Developed by the European Commission, Europeana is a nonprofit organization that offers an online platform for cultural materials. These come from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums from all over Europe that want to share their collections with a wider audience. Its mission is to transform the world with culture, building on Europe’s rich heritage and making it easier for people to use it – either for professional, educational or recreational purposes. The organization aims to promote its materials on the web as widely as possible, helping both institutions and interested individuals.
The old situation
When Europeana realized that its large-scale project demanded expertise beyond its in-house capacity, the organization embarked on a general search for a solid partner that was well-versed in large-scale, performance-intensive work. It was looking for a willingness to jointly explore uncharted territory, as Europeana’s project was as unprecedented as it was innovative. With no analogues in the field, the organization wished to join forces with a company that would not require a clear-cut definition beforehand, but that would rather define it in consultation.
After meeting with a few other companies, Europeana came across Busy Machines, which instantly evoked the feeling that the types of concerns related to the project would be addressed correctly. The organization felt that Busy Machines was a company that understood the complexity of its project, would be willing to take on the challenge of developing it, and would find it interesting to work on it together. To Europeana, it was important to not be ‘one of thousands,’ and the level of empathy that it found in BusyMachines’ approach ensured that this requirement would be met.
Benefits of working with BusyMachines
Experience and expertise
Willingness to take on a challenge
Understanding of complex issues
Ability to empathize
“Our project was about building infrastructure to extract technical information about stored media” explains Pavel Kats, Chief Technology Officer at Europeana: “High-resolution artwork scanning, photographs, historical documents, and footage: institutions that we work with have stored these media. We wanted to extract technical data such as resolution, length, video or audio and colors to simplify the search process for people. We have a huge database containing several tens of millions of objects, which is why we wanted to enable them to initiate highly specific searches based on color, size, video length, and other concrete characteristics that are usually unavailable at archives.”
“BusyMachines brought a thorough understanding of technology to the table. This type of project requires distributed computing, where you develop a system that works on a big number of servers. They were up to the task, and we were able to report errors so these could be solved quickly.”
“We knew that there is a lot of expertise in Eastern Europe, but we also wanted to work with a local partner whose expertise would match our needs,” says Pavel. “We really liked that BusyMachines had a Dutch branch as well, combining the best of both worlds. We chose them intentionally, and it was a good choice. It is a great company with a great team, and I believe success lies ahead for them.”
Local presence meets Eastern-European expertise: BusyMachines combines the best of both worlds.
The complexity of Europeana’s project was not easy to grasp, which is why finding a competent partner was paramount: “It takes a certain level of understanding to combine, control, and manage machines, and comprehending how they work together while maintaining overview is no simple task,” says Pavel, explaining that there are particular processes and frameworks for carrying out these types of projects. “BusyMachines definitely had the required knowledge. They helped us run a technology assessment to decide which framework we should use. This technology choice has proven to be fruitful.”
BusyMachines’ tech choices and solutions have proven to be fruitful.
Developing the project has been a long and demanding process that has regularly put the team at crossroads requiring decisiveness: “BusyMachines has been great at understanding complexity and offering the right tools at the right stage. I believe that we have learned a lot from each other in terms of expertise and project management. It has been a bumpy road at times – which is always going to be the case with these types of projects – but in the end, we implemented what we had in mind. And BusyMachines’ guidance has been indispensable.”
This strong-held collaboration has allowed us to solve things together.
When asked about the future, Pavel’s opinion is clear: “I would say that our collaboration with BusyMachines has been, and will likely continue to be, strong-held. While working together, we obviously ran into a few issues, but we solved these together. For example, project management was something that we both underestimated a bit at the start, but we’ve learned a lot and we’ve come a long way.” The way BusyMachines handles hurdles is also an important factor: “It is definitely a customer-friendly company. The people that we work with are pleasant all the time!”
“BusyMachines in five words? Promising, ambitious, knowledgeable, friendly, and forward-looking.”