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DMPonline – building an active user community
At the last RDA VP 18, we submitted a poster about Community building and working with you – our customers, partners and new potential clients. In this blog post, I will summarise the main points which we tried to present through the poster, namely history of subscriptions and its effect on launching more community building activities, as well as the benefits and challenges of having such a big community of active users and the resulting need of balancing the needs of the various partners working with our tool. The poster is now accessible through the following link: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5770246
DMPonline is a world leading data management planning service offered by Digital Curation Centre (DCC). As many of you will already know the tool is based on an open source codebase developed and managed in partnership with the University of California Curation Center (UC3)). Whilst the DCC and UC3 remain committed to open source principles and will continue to offer the service free at the point of use to researchers, we introduced a freemium subscription model in 2018 as part of our sustainability planning.
With the subscriptions being launched it became even more important to meet with our community on a regular basis and find various strands to build an active community of users.
Little bit of history of growth of our subscription base and community building activities since 2016
Our success is thanks to the ability to grow a client base and building a bigger and stronger community, which started already in 2016 with our first subscriber in Finland – DMPTuuli, which became a national instance for DMPonline - and the subscription of the University of Melbourne.
In 2018 our funding models changed to be fully subscription based, and we signed up further 16 institutions. One of the very first things we ensured that we had was the DMPonline helpdesk. It is managed since by the DMPonline team keeping an eye on the coming emails – varying from requesting new features, reporting bugs, subscription enquiries to events registrations. We also launched DMPonline mailing list, and we actively inform the JISC mailing list about upcoming DMPonline activities.
In 2019 we launched in person sessions for our subscribers such as user groups, where we can discuss potential new features we have worked on with our colleagues from CDL, or brand-new feature suggestions. We also started to run training sessions around admin functionalities for DMPonline which were often followed by our popular socials. For a more regular get together, we are running DMPonline drop-ins since 2019, where we let everyone interested in DMPonline join us on a drop-in basis. We discuss upcoming features, news, events and recent work with you – and often have a guest speaker presenting from our community how they go about using DMPonline or research data management activities. The same year we launched many ways to communicate DMPonline news with our community in ways that feels most accessible and simple to follow such as DMPonline Newsletter and regular social media updates (LinkedIn, Twitter). We also manage YouTube playlists and regularly get in touch with our subscribers asking them to share with us a knowledge exchange blog posts which we promote across various channels or become our guest speakers in drop-in sessions. Thanks to our activities, we grew our customer base from 16 to 53 subscribers.
2020 – present
In 2020 we continued with user groups, drop-ins and in person catch ups in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. The same year we grew from 53 to 58 subscribers and implemented another national service in Sweden with SUNET. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we expanded our virtual engagement programme by launching demo sessions. Since, we grew our client base to 66 subscribers. We will continue to improve our online engagement programme and hope to offer in person events once this is safely possible.
So what are the benefits of having the DMPonline community?
The main benefits are that we receive feedback from our community that help us to improve continually. This also further leads to open two-way communication between the community and DMPonline team – where we try to be as easily reachable as possible to our community. Furthermore, the development of new features in DMPonline is informed by the needs of the community. Our community then also benefits from networking opportunities with other organisations and funders through our regular events and various activities where we bring all these together and we provide various channels for knowledge exchange and training.
But what about the challenges?
However, one must add that there are challenges. With a higher number of clients, we will have to meet more complex needs and implement more features. These take a long time to develop in terms of putting the system specifications together, present this back to the community discuss with our software developers and ensure that this is something we could work on. Also, some features from the DMPRoadmap open-source codebase need more planning and work to be integrated into our subscription service, because sometimes the work our colleagues implement would not work easily for the multitenant service and require more thinking how to implement this effectively. This is also why we would invite our clients into active participation in testing the potential new extensions from the DMPRoadmap or present possible new features from our collaboration in the user groups so we can get more input from you.
So it all comes down to this balancing act…
Nonetheless, ensuring that the benefits and challenges of having such a big community means that we need to balance various strands. We have sometimes different needs coming from contractual work for various clients and pushing the open-source code collaboration. We do annual planning with our CDL colleagues where we tend to discuss the goals for the upcoming year based on their needs and our needs. With running the multitenant service, we also need to ensure that we do regular customisations for our enhanced clients – this means putting together branded pages, with changes of the texts on the static pages, changing the colours and updating logos. We also need to manage user expectations coming from various requests via helpdesk emails and user groups. The balancing act is important when we want to ensure that our collaboration with CDL on bigger longer-term planning of the future of the tool is planned alongside the day to day needs of fixing bugs, working on contractual work and other requests that are important to our community. It is ongoing learning process to get all these strands right.
Last but not least...
If you have any further thoughts and ideas or take to take part in the upcoming user groups, please contact us at email@example.com and feel free to contact us at the details below: