What does a digital maturity model offer museums?

Until recently, there were no models designed to specifically assess the digital maturity of cultural institutions. In this article Dr Lauren Vargas sets out the background and benefits of such a model and how it relates to your museum.

The need for a Digital Maturity Index or model for the cultural sector, to enable organisations to understand and benchmark their own digital capability and set plans in place to make improvements, came directly from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Culture is Digital report (2018).

“I think that many leaders feel very overwhelmed by digital technology and they feel overwhelmed about their job in terms of being able to lead digital transformation in their organisations. And I think what Digital Culture Compass Code and Tracker do is help provide a framework that allows a leader to focus on what’s most important and to remember that everything about digital is really about linking it to the mission and strategy of the organisation.”

Tonya Nelson, Director of Arts Technology and Innovation, Arts Council England and co-author of the Culture is Digital report

Arts Council England, in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, commissioned the (launching late in the day on 11.02.2020) Digital Culture Compass: an online toolkit to support arts, culture and heritage organisations to integrate digital technology into their work. The Digital Culture Compass is comprised of two elements: a Charter that outlines digital best practices and a Progress Tracker that allows organisations to assess their approach to digital technology and develop plans for future work.

What is a maturity model?

Business / Process / Capability Maturity Models (BPMM or PMM or CMM) have evolved since the 1995 debut of the maturity model commissioned by the US Department of Defense and Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University. The five-step model created by SEI assesses the levels of an organisation’s maturity of processes, measurement, management, and performance and has been adapted by many groups who have added their own interpretation (and acronym soup) of the levels and language used within the model.

Academia and business consultant groups, such as Forrester and Gartner, have created some of these adapted Business Process Maturity (BPM) models. The majority of such models are proprietary and only accessible if the organisation is a subscriber of consultant services. Leading BPM researchers at Queensland University of Technology, Michael Rosemann and Tonia de Bruin (2005, p. 2), refer to BPM as:

“A holistic organisation management practice, which requires top management understanding and involvement, process-aware information systems, well-defined accountability and a culture receptive to business process. It is based on a process architecture, which captures the interrelationships between the key business processes and the enabling support processes and their alignment with the strategies, goals and policies of an organisation.”

A maturity model is not meant to be a checklist or a one-time exercise or application, but acts as a systematic tool to analyse continuously, improving processes, envision the future, and set benchmarks to achieve milestones towards greater maturity, scale and consistent adoption.

What are the stages of digital maturity?

There are three main components of a maturity model:

  • Purpose: A model and its components must be fit-for-purpose, meaning the model assesses business process or cultural maturity for specific industries or project specifications;
  • Scale: Consists of five to six levels of maturity on a scale of 0-5 describing the process or operation elements being reviewed (with Level 0 associated with non-existent processes, capabilities, or elements and Level 5 as achieving the highest maturity with sustainable and optimised business processes); and
  • Pass / fail criteria: Set expectations that upon completion leads to a higher level of maturity and drives aspirational performance.

The Digital Culture Compass Tracker includes five levels of maturity, defined as:

  1. Initial: we have digital elements happening in this activity or we can when we need to.
  2. Managed: we plan and periodically review the digital elements in this activity, and they are appropriate for our organisation.
  3. Integrated: the way we use digital elements in this activity is effective in delivering our strategy. Our processes and systems are standardised and, where appropriate, aligned with digital and non-digital activities in this and other areas.
  4. Optimising: we systematically gather and review evidence of the effectiveness of digital and non-digital elements in this activity, so we can improve our approach.
  5. Transformed: we are using digital elements in this activity to support significant innovation or substantial strategic change.

Read more about the Digital Culture Compass maturity levels

What is the value of assessing digital maturity?

A maturity model is comprised of opportunities for a museum to evaluate and improve processes over time. There is no guaranteed outcome of success associated with the maturity model. A model cannot account for all circumstances and risk that may be associated with different museum operations.

The maturity model is a jump-start to thinking about and understanding how and why things are operating and what can be done or improved upon to achieve different outcomes and new competition potential. Whether it is the museum or third-party researcher or a critical friend assisting in the evaluation, areas of development and creative ideas should be considered outside of the model, then such knowledge influences any changes made to the model.

The maturity model is a dynamic and living resource requiring constant nourishment and attention.

The Digital Culture Compass Tracker may be used by museums to:

Identify tactical fixes: What aspects of museum operations might you prioritize for prototype and test?
Build a service blueprint: Visualize the relationships between different service components — people, physical and technology operations, and processes — that are directly tied to touch points in a specific visitor or customer journey – What aspects of the visitor experience are broken, painful, or inconsistent?
Establish a strategic roadmap: What does your museum need to be aware of to plan for the future?

What do I do with the Digital Culture Compass Tracker Report?

“First of all, I want to see the tool used not just by the digital person in the organization, but the tool and the way it’s designed, has to evoke conversations across the whole organization. And I think that will be good for team building and organizational change work. There is also a direct outcome in terms of what digital skills are capacities we must build. I would also like to see in the future, organisations working together as a group to discuss how they can tackle issues together.”

Tonya Nelson, Director of Arts Technology and Innovation, Arts Council England and co-author of the Culture is Digital report

Consider sharing the Tracker report and notes on your museum intranet or collaboration space, so all museum staff are aware of current status, priorities and what is required for your museum to achieve desired maturity level for each area and component. Revisiting the model regularly with self-assessment or guidance of a third party may help a museum consider what has been missed with previous thinking and analysis. Conclusions of analysis and conversation at each review of the maturity model should be well documented for the museum’s organisational memory, so the model and the museum may continue to adapt, evolve, and construct an on-going roadmap.