If you work in an arts organisation, you’ve probably thought about the prospect of joining or starting a consortium at some point. Ten years ago the words collaboration and consortium were interchangeable and often referred to the same thing - a collective of geographically local arts organisations who joined forces with an emphasis on cost saving and software sharing.
But across the sector, including the 300+ arts organisations we work with, we’re seeing a new form of collaboration take over. Its focus is people first, from customers to the staff who make the building tick. The new collaboration model is proving we can achieve more than ever when technology is the tool used to collaborate, not the reason to collaborate.
What is a consortium?
A consortium is a group of organisations that join together as a group for some shared purpose. In the past, arts consortia have focused heavily on cost saving and sharing IT systems.
A very basic a consortium would share hardware and software. For example, a single organisation might ‘sublet’ their ticketing system, servers and support staff to other organisations, whilst keeping each individual organisations’ data ring-fenced. This has the benefit of many organisations being able to share the cost of software they might not be able to afford on their own. But it has the disadvantage of a ‘parent’ organisation managing all of the hardware, which often compromises the control venues have on their system.
One of the biggest issues for venues thinking of joining a consortium is establishing the true motivations of the other organisations involved. If a large organisation is encouraging you to join a consortium, is this because they want to support you and work collaboratively, or do they just want to recoup some of their IT costs? If it’s the latter, you could find yourself in a contract where you’re simply a customer, not a collaborator.
But doesn’t collaboration happen naturally in a consortium?
No. Collaboration is all about people. Whether you’re sharing a single system or not will have little impact on whether you collaborate successfully. In fact, joining a consortium can have a negative impact on collaboration as relationships between the organisations boil down to financial gain and control over a single system, meaning your customers and staff may be low down on the list of priorities.
Paul Faulkner, Chair of the Birmingham Culture Investment Enquiry, stated in their recent report “there is now clear evidence that the sector is recognising that its future is highly dependent on new and innovative forms of collective action. This is not a return to the reductive narrative of joint services and simple cost efficiencies but a commitment to developing the financial base, creative output and community engagement it provides in radical new ways."
How is Spektrix different?
Cloud technology means your system (that’s everything from data, customer insights, inventory) is available anywhere. All our users are using the same version of the system so once you’ve learnt one Spektrix system, you’ve learnt them all, and every organisation has full control over their own system. Why is this so important? Because it removes all technological and geographical barriers to collaboration so customer experience and your staff can take centre stage.
If you’re a Spektrix user then you’re already part of one of the biggest arts consortiums in the world and part of the new collaboration model. The basic concept of multi-tenant software as a service (SaaS) means hundreds of users all share the same servers, with each organisation's data ring-fenced. Using Spektrix has the added benefit of us managing the servers, saving you from that cost and hassle, so that no one in the consortium needs to worry about it.
Here are some examples of Spektrix arts organisations collaborating
TARA Arts and Battersea Arts Centre
Tara Arts and Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) joined forces last year with the BAC assisting Tara Arts with their ticketing and Front of House operations at a time when Tara Arts were busy reopening their venue after a capital redevelopment.
On a practical level this means BAC provide phone bookings for Tara Arts and front of house staff. But both organisations have learnt so much more than just how to share staff.They’ve built a partnership based on sharing skills, best practice and learning from each other, strengthening both venues.
Andrew Bishop, Director of Commercial Operations at BAC, has found the experience highly rewarding:
“We have learned a great deal from this partnership. It has allowed our team to gain a greater understanding of theatre operations by finding similarities and differences in how things work at the two venues and giving feedback on how we might find greater efficiency in two different types of organisations. It has also allowed us to develop an ongoing relationship with another organisation that is close by, with us regularly exchanging advice about ticketing processes, duty management procedures and commercial opportunities in bar and merchandise sales.”
Cambridge Live and Park Theatre
Cambridge Live provide an external telephone service to Park Theatre. This has two main benefits - Park Theatre can manage resources by outsourcing some element of their box office, and customers get a great service regardless of when or how they book.
“We have been working with Cambridge Live since our Spektrix migration in February. We were thrilled to bring in the expertise and support of a very experienced and well-trained team to help us provide our telephone box office externally. The team are great at setting up new accounts fully and actively maintain existing accounts, capturing key customer data at the point of purchase and providing essential information. We can also call upon them to help us with season launches, last minute cancellations etc. I’m so pleased Spektrix introduced us as this relationship has really improved the Park Theatre sales experience for customers undoubtedly.” Dawn James | Sales & Marketing Manager
Future Arts Centres
Future Arts Centres consists of nine arts centres across the UK with the aim of ‘championing the unique importance of arts centres at a local, regional and national level’.
Each of the arts centres use Spektrix, so in 2016 they came together to analyse and benchmark across the organisations. This provided valuable information for their annual report, insight into their audiences and the means to measure key metrics in future.
“Sharing financial and audience data with other, similar organisations can be fantastically useful. Finding out that you aren’t as bad as you thought you were at doing some things can be a great boost, but more importantly, it can help identify areas for improvement” - Annabel Turpin, Co-chair, Future Arts Centres
This consortium has enabled the arts centres to share best practice, combine forces and achieve their goal of promoting arts centres in the UK.
In the examples above, collaboration is about people first. Sharing skills, insight and learnings with Spektrix supporting, not being the reason for, collaboration. Our cloud technology easily enables collaboration. No single member of the consortium has more control than any other and there’s no direct financial gain to be made by subletting resources so you can be confident collaboration is truly that – collaborative.