Digital strategy in evolution: Issues and responses emerging from the project to develop a digital transformation strategy for Museum Victoria
Wendy Pryor, Museums Victoria, Australia
AbstractMuseum Victoria (MV) in Melbourne, Australia, has strongly progressed along the digital path. Even so, we decided to create a digital transformation strategy to confirm and elaborate on our commitment to digital transformation as expressed in our overarching strategic plan. A broad survey of the digital terrain in museums and beyond was undertaken before and during the project to create the "Digital Transformation Strategy 2015–2020" (DTS). During the intensive period of strategy development, the focus inevitably narrowed as we developed our own individual digital transformation strategy using a defined project management approach. As the project neared completion, the focus expanded again as the implications of our ambition became clearer: the impacts and issues that would need to be addressed in order to deliver the comprehensive roadmap of projects while simultaneously remaining open to new digital possibilities, opportunities, and demands. The solution was to create a balance between digital aspirations and development principles (how we will do digital) and the categories and roadmap of projects (what we will do). The paper thus comprises two parts: 1. Project process to develop the DTS, and the resulting DTS 2. Issues emerging from the DTS and MV responses: a. Strategy versus digital strategy: Which to develop? b. Change versus transformation versus disruption: What is the goal? c. Stability versus agility: What is the role for ICT? d. Sourcing technical development capability: Buy, build, or borrow? e. Cloud as a service delivery model: What is its role? f. Choosing a project delivery method: Agile or waterfall? Writing a strategy is intensive, demanding, and challenging. If they are truly fit-for-purpose, no two strategies will be alike. However, sharing process, outcomes, issues, and responses has value beyond Museum Victoria. In the end, there are no hard and fast answers beyond understanding your stakeholders, your museum, and your goals—and working to deliver them.
Keywords: digital, strategy, transformation, agile, bimodal, cloud
Museum Victoria (MV) in Melbourne, Australia, decided to create a Digital Transformation Strategy 2015–2020 (DTS) to confirm and elaborate our commitment to digital transformation. During the intensive period of strategy development, the focus inevitably narrowed as we developed our DTS using a defined project management approach.
The focus expanded again as the project neared completion and the implications of our ambition became clearer: the impacts and issues that would need to be addressed in order to deliver the comprehensive roadmap of projects while simultaneously remaining open to new digital possibilities, opportunities, and demands. This paper is divided into two parts: project process to develop the DTS, and the resulting DTS; and issues emerging from the DTS with MV responses.
Setting the scene
MV is the largest museums organisation in Australasia. Comprising Melbourne Museum (incorporating Bunjilaka), Scienceworks, the Immigration Museum, and the Royal Exhibition Building, we host two million visitors annually. The collection of more than seventeen million objects covers natural sciences, Indigenous cultures, social history, science, and technology.
My role is Head, Digital and Emerging Technologies (DET). My team of over twenty staff:
- Delivers foundation technical services including infrastructure, network connectivity, and voice and data communications to power digital activity throughout MV
- Implements, supports, and maintains business critical applications
- Develops and supports Museum Victoria websites and mobile apps
- Provides inspiration, consultancy, advice, and help on all matters digital
The scope of my role explains the inclusion of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the DTS and some of the issues elaborated in the second part of this paper.
Impetus and scope for the creation of the Digital Transformation Strategy 2015–2020
The Museum Victoria Strategic Plan 2013–2018 positions us to meet the challenges of our changing environment and ensures that we continue to play a central role in the vibrant cultural life of Victoria. The plan includes five strategic directions:
- Deepening Connections
- Investing in Knowledge, Expertise, and Collections
- Organisational Resilience
- Building Victoria’s Cultural Capital
- Digital Transformation
The focus on digital transformation made explicit the importance of digital for our future, emphasised the need to show digital leadership, and provided direction for change. This was the impetus for the creation of the DTS. Its purpose was to provide organisation-wide direction and focus on agreed digital approaches and activities to result in maximum digital transformation aligned to MV’s goals.
The scope for the DTS was decided in a project articulation workshop with key stakeholders. The scope of digital activity was described as unlimited: the museum experience (delivered both on site and for virtual visitors)—as well as business efficiency, technology infrastructure, staff capability, and project governance—were included.
