Category Archives: Agile

CV19 – Digital Battle Plans

Background

Bristol Culture receives an average of 2.5 million yearly visits to its websites (not including social media). Additionally, we have different demographics specific to each social media channel, which reflect the nature of the content and how users interact with the platform features offered.

Since March 13th visits to the bristolmuseums.org.uk have fallen off sharply from a baseline of 4000/day to under 1000/day as of 6th April. This unprecedented change in website visitors is a reflection of a large scale change in user behaviour which we need to understand, presumably – due to people no longer searching to find out about visiting the museum in person, due to enforced social distancing measures. It remains to be seen how patterns of online behaviour will change in the coming weeks, however, it appears we have a new baseline which more closely matches our other websites that are more about museum objects and subject matter than physical exhibitions and events.

You can explore this graph interactively using the following link:

https://datastudio.google.com/reporting/196MwOHX1WOhtwDQbx62qP0ntT7sLO9mb

Before CV struck

The top 10 most visited pages in January on bristolmuseums.org.uk feature our venue homepages, specific exhibitions and our events listings

online stats January 2020

During Lockdown

From March-April we are seeing visits to our blog pages, our online stories and our collections pages feature in the top 10 most visited.

online stats March 16th-April 9th

Digital Content Strategy

Internally, we have been developing a digital content strategy to help us develop and publish content in a more systematic way. The effect of CV-19 has meant we have had to fast track this process to deal with a large demand for publishing new online content. The challenge we are faced with is how to remain true to our longer-term digital aims, whilst tackling the expectations to do more digitally. In practice, we have had to rapidly transform to a new way of working with colleagues, collaborating remotely, and develop a new fast track system of developing and signing off digital content. This has required the team to work in different ways both internally, distributing tasks between us, but also externally across departments so that our content development workflow is more transparent.

Pre-quarantine online audiences

Online we follow our social media principles: http://www.labs.bristolmuseums.org.uk/social-media-principles/

A key principle of our audience development plan is to understand and improve relationships with our audiences (physical and digital). This involves avoiding the idea that everything is for ‘everyone’. Instead of recognising that different activities suit different audiences. We seek to use data from a range of sources (rather than assumptions) to underpin decisions about how to meet the needs and wants of our audiences. 

Quarantine online audiences

Since the implementation of strict quarantine measures by the Government on Tuesday 24th March – audiences’ needs have changed.  

  • Families at home with school-age children (4 – 18) who are now home-schooling during term-time.
  • Retired people with access to computers/smart-phones who may be isolated and exploring online content for the first time.
  • People of all ages in high-risk groups advised not to leave their homes for at least the next 12 weeks.
  • People quarantining who may be lonely/anxious/angry/bored/curious or looking for opportunities to self-educate. 
  • Possible new international audiences under quarantine restrictions.

See this list created anonymously by digital/museum folk: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MwE3OsljV8noouDopXJ2B3MFXZZvrVSZR8jSrDomf5M/edit

What should our online offer provide?

https://www.bristolmuseums.org.uk/blog/a-dose-of-culture-from-home/

Whilst our plummeting online visitors overall tells us one story – we now have data to tell us there is a baseline of people who are visiting our web pages regularly and this audience needs consideration. Potentially a new audience with new needs but also a core group of digitally engaged visitors who are seeking content in one form or another.

Some things we need to be thinking about when it comes to our digital content:

  • What audiences are we trying to reach and what platforms are they using? 
  • What reach are we aiming for and what are other museums doing – we don’t necessarily want to publish content that is already out there. What’s our USP? 
  • What can we realistically do, and do well with limited resources?
  • What format will any resources take and where will they ‘live’? 
  • What’s our content schedule – will we be able to keep producing this stuff if we’ve grown an audience for it once we’re open again? When will we review this content and retire if/when it’s out of date?
  • We need to be thinking about doing things well (or not doing them at all – social media platforms have ways of working out what good content is, and will penalise us if we keep posting things that get low engagement. A vicious cycle)
  • We want to engage with a relevant conversation, rather than simply broadcast or repurpose what we have (though in practice we may only have resource to repurpose content)

Submitting ideas/requests for digital content during Quarantine period

We are already familiar with using trello to manage business processes so we quickly created a new board for content suggestions. This trello-ised what had been developing organically for some time, but mainly in the minds of digital and marketing teams.

