, but cost definitely was an issue.

Matthew Hale, the Online Services Librarian at The King’s Fund presented Ray with a paper that he and his talented team had put together.  In it they laid out the issues, options and opportunities.

Koha looked attractive – for a number of reasons.  Its flexibility was one. The opportunities it would offer to Matt and his team to stretch their talents was another.  The notion that they could use a company they already had a relationship with – PTFS Europe to help train and support them was a third.  The fact that the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital had created a viable library from scratch, using Koha, was yet another. And the promise of a system that would engage The King’s Fund team’s brainpower, but wouldn’t burn through their budget was a very convincing fifth!

In fact, when the Director of Finance realised how much they could save by moving to open source things moved very quickly.  The decision to go with Koha was made in October 2009, work began in December and in January 2010 the system was up and running.

They love it! They’ve saved money; improved efficiency; got the integration they wanted and have a growing UK usership.  Of course it’s not all plain sailing – what system is?  But they’re confident that they have the talent and the (affordable) support to deal with any issues that arise.

Message to smug, high-cost vendors: when you tell a client you have them by the balls, be sure yours are protected by a metaphorical cricket box – you might just have ‘incentivised’ them to kick you.

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