My role in the creation of the DTS was project manager and author.
2. Part 1: Project process to develop the DTS, and the resulting DTS
Project process to develop the DTS
The project to develop the DTS consisted of six phases, each producing defined outputs. The bulk of the activity occurred between November 2014 and June 2015.
|Project articulation workshop||Working definition of digital transformation
Scope and inclusions for the strategy
Stakeholders to be consulted
Risks to successfully creating the strategy
|Definition phase||Project definition and plan document
Project Steering Group (PSG) and project team
DTS content and quality plan
Draft communications plan
|Discovery phase||Analysis of research on digital trends and strategies
Consultation workshops with more than 100 internal and external stakeholders
Initial analysis of more than 120 ideas generated from workshops
|Execution phase||Drafts of digital aspirations
Classification and prioritisation of ideas for the roadmap of digital projects
Drafts and reviews of the DTS
|Approval phase||DTS endorsements and approval
DTS socialisation and communication
Table 1: DTS project phases and outputs
The DTS was underpinned throughout by extensive knowledge of, and research about, the evolving digital landscape within and beyond museums. This was shared with staff during the consultation phase as impetus to their creative thinking. Consulting a range of staff was beneficial to understand their “pain points” and aspirations for the digital museum, particularly in relation to business efficiency and staff capability. Aspirations for improved visitor experience were filtered against our existing audience research.
DTS content and quality plan
The content plan and quality acceptance criteria for the DTS were articulated early in the project to help us to maintain focus. Acceptance criteria are the standards required to satisfy the quality expectations of the PSG.
|Contents||Aligns with MV Strategic Plan 2013–2018.
Matches the agreed table of contents, including:
|Audience||Museum staff and other professionals who may not have detailed knowledge of digital trends and do not necessarily possess a technical vocabulary.|
|Writing style||The style features:
|Tone||The overall tone of the content:
|Accuracy||Reflects the agreed project inputs, including:
Table 2: examples of quality acceptance criteria for the DTS
The key deliverable of the strategy development project was, of course, the Digital Transformation Strategy 2015–2020. This was approved by the Museums Board of Victoria in August 2015.
Components of the Digital Transformation Strategy 2015–2020
The completed DTS comprised six components:
- Six aspirations
- Eight development principles
- Six categories of digital transformation
- Roadmap of digital initiatives
- Governance for delivery
- Digital Transformation Strategy success criteria
The digital aspirations set the overall direction for digital transformation. They apply to the roadmap of digital initiatives, new digital projects that are not yet envisaged, and new technologies that are not yet invented.
Digital by default: New products and services will be digital by default. Existing services will move from offline to digital channels using the MV development principles. Those who can’t use digital services must not be excluded.
Easy and convenient: New digital services will be so easy and convenient for visitors and staff that all those who can use them will choose to do so. For staff, this requires a consumer-like digital environment to facilitate dynamic work.
Risk aware, not risk averse: MV will be risk aware, not risk averse. Risk will be identified, analysed, and managed. MV will dare to try, know when to stop, and learn from failures without apportioning blame.
Interoperable, modular, reusable: IT systems will share information and will be modular and reusable with high availability, reliability, and security. This will provide maximum technical agility and flexibility.
Beyond our walls: Digital services will burst the museum experience beyond the walls of our buildings through sharing collections, programs, and exhibitions with virtual visitors anywhere, anytime. New standards and processes will facilitate this outcome.
Digital experiences on site: Exhibitions, programs, and events will be remarkable: enlivened, enriched, and enhanced by planned and integrated digital experiences delivered seamlessly and effortlessly by technologies that are easy to use for visitors.
Eight development principles
Execution of the roadmap of digital initiatives will be governed by eight development principles, which will also govern new digital projects added under the banner of the DTS during its lifetime.
Scale is no barrier: Digital initiatives deliver value for money irrespective of scale. This means that high investment must deliver high rewards.
Organisational driver is clear: Digital solutions are linked to desired MV outcomes.
Solutions are underpinned by evidence: Digital solutions are underpinned by effective stakeholder consultation, audience research, and visitor data.
