Crawl, Walk, Run

How to run a project without falling flat on your face!  

By Felinesoft

The Art Fund are a 150,000-strong membership organisation who work to support UK museums and galleries, providing grants programmes in order for the applicants to deliver a range of activities – from acquiring new items to entice visitors and run specialised exhibitions, to finding opportunity during the COVID situation to offer alternatives to in-person visits.

Felinesoft are a Digital Transformation specialist, who utilise website technology and the Microsoft Dynamics platform to provide integrated, streamlined solutions. Their approach is based on a set of principles that define who they are and how they work – MVP (Minimum Viable Product) initial delivery, and CIM (Continuous Improvement Model).

Since 2017, Art Fund have been analysing and reflecting on who they are and how they engage with their supporters and members. They built this work on an initial review which Mary Pitt, Head of Technical Development and Operations at the Art Fund, talks us through in this project overview and reflection session. Joined by Ralph Johnson, Managing Director of Felinesoft, they step through the stages of the project and reflect on what’s changed throughout and what lessons have been learned. 

Starting to Crawl 

In 2017, the Art Fund took the first tentative steps by engaging a consultancy to review who they interacted with, and how best to keep them engaged, after realising that they really didn’t fully understand their audiences. This brave step allowed them to address a fundamental question – how can we become a more inviting and engaging organisation? 

From this point, their Customer Relationship Management solution (CRM) was identified as a major sticking point – a silo’d tool which integrated with little and had become a significant blocker for the kind of digital transformation they desired. 

A selection process was undertaken which introduced them to Felinesoft’s MVP and CIM methodology – something which resonated with the Art Fund’s desire to deliver in manageable stages and commit to continued development and growth. 

Learning to Walk 

The CRM was delivered to an MVP model in 2018, with Mary reflecting on the challenges that strand had posed the organisation – a need to find an internal ruthlessness to decision-making to avoid an endless ream of “nice to haves”, and a website platform which hindsight showed to have overly-complicated the integration work required. 

Despite those challenges, the Art Fund was now beginning to stride ahead, using the CIM model to ensure they were iteratively building and extending what they had in order to avoid repeatedly spinning up resource-heavy projects. Ralph highlights the way that Art Fund truly grasped the approach at the heart of this methodology and it’s clear that significant change was occurring through the delivery of the project 

Running to a moving finish-line 

COVID-19 had a significant impact on the great progress being made through early 2020, and serious reviews had to take place to assess whether the project, and its budget, were viable in a rapidly changing world where in-person visits to museums and galleries were at best complicated and at worst impossible. 

Thankfully, COVID not only presented obstacles to overcome, but also interesting opportunities – the lesser-used Art Tickets platform grew massively due to its ability to provide timed-ticket access to buildings and exhibitions 

The project’s timeline may have shifted somewhat due to the need to assess how viable it was to press ahead, but thanks to the move to cloud/online technologies the project could proceed without any significant challenges that remote-working might have brought, once the Art Fund agreed it was a key priority to support their future work. 

A marathon, not a sprint 

It’s fair to say that most projects being delivered through the COVID situation will have been struck by challenges of time, resource and money. However, the critical need for a set of strong principles, an invested organisation and a long-term vision will mean that all of those projects stand a far greater chance of success than those which aim to go too far, too fast. 

The Art Fund’s story continues, and it’s important to learn from the points Mary makes about appropriate resourcing and the vital need to engage with your technology partners in a way which benefits everyone involved. 

Contact Felinesoft in order to talk through your vision and ambitions, and to find out how they can help you get moving into a bright new future…without tripping up in the process.  

Follow Mary on LinkedIn to hear about the ongoing developments and support provided to the Art Fund and its network of museum and galleries