The last four years have shown that art and theatre need to have digital at its heart to be truly transformed into accessible audience centred creative hub. There are some critical common elements that dictate the successful creation of the digital roadmap and then the successful delivery of it across a period of time.

man outside theatre taking a photo on his smartphone


Ticketing, CRM, CMS, Data, Audience profiling, proactive personal engagement, driving the unengaged to the evangelist. All of these topics occupy thought and space in any roadmap but it would be deeply flawed thinking to take it that this all that a roadmap considers.

The technology is often the first thing that is thought of when drafting a Digital Strategy. However, in my experience, it is the very last thing to be considered. Its importance is not up for debate, how it gets aligned to the organisational needs however requires that a variety of other aspects are considered, understood and agreed BEFORE you begin looking at the technology. Whilst working in Toronto recently, for Peggy Baker Dance Projects, the decisions around technology became self-selecting once we knew what their Users and staff needed. These aspects in order of importance:

  • Users
  • Staff
  • Governance and Culture
  • Then and only then Technology

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" - Peter Drucker

a desk of technology ipad, airpods and smartphone

User-first approach

The importance of a user-centred approach cannot be overstated. Every single digital decision needs to be taken with their needs in mind. Indeed the start of any roadmapping exercise should define that level of importance and what strategy the organisation will deploy should there be a conflict between digital making life easier for users or the organisation. Nine times out of ten the user will be placed ahead of the needs of the organisation, though this doesn’t occur every time. Indeed National Theatre Scotland's Digital Purpose statement intrinsically stated that their user needs come before the organizational need. As such every dichotomy MUST be approached on its own merits and without assumptions.
Key questions to ask are:

  1. Who are they?
  2. Why are they interacting with us?
  3. Where are they interacting with us?
  4. How do we interact with them?
  5. To what purpose?

Note that not all answers will be digital or even technology-centric.

There a wide variety of tools and approaches to be taken to map users needs, journeys, expectations and response paths. This is not for this blog, suffice it say the EVERY roadmap I’ve written places immense value and focus on understanding the users before we start onto the next areas.


Staff are also users of your services. As a result, they need to be treated as such. Meeting staff expectations is critical to a Digital Roadmap being executed successfully. Many are the times I have inherited a roadmap to “fix” because the needs of the staff weren’t considered, or fully considered. From basic needs such as can those required to use a platform actually use it to the right level of competence, to are we asking staff to double, triple even quadruple enter data as we haven’t connected systems.

In a recent roadmap, a large proportion of our client's customer team didn’t have access to the central data set on every customer. As a result, their customer's were dissatisfied with the service levels and the staff were frustrated they couldn’t offer the level of service they wanted to.

Equally, some audience members would prefer to talk on the phone or in-person and are disenfranchised by the online world. This has to be protected whilst still allowing for the digital natives to engage online quickly and efficiently.

This undoubtedly adds another level of complexity to audience interactions BUT with a tight digital infrastructure that is connected with clean and confident data sets it is eminently possible to deliver. Allowing face to face box office interactions to be captured and retrieved as readily as online ticket sales is no longer a pipe dream as long as staff and systems are aligned.

To support this alignment every organisation MUST invest in skills training. One of the early wins for The Royal Academy of Dance’s Roadmap was to train their marketing team in Google analytics and use our own internal Digital Marketing team as a Knowledge hub to transfer this core expertise to the client.

It’s not just the practical skills of using a platform, or running a programme, but also the soft skills (meta-skills as they are now called) of collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, emotional and cultural intelligence, leading beyond their day to day level of authority, being well versed in followership, influencing, managing their boss as well as managing themselves and their team and managing customer's. This then requires a strategic view that upskilling and reskilling staff is the highest priority. It rarely involves technical platform training and is more often centred around soft skills and team working.

"New technology adoption drives...growth, new job creation and augmentation of existing jobs, provided it can leverage a motivated and agile workforce who are equipped with futureproof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous retraining and upskilling. Conversely, skills gaps - both among workers and among organisation's senior leadership - may significantly hamper new technology adoption and therefore business growth." - World Economic Forum (WEF), The Future of Jobs report 2018.

post it notes from a digital workshop

Governance & culture

So with user-centricity and staff skills investment central to success for any organisation in the 21st century there is a real need for Boards, Trustees and senior team's to embrace the culture that supports these needs and to ensure good governance of the ongoing delivery of that culture.

There is a clear hierarchy for this. The board need to be engaged in the process, supportive of the outcomes and champions of the culture needed to deliver it. Then the senior team need to take ownership of the culture change that may be needed. They must “Walk the Walk”, they must live and breathe the digital journey they are on and at least one member of the team needs to have the requisite knowledge of all things digital to support the staff in the endeavours to deliver the roadmap.

My most successful roadmap deliveries have occurred when there is a supporting Board and a knowledgeable SMT working in harmony together.

This then leads us back to……


It is only at this point that technology should be considered. This will be undertaken with full knowledge of the users and the staff needs, with the full support of the board and with a knowledgeable sponsor on the SMT. This ensures you deploy technology because you should not just because you can. Whether that technology is ticketing, CRM, better CMS to support the web site, the creation of a video development team, deploying Office 365 across all departments, installing member centred innovation hubs or simply making sure all marketing staff have company supplied smartphones (all of which have been recommendations across a myriad of Arts client's) these decisions can only be taken once the needs of Users, Staff and Governance have been understood, considered and agreed upon.

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