The right product from the right source: Based on an assessment of project requirements and risk, digital solutions are sourced from core MV digital skills and technologies, popular digital channels, or external suppliers, in a manner that is commercially astute.
Solutions deliver benefits quickly: Digital solutions deliver business benefits only when they are released; therefore, solutions are released as early and as often as they deliver benefits.
Standards facilitate reuse and sharing: Pragmatic standards are applied to achieve best practice, maximise reuse, minimise rework, and deliver predictable and repeatable results.
Digital solutions are easy and ubiquitous: Digital solutions are easy to use and available to their audience when and where they are needed, on whichever devices facilitate use. Disability is no barrier to use.
Digital projects are delivered: Digital projects are delivered using sufficient project management to be successful and to meet compliance requirements.
The six aspirations and eight development principles describe the approach to digital transformation—how it will be achieved. The aspirations and development principles apply irrespective of the number of projects delivered; thus, the DTS is scalable.
Six categories of digital transformation with roadmap of initiatives
A strategy is “shelfware” until it is brought to life by the initiatives or projects that will deliver the desired outcomes. Broadly, the extent of digital transformation will be determined by the number and scale of initiatives delivered. The DTS includes six categories of digital transformation, each delivering its own outcome. Each outcome will be achieved by defined initiatives related to the category. These initiatives are described in a detailed roadmap, with at least four initiatives for each category. The word “initiative” was chosen deliberately; stakeholder consultation articulated some approaches (guiding ideas), some directions (lacking defined deliverables), and some projects (with defined deliverables) for inclusion in the roadmap.
Information about each roadmap initiative includes its name, description, status (active, planned, new, approach), approximate cost (high, medium, low), and outcomes.
|#||Digital transformation category||Category outcome||Brief examples of roadmap initiatives|
|1.||On-site visitor experience is digitally enhanced||Visitor experiences are enhanced by reducing delay and frustration while increasing enjoyment, engagement, and all the positive aspects of the museum experience.||Develop a welcome experience for visitors
Plan digital into every experience from the start
|2.||Online/off-site visitor experience delivers the museum experience||The collections, programs, and exhibitions are released beyond the walls of the museums so that virtual or off-site visitors can enjoy the museum experience.||Replace or upgrade the ticketing system
Complete the redevelopment of the MV website
|3.||Business systems enhance our efficiency||Internal activities are sleeker to increase business efficiency, facilitate staff interaction, and streamline collecting processes. New activities yield benefits for staff, visitors, and virtual visitors.||Enable staff to digitally collaborate
|4.||ICT infrastructure and staff support and enable digital initiatives||Information and communications technology staff, infrastructure, network, storage, systems, and policies enable MV to achieve its digital goals.||Develop a cloud overview and an approach to “2-speed IT”
Introduce a startup lab for research and development initiatives
|5.||Staff are digitally aware, empowered, and ready||Staff acquire the digital skills, competencies, awareness, and desire to embrace technologies that improve their working lives.||Establish a digital Community of Interest for all staff
Audit existing and required digital skills
|6.||Governance leads to outcomes||Judicious governance facilitates delivery of the roadmap of digital initiatives described by the DTS.||Establish a Digital Strategy Oversight Group
Establish a Community of Practice to develop digital standards and methodologies
Table 3: categories of digital transformation, category outcomes, and brief examples of digital initiatives from the roadmap
Phasing of roadmap initiatives, with budget, is suggested for the first three years of the DTS. In the shifting world of digital, new digital proposals will continue to emerge. These will be evaluated for their impact on delivering the roadmap. Priorities may change depending on available budget, direction of digital evolution, and MV’s appetite for change.
