A flexible approach to achieving goals
Pioneering projects often enter new territory. But things don't always go according to plan. Those taking on the task need an agile mindset and the courage to rewrite the rules. The project digitorials.ch shows how you can reach your goal even in the face of timetable changes and diversions.
What do you do if, shortly after starting a project, you realise that despite large demand the market is actually not yet mature? You could sink back in despair – or adapt your offering. The minds behind digitorials.ch opted for the latter, putting them back on course for success. Their project, which originally aimed to implement new digital formats across Switzerland's digital landscape, has now become a holistic consultation concept that combines theory and practice, as well as strategy and innovation.
Project leaders Jörg Schulze and Carsten Siebert, joined by Britta Friedrich, who is responsible for the project on the Engagement Migros side, report on the moment they realised they would have to change course and how they adapted the process.
In Germany, you have already successfully implemented "Digitorials" and other digital information projects in collaboration with the Frankfurt Städel Museum and SCHIRN Kunsthalle. But in Switzerland you noticed shortly after starting the project that things wouldn't be quite as simple. Where did you find challenges?
Jörg Schulze: The original idea behind digitorials.ch was to create short, interactive online editorials, called Digitorials, which combine text, pictures and animations to create a meaningful whole and thus facilitate a new form of storytelling for museums. This format was developed by the two museums in Frankfurt and successfully used in sequence. We assumed that we would soon be able to start implementing the concept with reasonable consulting fees. But we misjudged it.
Britta Friedrich: To successfully produce a Digitorial, you need an overall digital strategy, agile structures and cross-departmental collaboration. Here, we realised that many Swiss museums are still in their early stages.
Carsten Siebert: A museum first and foremost relies on the physical experience, but the principles of the digital world are different – one need only think of the speed of a social media campaign – and must therefore be adapted accordingly. During the time of coronavirus, a few museums have shown how this can work. Nevertheless, the framework conditions and processes prevalent in most museums are not yet widely geared towards digital production.
"We had to adapt our offering to these new conditions."
Were you surprised that such strategies had not yet been put in place?
Jörg Schulze: Yes, absolutely. Digitalisation has been used in museums for a long time. Many museums have already gained experience in this area and launched their own digital projects. At first glance, therefore, all of the necessary components should be there – but at second glance we realised that an overarching concept, vision or, alternatively, a set of guidelines, was often missing.
Britta Friedrich: This is really important because it provides guidance and gets everyone on board. From curation and facilitation to marketing – a museum can only be brought into the (digital) future if everyone joins together and collaborates. Digital transformation is therefore also a question of organisation. In many museums, however, the individual departments tend to work for themselves. This was something we weren't aware of at the beginning of the project.
How did you respond to these difficulties?
Jörg Schulze: We realised that we had to adapt our offering to the new conditions.
Britta Friedrich: It was clear that we first needed to create the foundations that would make a project like digitorials.ch possible. This includes creating a common understanding of goals, a content strategy and agile organisational structures.
"It's not about implementing a plan at any cost, but about adapting your strategy in line with project and market logic."
Was it difficult to move away from the primary idea?
Jörg Schulze (laughing): There was a fairly active exchange of emails between Britta and me.
Britta Friedrich: We spent a long time discussing the matter until we understood the core of the problem and then had a suitable solution. It was a struggle and required a lot of straight-talking. Finally we had identified all of our options and written them all up on a blackboard. Suddenly we just looked at each other and our eyes lit up, and we thought: "We've got it!"
What was the solution?
Jörg Schulze: We had to shift our focus – away from the pure Digitorial production and towards a strong consultation component. Now, we help museums firstly to develop and optimise their digital strategy and then to work together to find a way to implement it, naturally also creating new structures along the way. Only then do we start to implement the Digitorials. Production of the Digitorials is then something of a litmus test or proof of concept of the strategy. In doing so, we combine theory and practice – allowing us to support museums on a much more sustainable basis.
What have you learned from the restructuring process?
Jörg Schulze: That we need open interactions between everyone involved. And in particular with Engagement Migros. This is the only way the strategy can be constructively adapted.
Carsten Siebert: That it's not about seeing an idea through to the bitter end. You also have to be able to let go. Even if that's difficult to do sometimes.
Britta Friedrich: This process has also challenged us as the sponsor. But it shows once again that you have to be prepared to be flexible. It's not about implementing a plan at any cost, but about adapting the strategy in line with project and market logic.
Jörg Schulze emphasises the importance of implementing a marketing campaign to accompany the individual Digitorials. This is the only way to generate the desired attention. "We are looking forward to our continued close collaboration with the museums," says Schulze. "Our long-term goal is for the museums to be able to maintain their digital presence without us following the conclusion of the project and be able to develop their own projects."
Digitorials have been developed and successfully established in Germany by the Städel Museum, the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung and the SCHIRN Kunsthalle Frankfurt. The project in Switzerland therefore cooperates with these three art institutions and is the result of an initiative of maze pictures swiss and Engagement Migros, the development fund of the Migros Group. Over the next few years, eight Swiss museums will receive assistance in their digital process: Museum of Art Lucerne, Kunsthaus Zürich, Museum of Fine Arts Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee, Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum der Kulturen in Basel, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and Lake Museum Kreuzlingen.
The pictures was taken in the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst during the Lily van der Stokker exhibition.