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Science Museum Head of ICT Jason Oliver interview - Catalyst for transformation

Edward Qualtrough | March 10, 2017
Science Museum Head of ICT Jason Oliver discusses reinvigorating the IT team and technology stack at one of the world's most visited museum groups.

UK's Science Museum Head of ICT Jason Oliver is reinventing the perception of the technology and IT function at one of the world's most visited museums from a back-end support group to a front of house enabler geared around the experiences of its millions of visitors in London and audiences around the world.

Encouraging his IT team to live the remit of the Science Museum to inspire and enrich lives, Oliver highlighted his function's involvement in astronaut Tim Peake's live BBC broadcasts from space as programmes his team helped make possible.

Oliver joined Science Museum Group - which includes the National Media Museum in Bradford, National Railway Museum in York and Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester - in July 2015 from the Royal Opera House. Inheriting an aging technology stack and a skilled team seen as a support provider to the group, Oliver's first job was to get IT back on the map and change its image as a cliched department of no.

"Previously IT reported reported in to HR, and now I report to the Director of Corporate Services," Oliver said. "That created a much closer relationship with me being able to present business cases and speak to the people who were decision makers on the financial side about what needed to be done.

"I've got an extremely close relationship with the Director of Corporate Services Jane Ellis and Jonathan Newby, the Deputy Director and COO," Oliver said of the organisation's leaders that sit below SMG Director Ian Blatchford.

Oliver said that some of the foundations for repositioning technology and IT were smoothed by the organisation's Digital Director John Stack so the new IT chief could start creating and implementing his strategy.

"I started engaging and reaching out to different people within the executive and within our board in a far greater fashion - now I sit on the steering groups for most of our high-level business projects," Oliver said.

"IT is not a support function anymore. Technology drives nearly everything that we do across the group in some form or another."

Business engagement

Oliver gives the example a month into his role with the Science Museum's groundbreaking Cosmonauts exhibition where IT had not been privy to early stages of communication and not long before the launch permanent flooring needed to be ripped up at unnecessary cost and strife to ensure it was ready to go live.

"What I tried to get people to recognise is that early communication not only helps the wider business make sound decisions, it also reduces cost," he said. "It also makes it less stressful, because we can deliver things far, far easier."


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