Key sources of support and advice when deciding on which software and digital services are suitable for your organisation

This guide outlines some key sources of information available to support your decision making on the suitability and application of new technology and digital services.

This resource is available in English and Welsh
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Image courtesy of VisitBritain © Greta Gergove

Key sources of support and advice when deciding on which software and digital services are suitable for your organisation

1. Introduction

If you find yourself responsible for introducing new digital software and services into your heritage organisation, the good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own.

Our expert, Chris Unitt, takes you through where and how to find help, and provides a useful list of dos and don’ts.


2. Get started early

You don’t want to have to implement new systems in a hurry. Begin the process early, before it becomes a critical issue.

Bring colleagues on board

Are you looking to streamline an existing process, or is a more fundamental change being proposed? Listen to voices from across the organisation to help to clarify the brief. Figure out who is – or will be – most affected by the proposed changes and be sure to seek their input.

Some colleagues may be less open to change than others. Rather than seeing them as a barrier, bring them on board early and make them part of the process. They’ll help you find the right solution and will be more committed once it’s implemented.

Search for suppliers

The following organisations have supplier directories, covering a wide range of products, software, and services:

Talk to suppliers

If you’ve identified some options, get in touch with the suppliers and ask to have an initial chat. If you’re concerned about being given the hard sell, take this as an opportunity to ask for advice on how to approach your project more generally.

If you do start talking about your specific needs, be upfront about your requirements, budget and timelines. Being coy about these details can prevent you from getting a clear idea of which software or services might be a good fit for you.

Tap into others’ knowledge

This is the time to call upon your contacts and take advantage of the collective knowledge of the sector. Heritage professionals who have been down a similar road are usually happy to share what they discovered.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to contacts in organisations of a similar type or size to ask what software or services they use, and for any advice they may have. It’s unlikely that your organisation will require software or services that are entirely unique. Usually someone else will have asked your question and already found a good answer.

Do your research

Be realistic in your expectations. Powerful features tend to come at a cost, and you’ll rarely find one system that does everything. It’s far more likely that one option will have features A and B, while another has features B and C. Having a clear brief will help you to choose the one that is best suited to your needs.

If you’re looking for software that isn’t specific to the heritage sector (for example, a social media management tool) then read reviews and comparisons between competing products online. Look for hands-on YouTube videos and tutorials – a product with lots of training content suggests a healthy and active community.

If you’re looking for software that meets a specific need of the heritage sector then there may be less of this sort of information. However, there is still advice available. For instance, the Collections Trust have a useful resource on how to choose collections software.


3. Get outside help

If you’re not an expert, consider bringing in outside expertise.

In the short term

To help address specific needs, there are freelancers, consultants, and agencies that have experience in the sector who specialise in particular areas such as digital marketing, Customer Relationship Management systems, Content Management Systems, project management or online ticketing. Some have a more generalist skillset.

Sector support bodies and funders may also provide support and have access to networks where you may find the expertise you need.

In the longer term

To provide guidance at a more strategic level, consider whether your organisation might benefit from setting up a digital steering group, or appointing a board member with digital expertise.

You could also develop local partnerships with others, such as colleges, universities, and apprenticeship schemes. Giving opportunities to students in return for adding capacity (especially if they have useful digital skills) could be beneficial to you both.


4. Make it happen

Integrating a new system can be a complicated process, so here are some dos and don’ts to smooth the path when possible.

  • Choose a quieter period in the year to make large changes. When is the least disruptive time? Perhaps outside of peak visiting seasons and outside financial year ends may be the most suitable times.
  • Consider the well-being of colleagues as even positive change can be stressful. Some staff were considered experts on the previous system – how can you bring them along for the ride?
  • Plan an onboarding process with training for everybody involved. Everyone has a different level of digital competency so some staff will need more hand-holding than others, but early investment will be rewarded with buy-in and better use of the new systems you’ve put in place.
  • Identify colleagues with the capacity to become expert users who can then pass the knowledge on, if possible.
  • Don’t assume that it will all go smoothly. There will be bumps in the road and unforeseen complications, so factor this in. Schedule check-ins with staff at regular intervals in the early stages: after one month, three months and six months. If you don’t continue supporting a new system, it can become underused or even resented by users.

Once the project is complete, you can sit back and know that your efforts have made things better for your colleagues and the organisation. The digital world never remains still for long, though, so you should always have one ear to the floor and an eye on the horizon – what’s the next challenge coming around the corner?

More help here

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How to create a successful IT strategy

This resource explores what an IT strategy means and the value it can bring to your organisation. It looks at what you need to include to make your IT strategy achievable, relatable and, above all, successful. You can use this guidance to decide whether your organisation would benefit from an IT strategy. There is also a downloadable template you can use to structure your IT strategy document.

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Tools and resources to keep up-to-date with emerging digital trends

Keeping up with digital trends can be daunting for a small to medium-sized heritage organisation. Limitations on your time and budget make it challenging to research and understand which emerging digital activity might be of interest or benefit to your organisation. This guide aims to signpost tools and resources you can access to keep abreast on what’s new in digital.


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Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Key sources of support and advice when deciding on which software and digital services are suitable for your organisation (2022) by Chris Unitt supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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