Weeknotes 03: 2016 – Finding role models for digital projects that deliver impact

On January 26th, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

A slightly belated weeknotes this week, what with various conferences, birthdays and workshops. More on those next week. Last week was mostly about preparing for those conferences and workshops, so not a huge amount to report on that front, but I did deliver a report for an unnamed institution that raised some interesting (and somewhat familiar) issues, incidentally echoed in the Digital R&D fund’s Digital Culture report.

In reading the ACE/NESTA Digital Culture report I was struck by the degree to which organisational issues and poor basic infrastructure and systems are hampering activity. It’s something we’ve been observing across the country and seeing have a particularly significant effect on small to medium organisations and those growing rapidly through externally funded projects such as HLF projects.

While there are of course honorable exceptions we see lots of attention on:

  • Visible digital – add on experiences, often interpretation or learning based
  • Innovative tech – lots of enthusiasm for the new and the latest
  • Desire to appear relevant & up to date

And, on the other hand, far less focus on:

  • Digital literacy of the existing team
  • Basic infrastructure & systems
  • Day to day delivery of experience
  • Experience design beyond the screen
  • Data driven decision making
Stockholm, Stockholm, Stockholm, Uppland, Miljöer-Stadsmiljö, Byggnadsverk-Kommunikationsväsen-Trafikanläggning

Looking at the whole experience of a smooth running city rather than the NFC triggers on the bus stops

This would be all very well if the results suggested that this approach was delivering. But the ACE/NESTA report suggests it isn’t. Museums (they use this term to encompass galleries and heritage sites as well) are less likely to report a positive impact from digital and report generally lower levels of impact where it is seen.

There are issues around funding – the focus, structure and availability – organisational structures and how we reward organisations and individuals (are you going to get press attention and the next promotion for fixing the back end systems?).

But I also think that we haven’t had access to enough great examples and role models that can show just how powerful it can be when we focus on what can seem like, frankly, dull and not very innovative stuff. At last year’s Museums and the Web conference in Chicago I was lucky enough to hear Kevin Giglinto, who was then Vice President for Strategy & Special Initiatives for Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His talk on Building a Life-Long Patron Relationship was, for me, inspiring It was all about identifying what mattered to the organisation – life-long relationships with their audiences – figuring out what created those relationships and then using basic systems and small interventions to design new audience experiences, deliver and track results.

The project began a fair few years ago. There’s nothing new technically here – no augmented reality, wearable, visual recognition – and Kevin is no rock star. I am literally bringing you old news! But, in the spirit of ‘old dull stuff is still important’, the way in which they have used their systems to deliver real change and results for both audiences and organisation still thrills me and I believe still has relevance to all of us.

Lindsey mentioned the talk too in her review of 2015 but if you haven’t seen it, you can see a version of his talk from 2013 here – I’d love to hear your reactions and role model projects.

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