Content development Process in trello

STEP 1: An idea for a new piece of digital output is suggested, written up and emailed to the digital team, and then added to the Digital Content Requests Trello.

STEP2: The suggestion is then broken down / augmented with the following information (detailed below), and added as fields to the trello card

STEP 3: This list of suggestions is circulated amongst staff on the sign off panel, for comments.

STEP 4: The card is either progressed into the To Do List, or moved back to “more info needed / see comments” list.

The following information is required in order to move a digital content suggestion forward:

Description: Top level description about what the proposal is

Content: What form does the content take? Do we already have the digital assets required or do we need to develop or repurpose and create new content? What guidelines are available around the formats needed?

Resource: What staff are required to develop the content, who has access to upload and publish it?

Audiences: Which online audiences is this for and what is their user need?

Primary platform: Where will the content live, and for how long? 

Amplification: How will it be shared?

Success: What is the desired impact / behaviour / outcome?

Opportunities 

Experimentation

New and emerging content types: The lockdown period could be an opportunity to try a range of different approaches without worrying too much about their place in the long term strategy.

Online events programme

Now we can only do digital-or-nothing, we need to look at opportunities for live streaming events. Where there is no audience – how do we build enough digital audiences to know and be interested in this if we did go down that route. Related to above – online family/ adult workshops, a lot of this is happening now, are they working, how long will people be interested?

Collaborating with Bristol Cultural organisations

With other cultural organisations in Bristol facing similar situations, we’ll be looking to collaborate on exploring:

  • What is the online cultural landscape of Bristol?
  • Collaborative cultural response to Corona
  • A curated, city wide approach
  • Working with digital producers on user research questions
  • Similar to the Culture ‘Flash Sale’
  • Scheduled content in May

Arts Council England business plan

Those projects are at risk of not being able to be delivered –  can digital offer a way to do these in a different way?

Service / Museum topical issues

How can we create an online audience to move forward our decolonisation and climate change discussions?

Family digital engagement  

We’ll be working with the public programming team to develop content for a family audience

Examples of museum services with online content responding well to quarantine situation

a) they have a clear message about the Corona virus situation

b) they have adjusted their landing pages to point visitors to online content.

Examples of museums with good online content generally

Recent Guardian article by Adrian Searle lists museums for digital visits https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/mar/25/the-best-online-art-galleries-adrian-searle

Fundraising

The Development Team typically manages around £12,800 in donations per month through ‘individual giving’ which goes to our charity, Bristol Museums Development Trust. This is from a variety of income streams including donation boxes, contactless kiosks, Welcome Desks and donations on exhibition tickets. Closure of our venues means this valuable income stream is lost. To mitigate this, we need to integrate fundraising ‘asks’ into our online offers. For example, when we promote our online exhibitions, ask for a donation and link back to our online donation page. 

The Development Team will work with the Digital and Marketing teams to understand plans and opportunities for digital content and scope out where and how to place fundraising messages across our platforms. We will work together to weave fundraising messages into the promotion of our online offers, across social media, as well as embed ‘asks’ within our website. 

Next Steps:

Clearly, there will be long-lasting effects from the pandemic and they’ll sweep through our statistics and data dashboards for some time. However – working collaboratively across teams, responding to change and using data to improve online services are our digital raison d’etre – we’ll
use the opportunity as a new channel for 2020 onwards instead of just a temporary fix .

snapshopt of digital stats before the pandemic

How to nail it in Team Digital by turning it off.

This post is about my recent week of reducing screen time to a minimum after seeking a fresh approach, having lost the plot deep in some troublesome code, overloaded with an email avalanche and pestered by projects going stale. In other words…have you tried turning it off? (and not on again!)

STEP 1: TURN OFF PC

Guys this is what a computer looks like when it is off

Kinda feels better already. No more spinning cogs, no more broken code, brain starting to think in more creative ways, generally mind feeling lighter.  Trip to the stationary cupboard to stock up on Post-its and sticky things, on way speak to a colleague whom I wouldn’t usually encounter and gain an insight into the user facing end of a project I am currently working on (I try to make a mental note of that).

