Organisational Transformation and Sustainability

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Presentation given at UKMW12, the Museums Computer Group's Museums on the Web 'Strategically Digital' conference, Wellcome Collection, London, November 30, 2012

Text of Organisational Transformation and Sustainability

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The Strategic Content Alliance

Museums on the Web: Organisational Transformation and Sustainability



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04 December 2012

If the UK is to realise the full potential of the web and every citizen to realise their own potential - in the workplace, in their places of learning and in the home - the full range of digital content needs to be made available to all, quickly, easily and in a form appropriate to the users needs.

For major research universities and world-renowned cultural institutions, history may be measured in decades or even centuries. Two years, even two particularly challenging ones, are unlikely to make much difference to the longevity of a well-established institution. In the rapidly changing world of digital content and services, however, two years can seem like a lifetime. Facebook was started in a dorm room and grew to have over 30 million registered users just three years after launch. Wikipedia, which began as an experiment in developing an open-source online encyclopedia in 2001, two years later boasted 100,000 articles, and within the following year had doubled in size, reaching one million articles. On the other hand, MySpace, which ruled the social networking scene in 2006, two short years later was surpassed by Facebook and was already beginning its decline.Sarah Phillips, A Brief History of Facebook, The Guardian (25 July 2007), of Wikipedia,,


Our supporters

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04 December 2012

For digital projects that exist within the higher education and cultural heritage sectors, the terrain may not be as volatile as it is in the commercial sector, but there are significant challenges nonetheless as new digital content projects develop, attempt to attract an audience and grow. After more than a decade of significant investment by universities and heritage organisations, as well as by the public and private funders who support digital resource development, project leaders still struggle with important and fundamental questions: What do digital resources require to be truly valuable to users? Which of these attributes are most valued, and what does it cost to support them? And finally, where do the resources financial or non-financial come from that will make them possible? Balancing the desire to achieve mission-based goals against the real-world need to pay salaries and other essential costs is a vital equation for those who wish to run successful digital enterprises in the not-for-profit sector.National Endowment for the Humanities (cut by $22 million, or a 13% reduction since 2010) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (cut by $23.3 million, or a 9.6% reduction since 2011). Entire funding programmes have even been shuttered, including the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), a $16.5-million programme within the National Science Foundation. As funding streams dry up, the fate of projects, some of which have yet to find sure footing as ongoing resources, is uncertain at best. As one programme officer noted during a roundtable meeting that we conducted in 2011, looking forward, there will be even more unsustainable projects than there are sustainable ones.Termination, Reductions, and Savings: Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2012,, p. 14.Michael Kelley, Obama Proposes $20.3 Million Reduction in Library Funding, Library Journal (14 February 2011),


Our work

Inform Mindsets

Influence Policy Agendas

Develop Digital Strategy Enhance Skills With Tools

Foster co-innovation

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04 December 2012

The rapid growth and development of digital content offers enormous and ever-growing possibilities for all citizens in the UK. But for this country to realise the full potential of the web, and for each citizen to realise their own potential in the workplace, in their places of learning, and in the home the full range of digital content needs to be made available to all, quickly, easily and in a form appropriate to individuals needs.To build a common information environment where users of publicly funded content can gain best value from the investment that has been made by reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of e-content.The SCA aims to work on behalf of the public sector holistically, from content creation to curation in health, education, museums, archives, research, public libraries in a spirit of collaboration and co-ordination. It aims to look at how this Vision can be realised through providing a set of principles and guidelines for best practice at a practitioner and policy-maker level.


Museums and Digital Sustainability collaboration...convergencecompetition

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04 December 2012



Our definition of sustainability is

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04 December 2012

the ability to generate or gain access to the resourcesfinancial or otherwiseneeded to protect and increase the value of the content or service for those who use it. Credit: Iithaka

Is sustainability a buzz word of the moment

Its not just about the money

Its not just about getting by

Its all about identifying the value

To a specific stakeholder or group.

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04 December 2012

A sustainability plan is a holistic strategic plan for how a project is going to be able to continue to grow, develop and find the resources of all types it will need to do this.Just squeaking by and covering budgeted costs is not enough in the long run. User expectations are shaped by experience on the commercial web and grow ever more demanding. A viable plan needs to address the value that the resource will offer to users how people will use it, why they will want to use it whether the value is to users who will pay money for access to the resource, to gallery or museum administrators who will agree to subsidise it, or to volunteer contributors who will offer their time and expertise. The ongoing success of the resource will depend on its ongoing value to its stakeholders.Just as there is no inherent value to a resource without a stakeholder who cares about it, there are different possible ways to conceive of this value. These conceptions may change over time, as user expectations grow and new technology and tools allow for new ways of engaging with content. Project leaders must stay in touch with their audiences and with other stakeholders to understand when their needs change and what the implications will be for the resource.


Some basic but criticalsteps sustainable collections and services take

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04 December 2012

Empower leadership to define the mission and take action

Create a strong value proposition audience, marketing and outreach

Creatively manage costs

Cultivate diverse sources of revenue

Establish realistic goals and a system of accountability

Nat Torkington Libraries: Where it All Went Wrong (2011)

If I ask you to talk about your collections, I know that you will glow as you describe the amazing treasures you have. When you go for money for digitization projects, you talk up the incredible cultural value.

But then if I look at the results of those digitization projects, I find the shittiest websites on the planet. Its like a gallery spent all its money buying art and then just stuck the paintings in supermarket bags and leaned them against the wall.


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04 December 2012

Most visited Museum websites FY 2011.

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Most visited Museums FY 2011

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Online income generation?

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04 December 2012


Compared to

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04 December 2012

Total membership revenue was $623,826, up 58% on 2010-11

Donations generated $148,151, up 8.3% on budget ($136,800)


The study sought to understand the following:

What the assumptions, expectations, and obligations are that govern support of digital resources from the point of view of project leaders as well as host administrators and management;

In what ways and to what extent institutions are supporting and enhancing the on-going value of the digital projects they and their staff/faculty create;

And whether or not the current system is working.

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04 December 2012

Methodology: Deep Dives at the

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National Library of Wales (11 interviews)

UCL (28 interviews)

Imperial War Museums (7 interviews)

Two very different type