Success Story | How Atlanta History Center’s Centennial Anniversary Fueled Technology Improvements
Manager, Professional Services
Atlanta History Center (AHC) was founded in 1926 as a small, archival-focused historical society. Over the decades, it has grown to encompass 33 acres of curated gardens, four historic houses, varied programming, and a range of signature and temporary exhibitions housed in the Atlanta History Museum.
As the organization approaches their centennial anniversary, AHC has adopted a strategic plan that includes goals to enhance their digital presence as a means to further their mission to “connect people, culture, and history.” Options for digital membership, member/subscriber-only website content, online giving, registration for digital experiences, and engagement with remote audiences will be vital to AHC’s growth as they move into their next 100 years.
AHC staff recognized that their current nonprofit technology does not fully support the organization’s goals for visitor engagement—both in-person and digitally. The current online experience does not provide what AHC wants for its audiences, which is a best-in-class, seamless user experience. Online purchases of tickets and memberships are difficult, and AHC has little control over the steps in the purchase path or the look and feel of the purchase webpages. Challenges with reporting and analytics, workflows, and data integrations led AHC to consider a change, which is when staff at AHC contacted JCA and engaged us to help them find a path forward.
Current State: Conducting a Needs Assessment
JCA began the project by learning about AHC’s needs for the present and the future through a series of interviews with staff across the organization. We discussed what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and what they dreamed of doing but weren’t able to with current systems. We analyzed where the current systems make day-to-day activities burdensome. The interviews helped us understand each team’s needs and business processes, as well as their pain points and areas for improvement.
From the discovery interviews, JCA wrote a Needs Assessment report, which described the strategic and functional needs of the organization and made recommendations for optimizing systems and processes. The interviews revealed that the current technology, particularly the ticketing system, was not fulfilling all of AHC’s operational needs. JCA’s assessment included a shortlist of recommended software products to consider based on a checklist of requirements that AHC would need in a new system. The leadership team at AHC agreed with the conclusions of the Needs Assessment report and decided to proceed with a system selection process.
Shaping the Future: Selecting a New System
The Needs Assessment laid the foundation to objectively evaluate and select new technology. It defined AHC’s system requirements, as well as their goals and objectives for future systems, including:
- Improve the guest ticketing experience, especially online
- Support digital initiatives
- Improve reporting, analysis, and business intelligence capabilities
- Reduce manual processes and improve staff efficiency
JCA and AHC used the Needs Assessment to create a Request for Proposal (RFP), which was issued to a group of vendors who we had identified as suitable candidates, based on AHC’s system requirements. The vendors submitted their proposals, and the AHC team evaluated the submissions to choose the ones that were the closest match to their needs. The team narrowed it down to three candidates.
AHC invited the three chosen vendors to come to demonstrate their product in person for the AHC team. In advance of the demonstrations, JCA and AHC prepared demonstration scenarios related to their specific business requirements. The vendors were sent the scenarios prior to the meetings, to give them the opportunity to prepare. Stakeholders from across the museum and JCA attended the demonstrations, which were held in the beautiful meeting spaces at AHC. The team spent a full day with each vendor, so they received an in-depth look at each system in action, and they were able to ask the vendor representatives directly about how the systems could work for them.
After the demonstrations, JCA guided the AHC project team to update the evaluations of the systems, incorporating the knowledge gained from the demonstrations about how well each could meet the museum’s requirements. The team identified the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and they analyzed the projected financial investments. With all this information in hand, AHC selected Tessitura as its top candidate, and they are ready to begin implementation of the new system.
“JCA expertly and successfully led our team through a system selection process aimed at replacing our current admissions and donor management software—a comprehensive and complex undertaking for our multi-disciplinary institution,” said Ryan Nix Glenn, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Experience. “JCA supported us every step of the way, in-person and virtually, ensuring that we were making thoughtful and informed decisions in the best interest of our staff and patrons!”
The AHC team is looking forward to Tessitura providing improved online features for audiences and more efficient workflows for staff. The new system will give AHC a more holistic view of its constituents as it will bring together admissions ticketing, membership, donations, events, and educational programs, so that staff will be able to see how people interact with AHC and communicate with them accordingly.
Implementation of the new system will be a major undertaking for AHC—one that they are excited to embark upon as they approach their 100th anniversary. JCA will continue as a partner through the process, helping AHC examine its data and business processes to find ways to make the best use of the new system’s functionality.
“JCA’s partnership during this process was invaluable; so much so that we have engaged their team to support us through the implementation of the selected software as their expertise and efficacy is unmatched!”
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