We started our efforts to build software products a few months back. Soon we churned out some small applications, as part of our training program. The product is a small library management system, built on Ruby on Rails, the open source way. Soon we started getting enquiries, from big and small libraries who are on the way to computerization.
The product’s evolution is from a training program. It boasts nothing that refers to Z39.50, MARC-21 or anything related to libraries. In fact, the key concept around which the product was rental inventory management, making it customizable to track a generic rental item.
In any case, when the interested parties (clients) approached, the biggest requirement they had was not features or compliance. It was data entry, data migration and data cleansing. From the smallest library with a few thousand books, to the one around a hundred thousand, the requirement was practically the same.
During one of my morning walks, a good opportunity to cud-chew the technical matters, I came to a realization. Probably something I knew all along, but failed to recognize, isolate and affirm. It’s the data, stupid. Software products are inseparable from data. It is the life blood for any software product.
Creating a data entry/management/cleansing/analytics strategy is as important as writing features and functions. Sometimes, the former aspects may be manually performed, nevertheless those are performed. And it is not just a feature to mass-upload data, not just the lookups and reports; it comprises of the whole process of digitizing, migration (mass-upload or not), rules, and the training to analyze and understand the output or reports.
That realization brought us the right perspective about software products. Our next step was to bring on data entry capability to our team. While that may not sound “technology expertise”, without that our technology does not have its shine.