CBSG meeting November 14, 2003, El Roble Puntarenas, Costa Rica


Working Group Participants



Bruce Bohmke

Woodland Park Zoo

Duncan Bolton

Bristol Zoo Gardens

Jeffrey Bonner

St. Louis Zoo

Dan Brands

Great Plains Zoo

Frands Carlsen

Copenhagen Zoo

Sue DuBois


Nate Flesness


Jo Gipps

Bristol Zoo Gardens

Kazuyoshi Itoh

Tokyo Zoo

Dennis Meritt

Depaul University

Magaly Ojeda

FUNPZA Venezuela

Mark Stanley Price

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

Radoslaw Ratajszczak

Poznan Zoo

Karin Schwartz

Milwaukee County Zoo

Beth Stevens


Kazutoshi Takami

Osaka Zoo

Eric Tsao

Taipei Zoo

Dave Wildt

National Zoo

 The International Animal Data Information Systems Committee (IADISC),, serves as a global forum for the user community’s participation in the planning, design, development, and deployment of a new Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS),

 The ZIMS Project was initiated in 2001 by the user community and ISIS to address the need for an improved global animal information system and is currently managed by ISIS. 

IADISC was established in 2001 to ensure international user representation in the process throughout the building of ZIMS. The most recent annual meeting was held November 12-13, 2003 in Costa Rica.  This particular meeting was important in defining the specific responsibilities that IADISC has in supporting the ZIMS Project. IADISC representatives include: 

·         ACOPAZOA – Maria Clara Dominquez

·         AMACZOOA – Danilo Leandro

·         ARAZPA – Kevin Johnson

·         AZA – Bruce Bohmke, Robert Erhardt, Bob Cook, Andy Odum, Sue DuBois

·         CAZA – John Carnio

·         EAZA – Frands Carlsen, Duncan Bolton

·         FUNPZA – Magaly Ojeda

·         JAZA – Kazuyoshi Itoh, Kazutoshi Takami

·         PAAZAB – Ian Espie, Dave Morgan

·         SAZARC – Sally Walker

·         SEAZA - pending

·         Taiwan – Eric Tsao

ZIMS Project Update

In Phase I of the ZIMS Project, a high-level plan, mission and charter defining the scope of ZIMS and development cost estimate were created. In Phase II, an RFP (Request for Proposals) was developed with detailed description core and veterinary system requirements. In July 2003, ISIS hired a full-time ZIMS Project Manager and Chief Technology Officer, Syed Hassan. Subsequently, the RFP for ZIMS development was released in September, 2003. An international evaluation committee is currently reviewing proposals from 9 vendors. The selected vendor will begin design and development of ZIMS in early 2004.   The ZIMS capital campaign has so far raised over $3 million in written and verbal pledges from more than 100 institutions for the first phase of ZIMS development (core and veterinary to replace ARKS, SPARKS and MedARKS) and has plans to broaden the campaign to corporate and foundation sources.

The initial high-level estimate for the completion of ZIMS, including several modules beyond this Phase 1, was roughly $26 million. Phase 1 was estimated at $10 Million. It is important to note that a significant portion of this estimate includes the cost for professional documentation, preparation of sophisticated materials needed by the software vendor, and for ‘consensus adjustment’. Consensus adjustment represents the cost for gaining agreement on how the system is designed particularly since it may result in changes to business processes and will absolutely require the review and development of new data standards. This will require many workshops. Because much of this work must be performed by the users of the system, IADISC will play an important role in facilitating user involvement, engaging new stakeholders in the process and communication project and system progress.  Thus, a large part of the cost for consensus adjustment will be offset by the volunteer efforts of IADISC, workshop participants and their institutions. The ISIS Board is addressing ways to meet the operational costs for supporting ZIMS which were not included in the development estimate. 

Role of IADISC

The role of IADISC includes:

·        Promoting and coordinating the involvement of Subject Matter Experts in the ZIMS design workshops and standards workshops.

·        Promoting Data Quality – though this will be primarily done by regional ADISCs

·        Increasing global representation

·        Supporting the implementation of ZIMS by:

Communicating project activities and progress to the user community

Ensuring that regional training needs are defined and addressed

Helping users adapt to changing business processes

Facilitating user acceptance testing of ZIMS

Diverse and equitable representation from all regions of the world has been a primary objective of IADISC and it will continue to seek contacts in new regions both for membership in IADISC and participation in workshops.  

In 2004, Subject Matter Experts will be needed for 4-8 design sessions with the vendor for both core and veterinary development. In addition, 12-20 standards workshops will be necessary to address the many categories identified needing standardization for both core and veterinary data. IADISC members will be seeking Subject Matter Experts in their respective regions that fit a specific list of criteria. An initial list is already in progress.

Preliminary workshop venues are being explored where the most cost-effective participation can be achieved. Subject Matter Experts will include stakeholders and experts external to zoological institutions to ensure that the design and standards have extended value.

Data Standards Process

A proposed process drafted by ZIMS Project team members (for developing data standards) was reviewed and endorsed by IADISC at the Costa Rica meeting. The chart below outlines the general steps through which a proposed data standard would flow (proposal, development, implementation, and review) and identifies the specific responsibilities that the community, ISIS, IADISC, and the regional stakeholders will have in the process.  

The discussion of a standards development process is very important and has not been done before. This is essential as the basis for the software development process. We are also developing, testing and formalizing new organizational structures (such as IADISC) and their interactions and roles.

Questions and Comments from the group:

During discussion the following questions were addressed by the group:

Will ZIMS include other modules such as Nutrition?

The first release of ZIMS includes core (inventory) and veterinary functionality plus a data warehouse.  The full nutrition module will be included in future releases of ZIMS although some basic elements are included in the veterinary module.

Are existing animal database systems, both current ISIS software and institutional applications, being examined by the developers of ZIMS?

Yes, the ZIMS Project Team is utilizing existing knowledge of animal systems and specifically analyzing existing technical systems design documentation.  The ZIMS Project Team is interested in acquiring any additional information about other existing animal database applications.  

Has there been a cost/benefit analysis of ZIMS? What value does ZIMS provide over existing systems?

Several business case statements have been developed to explain the benefit of ZIMS but there is still more work to be done.  One example of a cost savings is the decrease need for duplicate data entry by studbook keepers who will utilize the central database rather than create studbooks from scratch. It is roughly estimated that this could save $1M/year in labour savings across the user institutions.  This most likely will not result in reduced staff levels, but instead increase productivity and capacity, in the same way that modern office information tools, accounting systems, and membership management systems do. The benefits of higher data quality and better access to data are difficult to quantify though are recognized as being significant to our community activities

How will the operating costs of ZIMS be financed?

Nate Flesness reported on ISIS’s plans to expand capacity to support ZIMS in the future.  The ISIS Board is addressing the need for funding.

How will the community be kept aware of the benefits of ZIMS as they develop?

The ZIMS Project Team and IADISC both have developed communication plans.   ISIS will also be hiring a communication officer.

Have you thought of a test plan?

Yes, the details of the plan will not be established until after the vendor is on board and the project schedule is better defined. A test plan is very important and the users must be involved in both the development of the plan and the testing. IADISC will support ISIS in implementing a test plan and suggest suitable user testers.