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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.

Oliver said one of the first things the team identified was a need for Science Museum Group to have a better understanding of its customers and visitors. It's difficult to build up a relationship with people, the CIO explained, if visitors in general arrive at one of its sites, see what they want in any given exhibition and leave with the group unable to understand who they really are.

Looking at the market, Oliver and his team deployed popular arts CRM tool Tessitura - originally developed by the Met Opera in New York to manage ticketing, marketing and fundraising and subsequently spun out as the not-for-profit cooperative Tessitura Network - in order to better understand and engage with its customer base.

Relaying the foundations

Running alongside a focus on Science Museum Group's relationship with its customers is a technology infrastructure refresh to provide the organisation and its sites greater resilience - as Oliver described getting back to basics and laying the foundations for a bigger change and transformation.

This involved installing new networking equipment with breakouts to AWS and Microsoft's Azure cloud, a strategy which enables a collection of physical museums to be able to exponentially grow its digital collections.

Oliver said that this was creating a hybrid environment of public and private cloud capabilities, and with the implementation of Tessitura being SaaS-based opening up a number of innovation opportunities.

"We want to go further down the data analytics of routes people are taking around the museum in real-time, start linking that information in with AR and Tessitura, so that we can start to build up real patterns around our visitors, our audience, and improve the experience for them," Oliver said.

"We have moved in the space of eight months from low-performing, non-resilient, not-robust networks with legacy storage and legacy applications, to having high-performance, resilient stacks out in different clouds, building our own private cloud and moving to a new HR system, ticketing system and looking at a new finance system."

This was described as a period of catching up by Oliver, with a step change from an infrastructure of around seven or eight years allowing the team to be in a position where they can start adding value.

Board support

The backing of the Science Museum's board has been a crucial factor in Oliver and his team's ability to deliver the changes.

"There's part of the strategy which we refer to as cost optimisation, and we're only dipping our toes in it at the moment," Oliver said. "What we mean by that is how can we take existing processes, how can we attach or monetise value to that, and then how can we use technology to demonstrate that we can save costs through doing that?

 

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