Delivering a digital strategy in uncertain times

Over the last 15 years, we have been developing digital products, services and experiences at Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT). The approach has grown organically, experimenting with new approaches and technologies. However, as the pandemic hit we knew it was time to take a different approach. With limited resources and lots of different types of digital work to do. Like many of our colleagues in many other cultural organisations, we found ourselves overwhelmed and stretched to capacity. With new CEO’s joining who both know about the power and value of digital, it became clear that there was an opportunity to get more strategic about how we approach developing, delivering and maintaining digital products and services. Thanks to Arts Council England funding, we’ve been able to develop our digital strategy.

We’re going to let Frankly, Green + Webb, our partners on this project describe the approach we’ve taken over the past few months and then in the coming weeks we’ll share the outcomes of the work.

Frankly, Green + Webb

Can you deliver a digital strategy in the middle of such uncertain times? This was a question asked of us during our interview at BMT. Our response? This is exactly when you need a digital strategy.

When everything around you is shifting, you need to know what you should and – just as importantly – shouldn’t be focusing on. You need to set your course to your desired destination and yet, you also have to be responsive to the changing weather around you. As the saying goes “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best is right now.”

However, strategies get a hard time. Too many of us have come across a strategy two years into the five year plan and it’s completely irrelevant and unloved. Developed by someone (often a consultant) after a series of workshops. A laundry list of goals, objectives and tasks shrouded in the latest buzzwords and ideas – a set of pronouncements of what will change after you deliver the 12 point action plan.

Without buy-in, ownership not just from the project owner but the whole organisation, these plans are doomed to fail. For the project owner, attempts to change things meet with what feels like consistent resistance against the beliefs, behaviours and systems of the organisation. For the people “being changed”, there’s confusion and frustration at not being heard or understood.

So, BMT’s digital strategy needed to be ambitious, timely, responsive and owned by the organisation.

We pitched a co-designed digital strategy crafted by those that will deliver it. A participatory, bottom up, rather than top down method adapted from a Technologies of Participation model. The approach looks at whole system, acknowledges the complexity of the system, supports people to be both intuitive, creative, analytical and strategic. The plan is designed to remain adaptive as the people delivering the plan learn and understand what is needed.

We broke the project down into three phases, combining research, consultancy and co-creation to give the team the balance of input and control that they needed.

  1. Discovery – investigating what is happening internally and externally
  2. Insights and recommendations – using our experience and expertise to make recommendations of the opportunities and challenges
  3. Collaborative Strategic Planning – working with the team to create their own strategy. A set of strategic directions for the next years, with a 12 month road map and a 3 month action plan plus a set of digital principles.

The final question we were asked in our interview was will you be open and transparent about what you did and learned along the way. And we said, always – telling this journey and process from our point of view. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing the story of the last 5 months.

By Lindsey Green, co-founder of Frankly, Green + Webb.

One thought on “Delivering a digital strategy in uncertain times

  1. Pingback: Digging into digital at Birmingham Museums Trust – Experiments at Birmingham Museums Trust

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