Governance for delivery
The breadth of initiatives in the roadmap means that project ownership will be distributed across many departments. This requires “light-touch” governance to retain oversight without stifling activity. Goals for governance of the DTS are that the process should:
- Maintain a central overview of digital activity and progress
- Create minimum additional bureaucracy by using existing reporting systems
- Understand interdependencies between projects
- Eliminate inconsistencies in projects or deliverables
- Clarify priorities if one project’s delay impacts another project due to resource availability
- Build in periodic evaluations of the aspirations, development principles, and roadmap in order to recommend changes
- Meet compliance requirements
DTS success criteria
The success of the DTS will be measured by the:
- Number of roadmap initiatives that are delivered
- Degree to which each initiative meets its individual success criteria, including its uptake by staff and visitors
- Degree to which the six categories of transformation are achieved by delivering the roadmap of initiatives
- Degree to which each initiative delivered embodies the six digital aspirations and eight development principles
- Degree to which a new digital product or service completely replaces an old (rather than the two running in parallel)
- Degree to which processes are streamlined as they become digitally enabled, so that new “off-the-shelf” software is minimally customised
Key messages from the DTS
Our communications plan included these messages:
DTS is decentralised: It belongs to all of MV; it aligns with existing strategies, initiatives, and department plans and will involve significant changes in work practices.
DTS is scalable: Digital aspirations, development principles, transformation categories, and governance are relevant irrespective of the number of initiatives undertaken.
DTS is achievable: Easy wins will be delivered first to gain traction.
DTS is endless: MV will never be digitally transformed. MV will be digitally transforming. And a paradox follows…
DTS is finite: Ultimate success is that digital thinking becomes embedded in our culture as the key enabler.
3. Part 2: Issues emerging from the DTS, with observations and MV responses
Strategy versus digital strategy: Which to develop?
Two key schools of thought relate to the vexed question of the need to develop a digital strategy:
“Digital isn’t merely a thing—it’s a new way of doing things. Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model. Incentives and culture.” (Rickards et al., 2015)
“Truth be told, the museum may need a proper digital strategy document, or even one for each department. The new strategy docs will be superfluous in a few years, as digital permeates the organization—but they will make digital more than a personal crusade or a boardroom buzzword. They can be a sustainable roadmap that recruits influencers and compatriots. The strategy can paint a vision and plot a path of transitional, transformational steps.” (Weinard, 2014)
The endgame is that digital is infused throughout the whole organisation as the key enabler. Digital strategy may be a necessary tactical stage to focus activity, but eventually will be redundant.
The decision to create a strategy versus a digital strategy could be based on:
- The degree to which digital is already embedded in the museum
- The degree to which staff are pushing for digital products and services to assist them in their work, both audience-facing and behind the scenes
- The level of understanding of the potential for digital to advance the work of the museum
- Aspirations for visitor experiences, both inside the museum and remotely
- Maturity, clarity, and specificity of the current vision for digital
I enjoyed the luxury of joining a museum that acknowledged the importance of digital transformation in its Strategic Plan 2013–2018. This drove the development of the DTS and then the realisation that digital is inextricably embedded in the main game of delivering a superlative museum experience for on-site and online visitors, and providing an efficient and enjoyable working experience for staff.
Change versus transformation versus disruption: What is the goal?
Transformation is bigger and riskier than change, but disruption is even bigger. All may be desirable in the context of an organisation’s goals. Ashkenas (2015) explores the difference between change and transformation, noting that:
“Change management means implementing finite initiatives, which may or may not cut across the organization. The focus is on executing a well-defined shift in the way things work. It’s not easy, but we do know a lot more today about what to do.”
Rodley (2015) says of digital transformation:
“[W]e’re groping after something big, complicated, and unknown, feeling our way around something we can’t yet articulate succinctly. Secondly, it’s a non-technical title because what I’m calling “digital” transformation is, at its most fundamental level, not about digital technologies, but about people, mindsets, relationships, and things.”
Digital disruption equals massive change. It may be disturbing, disorientating, exciting, and energising. According to Riddell (2015), the concept emerged almost twenty years ago. Disruptive innovation:
“referred to the way new ideas and technologies could be deliberately employed to upset the status quo, redefine industry best practice and change the very rules of the game…Fast-forward to 2015 and the meaning of the term ‘digital disruption’ has morphed significantly. Now it’s a buzz-phrase used to describe the impact new digital technologies are having across all industries and sectors.”
