On needing both, for now
At some point in a conversation about digital strategy for museums, a wise voice will point out that digital strategy and the broader museum strategy should be one and the same. This is an “Aha!” moment, a breath of fresh air and a relief. Let’s not add another silo, another director, another strategic initiative. Let’s let our mission be our guide and infuse the organization with a digital mindset to better reach today’s audience. When I heard this at a museum technology conference I said, “Amen!” I could cross digital strategy off my list — it was one less massive project to champion at my overstretched museum. The idea feels right and true. And it is.
The only problem: IT’S NOT TRUE YET.
It’s an ideal, a goal, a vision of the future. Reaching the goal of not needing a separate digital strategy may in fact require a digital strategy. Creating an institutional digital mindset needs a process and a plan.
Truth be told, the museum may need a proper digital strategy document, or even one for each department. The new strategy docs will be superfluous in a few years, as digital permeates the organization—but they will make digital more than a personal crusade or a boardroom buzzword. They can be a sustainable roadmap that recruits influencers and compatriots. The strategy can paint a vision and plot a path of transitional, transformational steps.
Ideally, the museum’s directors would all be digital savvy. Until then, the museum may require a separate Head of Digital, or at least a strong voice at the directors table.
While all museum staff should be expert with relevant digital tools, the museum may need to start with one digital specialist in each department, or a digital team that collaborates across the org. Those people may be tasked with working themselves out of a job, instilling digital skills and workflows throughout.
Having “digital” in a museum job title will (hopefully) be ridiculous in five years. So too a “digital” strategy. But only if there’s a plan for transformation.