Digital Strategy: Tatics, designing for verbs, and well basically blowing it all up


Slides of Bruce Wyman’s presentation

One of my favourite sessions during the Museums and the Web conference was all about Digital Strategies.  I like strategies, I have a background in project management and I like to have a map of where I’m headed, something to aim for.  Weird considering, I do a lot of agile and user centered design work, which admittedly is hard to produce a strategy for. So I always have a bit of an internal conflict when it comes to strategy, is it a good thing?  Or is it actually a bit of a waste of time, particularly if you are decompartmentalising strategies and not looking at the overall approach? Traditionally, I think there needs to be strategy to any project, otherwise it risks becoming a cool thing rather than having a purpose (particularly when talking about digital things), strategy shouldn’t be aimed at devices, or tech it should be aimed at experiences, and those experiences fit into the bigger institutiuonal goals. Experiences don’t date, therefore strategy shouldn’t either.

It was fascinating to hear three sides of the story about digital strategies in museums.  Firstly by Carolyn Royston and Charlotte Sexton (IWM and National Gallery) discussed the need for tactical thinking when it comes to digital strategies.  They highlighted that a digital strategy is more than just a written document to be filled away and forgotten about. A digital strategy can provide a vision and action plan that is a framework and focus for all digital activity across an organisation. They really hit home that it is a requirement to put digital at the heart of the institution. They discussed the elements that they found were key drivers for change in their respective institutions and how they could create a coherent vision for digital engagement:

  • Every strategy needs a champion:  Advocacy is key.  Engaging staff and managing the management are important factors to consider
  • Allow time for reflection: Embrace lessons learned from these past projects in order to move forwards
  • Gain confidence:  Delivering key elements of strategy, on time and on budget.
  • Strategy is a living thing: It’s a continuous process.   Not at written document which is filed away.

Ultimately they came to the conclusion that a digital strategy can provide a vision, a framework and a way of working.  Providing an incentive to deliver on time and to budget.  Developing and implementing a digital strategy can act as a catalyst for change.  It’s challenging but worth it.

Up next came Bruce Wyman, who talks at the speed of light.  I always enjoy Bruce’s presentations, not only because I envy his ability to be articulate and eloquent at speed, but because everything he says packs a punch. Bruce started with the idea that Digital strategy helps you evolve from “risk averse” to “risk aware”.  But  you need to amplify experiences.  In order to do that you need to:

  • Think beyond traditional paradigms of interaction.
  • Create frameworks, serialize experiences, concentrate on your digital presence and make that amazing
  • Design for verbs, for specific interactions you want people to have.  Because the value of the interaction is critically important.  Interaction should be the museums brand.
  • Create delightful interactions. The visitor should be made to feel special

Bruce also advised to “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”  Now I don’t really understand ice hockey, but the sentiment remains the same, aim ahead, don’t stick to the now. Bruce spoke to the permeability of place as the future of interactive media and suggested restrictive digital strategies which are designed for tech rather than experiences may be detrimental.  Museums need to evolve the things that they are good at, and design not for the device but for the visitor and their engagement. Bruce really hit home the need to trust our audiences and serialize the experience by developing content and experiences that transcends and crosses platforms.

Finally, Rob Stein came with his log fire to tell us a story.  Rob advised to make sure your digital strategy reflects the larger museum strategy and highlighted that communication is key.   It’s really easy to fall into the trap of creating a digital strategy on what technology should look like, rather than focusing on how technology can help reach institutional goals easier.   Rob also encouraged every to learn to write well, and realise that communication barriers do exist between departments and the ability to communicate ideas and perspectives adequately is a critical point to consider.  Rob suggested blowing up the expectations and stereotypes about technology can help to bridge the gap between departments and highlight a clear understanding of what really matters.  Rob thinks it is important to:

  • Be a museum expert first not a technologist.
  • Break the stereotypes
  • Learn to write
  • Change the conversation
  • Beware of technology timeframes
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3 thoughts on “Digital Strategy: Tatics, designing for verbs, and well basically blowing it all up

  1. I think the one other thing that I’d really emphasize is that ultimately you want to design experiences that serve your audience and focus less on serving your organization. Approach these things very much from the user/visitor perspective and let that form the foundation of your guiding principles.

    • Thanks Bruce, that’s a great point! User Centered Design is something we are trying to distill in the Social Interpretation project at the Imperial War Museum. We will see how that pans out. From previous experience, it is great in principle, but hard to implement in practice, particularly when dealing with large institutions with lots of different departments. Its hard to get equal buy in from everyone. I wonder if strategy and designing for the user perspective can indeed become the foundation from the bottom-up or if needs top-down support and advocacy. I would like to think it can be done at all levels of the organisation. But in truth, I’m not so sure.

  2. Pingback: Developing an analytics culture - Chris Unitt's blog

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