STEP 2: RECAP ON AGILE METHODS

Agile Service Delivery concept
a great diagram about agile processes by Jamie Arnold

(admittedly you do need to turn the computer back on from here onwards, but you get the idea!)

The team here have just completed SCRUM training and we are tasked with scratching our heads over how to translate this to our own working practices. I was particularly inspired by this diagram and blog by Jamie Arnold from G.D.S.  explaining how to run projects in an agile way. I am especially prone to wanting to see things in diagrams, and this tends to be suppressed by too much screen time 🙁

“a picture paints a thousand words.”

Also for projects that are stalled or for whatever reason on the backburner – a recap (or even retrospective creation) on the vision and goals can help you remember why they were once on the agenda in the first place, or if they still should be.

STEP 3: FOCUS ON USER NEEDS

It is actually much easier to concentrate on user needs with the computers switched off. Particularly in the museum where immediately outside the office are a tonne of visitors getting on with their lives, interacting with our products and services, for better or worse.  Since several of our projects involve large scale transformation of museum technology, mapping out how the user need is acheived from the range of possible technologies is useful. This post on mapping out the value chain explaines one method.

Mapping the value chain for donation technology

Whilst the resulting spider-web can be intimidating, it certainly helped identify some key dependencies like power and wifi (often overlooked in musuem projects but then causing serious headaches down the line) as well as where extra resource would be needed in developing new services and designs that don’t yet come ‘off the shelf’.

STEP 4: DISCOVERING PRODUCT DISCOVERY

There is almost always one, or more like three of our projects in the discovery phase at any one time, and this video form Teresa Torres on product discovery explains how to take the focus away from features and think more about outcomes, but also how to join the two in a methodical way – testing many solutions at once to analyse different ways of doing things.

We are a small multidisciplinary team, and in that I mean we each need to take on several disciplines at once, from user research, data analysis, coding, system admin, content editing, online shop order fulfilment (yes you heard that right) etc. However, it is always interesting to hear from those who can concentrate on a single line of work. With resources stretched we can waste time going down the wrong route, but we can and do collaborate with others to experiment on new solutions. Our ongoing “student as producer” projects with the University of Bristol have been a great way for us to get insights in this way at low risk whilst helping to upskill a new generation.

STEP 5: GAMIFY THE PROBLEM

Some of the hardest problems are those involving potential conflict between internal teams. These are easier to ignore than fix and therefore won’t get fixed by business as usual, they just linger and manifest, continuing to cause frustration.

Matt Locke explained it elegantly in MCG’s Museums+Tech 2018: the collaborative museum. And this got me thinking about how to attempt to align project teams that run on totally different rhythms and technologies. Last week I probably would have tried to build something in Excel or web-based tech that visualised resources over time, but no, not this week….this week I decided to use ducks!

Shooting ducks on a pinboard turned out to be a much easier way to negotiate resources and was quicker to prototype than any amount of coffee and coding (its also much easier to support 😉 ). It was also clear that Google sheets or project charts weren’t going to cut it for this particular combination of teams because each had its own way of doing things.

The challenge was to see how many weeks in a year would be available after a team had been booked for known projects. The gap analysis can be done at a glance – we can now discuss the blocks of free time for potential projects and barter for ducks, which is more fun than email crossfire. The problem has now become a physical puzzle where the negative space (illustrated by red dots)  is much more apparent than it was by cross-referencing data squares vs calendars. Its also taken out the underlying agendas across departments and helped us all focus on the problem by playing the same game – helping to synchronise our internal rhythms.

REMARKS

It may have come as a surprise for colleagues to see their digital people switch off and reach for analogue tools, kick back with a pen and paper and start sketching or shooting ducks, but to be honest its been one of the most productive weeks in recent times, and we have new ideas about old problems.

Yes, many bugs still linger in the code, but rather than hunting every last one to extinction, with the benefit of a wider awareness of the needs of our users and teams, maybe we just switch things off and concentrate on building what people actually want?