This Week in Los Angeles

The Museums and the Web conference organized in the United States is now turning 20 years old. This year, the conference takes place in Los Angeles. Originally established by David Bearman and Jennifer Trant, this four-day event has become one of the museum industry’s most valuable gatherings.

According to the Washington Post, there are roughly 11 000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., and about 14 000 McDonald’s restaurants.

Nevertheless, when combined, these two chains don’t come close to the number of museums in the U.S. – there are a whopping 35 000 museums in the U.S. as it is. The Museums and the Web event will again this year showcase the most prominent of these in the form of lectures on the digital dimension by experts of the field.

Scrolling through this year’s program and exhibits, it is evident that museums are embracing the digital – as well as brand new design and leadership practices.

Service design is increasingly being applied, and this year, many talks in the event will focus on this topic.

Service design is used, for example, to research the ways in which customer behaviour, motivations and needs interact with existing products and services. As it is service design that highlights best where there are critical moments, thresholds, and new opportunities for improvement, or entirely new ways of meeting customer needs, it is also increasingly applied in the museum industry.

Applied to the museum world, service design offers the opportunity to connect up long standing audience-focused research practices. For all of us involved in the delivery of digital products designed to support museum initiatives, service design presents a very useful as well as a provocative framework for designing, planning, and executing the next generation of digital products.

Following up on the service design paradigm, organizations across the field are also increasingly interested in how to measure success when it comes to digital projects.

Furthermore, organizations across the field are adopting new leadership practices and policies, like “Lean”, “Agile”, “Radical”, and “Open”. These concepts incorporate some of the most remarkable changes in the museum C-suite. As Michael Edson has demonstrated in his talks, these methodologies may be applied in the museum industry with success. Yet another emerging trend is designing digital mobile experiences.

I’m excited that some of my co-workers will be visiting the conference again this year and networking in LA. Last year, when the conference was organized in Chicago, our staff gained valuable insights into the current exciting digital projects in various museums around the world. Visiting this kind of topical events is of utmost importance for any big museum organization attempting to invest in digital projects. I’m looking forward to following the conference proceedings online!

See the full conference program of the MW2016: http://mw2016.museumsandtheweb.com/program/

On the Lean Methodology and Metrics

I think setting up consistent metrics makes all the difference in relation to the lean startup model thinking. The practice of creating Minimum Viable Products is becoming a prevalent way to create new products and services. But in order to keep on improving our MVPs, it is essential to figure out the relevant metrics in relation to the customer’s overall happiness and satisfaction with the product or service.

So let’s take a brief look at the lean methodology in relation to metrics. In a recent post entitled “Flow and Seductive Interactions” (https://iiriskblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/flow-and-seductive-interactions/), I emphasized the need to create products and services that cater for the customer’s personal improvement, while giving us a sense of a true “flow experience” of micro-moments while performing relatively complex tasks. This is essential especially in multichannel digital service design.

But how to measure all of this?

Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean Startup”, says that while we certainly need figures, the customers are individuals.

In his book, Ries states that “Numbers tell a compelling story, but I always remind entrepreneurs that metrics are people, too. No matter how many intermediaries lie between a company and its customers, at the end of the day, customers are breathing, thinking, buying individuals. Their behavior is measurable and changeable.”

I agree with Ries. So essentially, we need to figure out what works, and also understand why it works. Focusing on these questions, especially the “why” part, helps us choose the correct metrics.

In “The Lean Startup”, Ries states that in order to support the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, the metrics need to be “Actionable, Accessible and Auditable”.

First of all, let’s take a look at “Actionable” metrics.

Your company may attract 1 000 000 unique visitors to its website annually. However, this figure might not be as relevant as many people think. As Ries explains, “For a report to be considered actionable, it must demonstrate clear cause and effect. Otherwise, it is a vanity metric.” So the question we need to ask next is, where are the visitors coming from and why? And follow up by setting the metrics for that.

Ries also provocatively states that “All too many reports are not understood by the employees and managers who are supposed to use them to guide their decision making.” Furthermore, he says that “Unfortunately, most managers do not respond to this complexity by working hand in hand with the data warehousing team to simplify the reports so that they can understand them better.” I think this is true.

Based on my own experience, this might be one of the most important issues to solve in relation to metrics. I think setting up an accessible dashboard of the most relevant metrics should be a top priority in the analytics team. There is currently a plethora of excellent analytics dashboard software available. I personally prefer the kind that are accessible for any employee at any time, modular and visual.

Finally, Ries states that all analytics and metrics must be “Auditable”. An easy way to test hypotheses based on analytics is to interview the people that are using the product or service. Another feasible way to audit and validate the hypotheses is A/B testing. Playing around with various landing pages, for example, usually certainly pays off. Checking out the heatmaps of the existing websites also helps. Yet another practical way to test the hypotheses based on metrics is creating traffic via modifying the parameters of search engine optimization. I think regular auditing paves the way for regular improvements.

So the KPIs as well as other metrics should have a clear relation to the overall customer experience as well as the strategic goals of the company. Some of the most important KPIs still remain social media audience size, reach, engagement rate, website traffic, and the amount of leads and conversions. But understanding why visitors end up on our social media or landing page, and why they convert into customers is essential in order to create the next MVP as well as improve on the multichannel experience of the existing ones.

Setting up the most relevant metrics for these processes should be a top priority in the analytics team as well as in the C-suite.

Applying Agile, Lean and Scrum Methodology

I recently wrote in this blog about the current digital transformation in the museum industry, and emphasized the need for any organization attempting to thrive in the digital world to create a holistic digital strategy.

However, not all industry experts agree that strategy is that important.

Michael Edson, Web and New Media Strategist at the Smithsonian Institution, says that strategy is overrated.

In a SlideShare presentation entitled “Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast: Digital Strategy in a Changing World”, Edson lists ten reasons why:

In his opinion, strategy is over-glamorized, it is too inward-looking, it is too slow, it is too static, it overlooks crucial activities, it is incomplete, it has the wrong audience, it is dishonest, it fails to inspire, and, most importantly, strategy almost never succeeds.

In his presentation, Edson quotes Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electrics: “In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”

The main issue here is that the implementation of the strategy “almost never succeeds”.

Why is that?

And more importantly, what, if anything, is there for the organization to do in order to not fail in the implementation phase?

Edson suggests that the common issue here is the methodology is flawed. As a potential solution for this problem, Edson strongly recommends implementing agile methodology.

In “The Agile Manifesto”, the main points of agile methodology are listed as follows:

  • individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • working software over comprehensive documentation
  • customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • responding to change over following a plan

For Edson, this ideology of strategy implementation translates to “Think big, start small, move fast”.

In this context, Edson also recommends applying the lean startup model.

The lean startup model is based on the “build-measure-learn” feedback loop. This model is useful in developing a so-called minimum viable product, just to set in motion the feedback loop and the process of learning. What Edson recommends here, is to attempt to create an open, iterative workflow in the organization.

This, in his opinion, is a key factor in creating a healthy balance between “planning” and “doing”.

Ok, so your organization is now implementing the strategy via agile methodology and the lean startup model. But how to measure success?

In his presentation, Edson quotes Jim Collins, and concludes, that “What matters is not finding the perfect indicator, but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results”.

I couldn’t agree more on this one.

What I would add to Edson’s suggestions is applying scrum workflow.

That would translate into having a sprint planning session, preferably applying daily scrum methods, and having sprint review and sprint retrospective events in the digital project development team as well as on the organization level.

I am very curious to see if the Museum Industry will find these methods useful in achieving strategic goals in the near future.