Takeaways From the NISO-NFAIS Event, Transforming Content

Quick Recap

I was pleased to be able to attend the NFAIS Forethought Strategic Summit, “Transforming Content Through Transformed Systems” on June 16-17, 2021. Having attended many NISO meetings and having been an annual attendee at the NFAIS meetings in the past, I was looking forward to a series of information-packed sessions—and these two days did not disappoint. Not only was the content interesting and thought-provoking, but the format of the presentations was varied and encouraged lively discussion of the issues. 

The Day 1 sessions, which were interconnected, all resonated with me. The day started with a great conversation with John Shaw, Steph Garrett and Kevin Muha, all with SAGE Publishing. The rapid-fire discussion centered on technical debt, complete with definitions and understandings of the inevitability of technical debt in some cases, of how it can be intentional in other cases (such as in agile development), and of how technical debt can impact customers and users. It was interesting to consider technical debt as a strategy. Steph Garrett’s answer to a question about whether agile development and/or minimally viable products lead to technical debt was most interesting—Steph said that technical debt can be reduced in an agile environment because it is treated as a process to get through. Addressing the technical debt in each sprint, or making it a focus in certain sprints, leads to the opportunity to manage it well.  

In the next session, Lauren Kane of Morressier gave some key considerations for an audit of content transformations: Consider what rights you have, understand the model and the rationale, and understand the value of what you have as well as who will value what you are creating. Lauren also talked about items related to technical debt that arise with new forms of content and new ways of presenting content, and the importance of knowing what you need to be cognizant about, because data now has a longer “shelf life” and is more easily accessed when it is preserved online. 

OCLC's Cindi Blyberg also referenced technical debt when discussing moving from one technology or product to another, emphasizing that a seemingly small change (e.g., a UI button) may have huge impacts on data and systems behind the scenes, and these must be uncovered and planned. I found this very relatable as I look at some of the systems I work with and need to understand what is beneath the covers that might make a “small” change into a major project. 

Chris Iannicello’s talk aligned well with NISO’s Content Platform Migrations Working Group, of which I am a member. We are in the final stages of edits, and there were several points Chris made that fell into place with parts of the soon-to-be-released Recommended Practice. Chris highlighted the importance of communicating effectively with stakeholders and making a compelling case for the change with them, whether it is an upgrade to an existing system or a migration to a new system. Chris also mentioned how important it is to understand the types of content in your system as well as how the content and other data flows into and out of the system—which is something I deal with often, and which we also considered in the CPM RP. (Note: Chris is the Director of Business and Content Intelligence at The Optical Society (OSA))

On Day 2, Daniel Ayala of Secratic provided a session on security, “Managing the Risks,” very timely and full of useful information. I especially appreciated how Dan looked at what he called the CIA Triad—Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. I tend to think most about confidentiality, and therefore it was helpful to add those other two legs to the stool—to consider safety of storage, accuracy, and provenance under integrity, and to think about the implications of our systems always being on, not only at work but at home as well.  

Overall, the NFAIS Forethought Strategic Summit was well worth the time I invested. As has been the pattern with NFAIS and NISO presentations, I came away with new ways of thinking about very relevant topics.