In the past few days, I’ve spoken to a number of people about how the IMA’s Dashboard effort is similar to and yet different than many of the commercially available Business Intelligence packages that are out there. It still surprises me that after two years, people are still interested and intrigued by the process behind the tool. I guess that’s a good sign! The Dashboard has proven to be one of our stickier projects since we’ve launched it.
Two things in particular which set our Dashboard effort apart from other business intelligence or executive dashboard tools are the way we engage our staff in the process, and the extended integration we’ve done with core museum systems.
In the past several weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the theory and the underpinning logic of why any museum would consider moving forward with a strategy like this. If you’re just joining the discussion you can find the previous articles here:
- Walking The Talk
- Reasons for Transparency
- Impact on Institutional Culture
This week we’ll take a detailed look at how the Indianapolis Museum of Art implemented these ideas in the IMA Dashboard. We’ll examine how we structured the experience, what our goals were and what some of the results and unintended consequences turned out to be.
We’ve had some really great questions and points raised in the comment sections of the previous articles, and I’d really like to hear questions / thoughts from the peanut gallery as it were. Don’t be shy! I’ll do my best to respond to every thoughtful comment in turn.
Transparency in Practice: IMA’s Online Dashboard
As discussed in previous posts, one of the most important aspects for museums wishing to take steps to be more transparent about their successes and failures is a decision about the best way to share this information. There are many ways museums might accomplish this. Ideally an organization’s information should be freely available to all interested parties with a very low barrier to access. Many museums have adopted the practice of making their annual reports and even tax returns available online for public access. It would be difficult to make the argument that these mechanisms provide “easy access” to this information since these documents are often lengthy, technical, and difficult to interpret. The investment required by a member of the public must be high enough to overcome these barriers in order to develop an understanding of the museum’s performance. While well intended, this method of presentation obfuscates the information which, if shared in a simpler more user-friendly model, might otherwise lead to valuable interactions and discussions with media, donors and the general public.
In the summer of 2007, the Indianapolis Museum of Art began to take steps to capitalize on an institution-wide effort and commitment to organizational Transparency. A team of web developers and graphics designers led by the Chief Information Officer set out to design a presentation of information and statistics about the museum which would enable an at-a-glance interaction as well support of deep-diving investigations into specific topics of interest. The team desired a system which was easy to digest and easy to navigate, and could support the wide array of information important to the mission of a diverse institution. The project took inspiration from contemporary web design and interaction trends to create a site which would feel fresh, fun and visually engaging. Feeling that many corporate dashboards were both intimidating and hard to understand, the team strove for a simplicity of presentation that could hook interested visitors into a deeper investigation and tracking of the museum’s performance over time. Finally, the institution needed an easy to use tool which could be integrated into the pre-existing workflows and job demands of many of the different staff around the museum. The result was a tool called the IMA Dashboard, which was launched by the museum in September, 2007 and later released as open-source software for the benefit of the larger museum community. Many museums and institutions have downloaded this software and expressed an interest in using it to fuel similar endeavors within their own organizations.
Figure 1 - The IMA Dashboard
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