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Digital Benchmarks for the Culture Sector

Technology, we often hear, has transformed both the way that museums and arts organisation do business, and the expectations and behaviours of the people we want to reach. As we look ahead to the 5th decade of the Internet, and the ever-increasing role of social, mobile and cloud technologies in defining how people consume, create and interact with our services, how can we take a holistic view of technology in our organisation and how can we plan strategically to do more of it, do it better, and with greater sustainability and impact. 

It is to address this question that the Collections Trust has developed a free Excel-based Digital Benchmarking Tool for museums, galleries and related arts and cultural organisations. Building on projects like the EU-funded ENUMERATE, and the fantastic Let's Get Real research from Culture24, our aim is to provide you with a simple self assessment tool to step back, look at where you are in your use of technology, and think about the areas that you need to prioritise. 

The benchmarking tool we have developed is based on the structure of the Benchmarks in Collections Care tool which we updated with the support of the Arts Council England last year. It takes 8 core competencies - areas in which digital is likely to impact on your organisation, and then provides a series of range-statements enabling you to map your development from 'we don't do that' to 'digital, creative media and engagement are fully integrated across every aspect of what we do'. 

The 8 core areas we have focussed on are:

  • Strategy
  • People
  • Systems
  • Digitisation
  • Content Delivery 
  • Analytics
  • Engagement
  • Revenue

Of course, we could discuss the scope of this model until the cows come home, but the idea is (a) to provide a simple structure that is equally accessible both to the technical and the non-technical alike, and (b) to make the critical point that digital and creative media are not single-issue questions - they are about the interplay between organisational culture, policy, strategy, behaviours, values and kit. An effective digital organisation is one which integrates these elements effectively and harnesses them to the delivery of their core mission in a way which suits the values and behaviours of their audiences. 

To help people engage with this benchmarking tool, we will be publishing it as an Excel-based interactive which allows people to map their progression against these core areas. The resulting data is then mapped to a spider diagram (see below), which is intended to provide an at-a-glance visualisation of key areas of strength and areas for further development.

Collections Trust Digital Benchmarking Model. Jan 2013

Why Benchmarking?

Benchmarking the digital progression of your organisation does some very helpful things in terms of your strategic development: 

  • It helps demonstrate success in terms of digital development
  • It helps make the case for prioritisation of and investment in digital development
  • It helps bring all of the different elements of the organisation together, irrespective of technical skills
  • It helps overcome the increasingly irrelevant difference between 'front of house' and 'back office'
  • It helps highlight why some digital projects might fail (for example, because they don't key into your overall purpose)
  • it promotes a virtuous cycle between the 'just do it' ethos and feeding intelligence about impact back into the organisation

Download the free Digital Benchmarks tool

The updated version of the free Digital Benchmarks tool is now availale for download from the link below. This has been updated following consultation with the sector. As with all of our work, we will continue to review it and gather responses in the coming months, and will aim to produce an updated version roughly once a year. 

All feedback on the tool should be sent to us at We would also love to see your results! Once you have filled in the spreadsheet, please do email us your results  and we will anonymise them and feed them into our national overview dataset to help improve the tool in future. 


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