Riddell notes a fundamental redistribution of power away from:
- Institutions and into the hands of citizens and consumers
- Big, slower-moving corporations to smaller, more agile businesses that can innovate quickly
- Slow adopters of more customer-centred business models to businesses able to successfully engage with customers at a deeper level
Transformation demands an ambitious scale of change. Practically, digital transformation is more likely to blossom from a series of incremental changes than from no changes at all. I have adopted a definition of innovation as “change that adds value,” and I celebrate each one. This helps to create a digitally innovative culture with the potential to initiate and contribute to larger and more influential projects. We monitor areas of possible disruption while focussing on transformation.
Stability versus agility: What is the role for ICT?
Meeting the demands of digital transformation while maintaining foundation Information Technology (IT) services is a significant challenge.
“Unlike enterprises that are born digital, most established museums don’t have the luxury of starting with a clean slate; they must build a technical architecture designed for the digital enterprise on a legacy foundation. The challenge is to continuously deliver new functionality and improve services without stopping to alter the technical architecture.” (Bossert et al., 2014)
Developing bimodal or two-speed IT is a possible solution to this challenge. Gartner (2015) offers a neat definition:
“Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and nonlinear, emphasizing agility and speed.”
Two distinct IT speeds and a middle ground are described by Cuomo (2015):
- Steady Speed IT runs stable, mission-critical systems that are always available. Steady-speed IT tends to run on dedicated or protected infrastructure to handle predictable, high-volume workloads—often key systems in the enterprise data centre. It uses approaches and methodologies that provide control, security, and transactional integrity to ensure that critical business needs are met.
- Fast Speed IT uses agile, fast techniques to explore, adopt, and adapt to new opportunities and then embrace the ones that stick. High Speed is characterised by rapid iteration and prototyping and leverages emerging tools and platforms.
- Meeting in the Middle describes organisations finding that it is no longer sufficient just to live in the Steady Speed world but realising that breakthroughs achieved in the Fast Speed domain don’t deliver real business value until they are integrated into core systems. The “meet in the middle” methodology is based upon controlled, real-time access to core systems and the movement of digital assets to the edge for use in the Fast Speed initiatives.
The Digital and Emerging Technologies department at MV delivers both foundation ICT services and internal development and innovation. This means that bimodal IT is a practical possibility for us. Our first initiative is to identify our digital “crown jewels” (both data and applications) to which we must apply steady speed principles. Fast speed can then be applied to the remainder, with some “meeting in the middle” for exchange of digital assets.
Sourcing technical development capability: Buy, build, or borrow?
One of the development principles for the MV DTS is “The right product from the right source.” We have identified at least three possible sources:
- Build: Insource from core MV digital skills and technologies to remove dependency on external partners.
- Buy: Outsource from external suppliers to reduce risk and increase benefits from accessing multiple suppliers.
- Borrow: Use popular digital channels, such as social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, to access ready-made products.
These pros and cons of outsourcing and insourcing are adapted from Parker and Lynch (2015).
- You can access talented people all over the world
- You can focus on your core business while functions like finance and IT are handled elsewhere
- Great for delivering seasonal work
- Adds instant expertise without long-term commitment
- Lack of control over the quality of work
- Can be expensive to remedy substandard work
- Lack of relationships with key staff members
- Work is performed by people without knowledge of your culture
- You control the quality of the work and the people performing it
- Shows an investment in the workforce that is good for morale
- Full-time employees have a stake in your success
- Enhanced synergy among different departments and within teams
- Requires more money and resources than outsourcing
- Ceasing relationships with outsourcing companies can be difficult
- Rebuilding an entire team can be expensive and time consuming
- Increases the need to provide training for staff
Sourcing solutions are driven by urgency, need for confidentiality, duration of need (short term versus ongoing), strategic versus non-strategic work, quality, cost, availability of talent, and business goals.
Our solution to sourcing is broadly based on uniqueness versus ubiquity. We will build unique products (our internal digital dashboard displaying metrics sourced daily from data feeds) or highly individualised products (our MV Collections website, which displays a complex array of data sources). We will buy commercially available business applications such as ticketing or events management systems. We will borrow popular digital channels for Museum interactions with the public.
Cloud as a service delivery model: What is its role?
