Adam Rubin is an alumnus of Spektrix.
I spend a lot of time out on the road, meeting with theatres. This really is the best part of my job, as I get to discuss new ways of responding to all of the constantly changing challenges that come with running an arts organisation. I love solving these problems with them and finding the right tools to do this, whether we’re talking about overcoming obstacles in the box office, in marketing or in fundraising.
As you might expect (from someone who works with software every day) a lot of these conversations are about technology. I’ve been having lots of conversations about the struggle to innovate in technology, thinking about how we work creatively with technology as well as how we use it to run a venue day to day. We’ve been talking about how, in the rehearsal room, video walls and collaborative tools like Skype and Google Hangouts can bring people from across an ocean together into an artistic process as if they were all sitting in the same room. Technology has made it possible to bring the very best into the artistic process. But sometimes, and particularly in the way we operate and communicate in arts organisations, we’re holding ourselves back by relying on outdated technology.
Take email, for example. A lot of the arts organisations I meet rely on email technology that just doesn’t work. For several organisations I’ve spoken to recently, the struggle of running the technology that keeps their own email inboxes up and running means frequent downtime, and an almost complete stoppage of work whenever it sporadically goes down for hours (or days!) at a time.
The problem? Locally-hosted servers, requiring huge pieces of infrastructure inside a theatre and managed by them internally.
On one hand, I understand it. The arts faces cuts in support, less predictable attendance, and deferred maintenance that mean it can be difficult to get buy-in from senior management to try out new technology. I worked as an IT Director to a Box Office Manager at a number of non-profit theatres so I completely understand what a problem this can become. There’s the inevitable issue of pressure from your staff too – people might be used to a certain way of working.
But it’s 2015, and email isn’t complicated. There are options out there like Gmail for business (which is free or inexpensive – we use it at Spektrix!) and lots of others. There’s really no longer a need to keep email servers in your building. And it doesn’t stop with email. Why not use Xero to put your accounting solution into the cloud, or DropBox to handle the massive amounts of storage required for production photos and video content that are critical to your marketing team? Why not go for a cloud-based solution, and take away the headache and expense?
The old problem of storage has almost completely gone away with the invention of the cloud. Why maintain a knowledge base and proficiency for something like server-based email hosting, when there’s no longer any need? Arts organisations need to utilise technology to become more effective and efficient, but they shouldn’t have to manage the cumbersome task of running in-house servers. The cloud gives us the opportunity to make technology in the arts much more mission-based.