SWOT Analysis

Here are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats of the project, as estimated by Lisa and Phil during an informal project meeting over coffee. Following standard SWOT procedures (I used info and templates from businessballs.com and CIPD for guidance), Strengths and Weaknesses are internal and Opportunities and Threats are external. We think the “internals” of the project comprise the project team (our skills and connections to others) and the idea itself and the approach to realising it; the “externals” are the users, the sux0r project, the JISC environment and others (e.g. commercial interests, our host institution and the wider HE system).

(The points are numbered for ease of referencing, not for ordering.)

Strengths

  1. We think we’re starting with a good idea, at least in principle; an innovative solution to a recognized need.
  2. Using sux0r as a starting point has given us access to existing OS code and put us in contact with a knowledgeable developer.
  3. We have a settled team who have worked well together on a number of previous projects over the last 4-10 years.
  4. We have good existing links with experts in JISC, CETIS, the IE, UKOLN, JISC services and projects (and we’re not afraid to use them).
  5. We have previous experience in related projects dealling with Journal ToC and other RSS feeds (e.g. PerX, TicTocs, GoldDust . . .).
  6. We work in close proximity to our intended test user group (which should help with encouraging engagement for the trials).

Weaknesses

  1. We have lots of new stuff to learn: this is the most deliberately RESTful development we have undertaken; we’re using a project management technique that is new to us; this is first time we’ve worked on a branch of an existing OSS project; we need more robust user trials than we’ve previously managed.
  2. We have all that to learn in a short project time frame (six months, all the team are working part time on this project).
  3. Bayesian filtering is not a complete solution. Other techniques (e.g. popularity from usage data analysis; manual over-rides to specify that that everything from some authors is important, no matter what the topic) would help identify important items but are out of scope.
  4. Bayesian filtering might not work for our users with the type of data and sources we have (see threats), though as a good academic I think this is not so much a weakness as a potential research finding.

Opportunities

  1. Working with sux0r provides an opportunity to work with an existing user base and experienced developer.
  2. Other projects in the information environment provide additional/alternative usage scenarios (but see threat 2).
  3. It may be possible to embed the output of this project into other services, e.g. TicTocs, TechXtra, JISC IE or commercial services.
  4. There is good support for RESTful development approaches.
  5. There is a good developer community in the JISCRI projects.

Threats

  1. Lack of user engagement. We don’t know that users will be as enthusiastic about this approach as we are, they might just resent disruptive technologies.
  2. Expectation mismatch (see opportunity 2 & weakness 3), possibly leading to scope creep.
  3. There might be some unexpected conflict with the sux0r project (over approach or priorities).
  4. There might be a lack of table of content information from the right journals in RSS form, or what there is might be polluted (garbage in garbage out).
  5. Competing demands on time from other projects/tasks that the team are working on (see weakness 2).

I guess some mitigation of the negative factors is called for, that will come later, but a quick reflection is that engagement with the project externals is going to be important.

The programme guidance documentation suggests that the SWOT analysis is best to be undertaken in small steps, throughout the duration of the project; and the other guidance I read suggested that it should draw on as many view points as possible. So, hopefully this isn’t the last on SWOT, and please comment on anything that has been overlooked.

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