Cloud computing has added a new level of choice to digital procurement. The cloud can be understood as a metaphor: for the user, services are invisible as if obscured by a cloud. The first use of the cloud was the introduction of search engines (Yahoo) and Web-based email (Hotmail) in the 1990s, and it kept growing (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.).
Cloud is a delivery mechanism, not a technology. At its best, cloud computing ushers in a new era of choice through expanded delivery models:
- On-demand self-service for infrastructure and applications
- Lower costs through resource sharing
- Elasticity to accommodate peaks and troughs for digital storage
Three common types of cloud are described in Wikipedia (2016):
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): offers a computer infrastructure that is immediately accessible and ready to use by adding your choice of operating system, middleware, data, and applications.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): offers a computing platform and/or software stack as a service to which you can add data and applications.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): provides services, accessible via a browser, directly to the end user. Examples are online event management systems or customer relationship management systems.
Possible risks to consider for cloud adoption are:
- If you outsource an essential function such as email, you’ll be relying on the Internet. What happens when the Internet is down?
- If you mix and match your software on site with your software in the cloud, who exactly is responsible when it breaks?
- Once you’ve sent your essential data to the cloud, how do you know it’s secure? How do you know it’s not being passed to third parties?
- Even when your data is in the cloud, you’re still responsible for it. Where is your data stored, and does it meet your compliance standards?
- And what if you wish to move your data? How do you get it back?
Acknowledging business value as the top priority, our key question is “How can we use cloud?” Clarity about our ICT standards, solution requirements, and risk profile will enable us to make the best sourcing decision.
Choosing a project delivery method: Agile or waterfall?
Three of our development principles (Scale is no barrier, Solutions deliver benefits quickly, Digital projects are delivered) touch on project delivery. Two popular approaches are waterfall and agile. Methodology is critical because transformation depends on delivering the roadmap of projects.
The Victorian Government CIO Council (2013) offers the following explanations:
- Agile is a project delivery methodology that originated in software development projects. It relies on close work with customers throughout development of products, rather than development and sign-off of detailed specifications. To successfully deliver projects using Agile, organisations need tightly defined deliverables, an experienced client with ability to commit resources, empowered teams, and fast decision making.
- Waterfall originated in the manufacturing and construction industries. The waterfall model maintains that each activity in a sequence (initiation, design, execution, testing, and closing) must be completed and signed off before the next one begins. The central idea is that time spent early on requirements and design saves time and effort later, and there is considerable emphasis on documentation.
The following comparisons are adapted from Okwumabua (2013).
|Best for large projects that are highly complex||Best for small to mid-scale projects of moderate complexity|
|May be required for risk-averse customers with rigid requirements||Tends to be beneficial for creative endeavours|
|Very effective for projects with well-defined scope||Ideal for customers who don’t have a fully formed concept of what they need|
|Better protected from disruption if team members leave midway through||Delivers some value fast even if the project is interrupted or closed early|
|Best fit for hierarchical organisational structures where team members expect clear instruction and direction||Great for organisations that have solid teamwork and collaboration; communication is paramount|
|Has a level of accountability and delivers expected value (if all does reasonably well)||Extremely flexible with the potential to deliver better than expected outcomes|
Table 4: comparison of advantages of two project management methodologies
Choosing a project methodology will be determined by the project team and the end users. In some cases a hybrid methodology will be used.
|Develop a new app by adapting existing code||Small||Build||Agile|
|Develop a philanthropy module for the CRM||Medium||Combination of Build and Buy||Waterfall for specifying, Agile for building|
|Introduce a new ticketing system||Large||Buy||Waterfall|
Table 5: summary of MV’s approach to choosing a project management methodology.
Writing a strategy is intensive, demanding, and challenging. If they are truly fit-for-purpose, no two strategies will be alike. In the end, there are no hard and fast answers beyond understanding your stakeholders, your museum, and your goals—and working to deliver them—using digital as the great enabler, understanding that the landscape will keep changing, that you will never be bored, and that you will never finish.
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Pryor, Wendy. "Digital strategy in evolution: Issues and responses emerging from the project to develop a digital transformation strategy for Museum Victoria." MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016. Published January 24, 2016. Consulted .