We’ve been thinking lots about agile / rapid development models as we begin to delve into the wonderful world of apps. But, what is it and what does it mean for museums?
Are museums ready for agile?
Museums are strange beasts. Often slow to respond, working within a model of exhibition development based on large project teams, long timelines and (sometimes) big budgets. This has resulted, I believe, in a mindset that is not attuned to the idea of agile / rapid development of projects, where an iterative process is the key, resulting in releasing a product that may only be half-finished. Again, this is often anathema to museum folk brought up on the exhibition development model. Even though we often talk about the exhibition not being finished the day it opens, how often do we make changes and updates, as well as accepting that not everything has to be “perfect” on opening day?
So, how to do it?
Of course, Wikipedia was first port of call, with their article about agile software development, with this really useful diagram demonstrating that the process of agility is strategy, release, iteration, daily, continuous.
Actually the first point of call was Twitter and the very wonderful #mtogo group to the rescue. This paper Agile Methods for Project Management by Ellis, et al (2008) is a must-read. They state: “… agile methods directly address the roles of the customer in the planning and development process, as well as the probability of changes in assumptions and requirements that will undoubtedly occur in most projects.” They quote the agile software development manifesto which states that they value:
Ellis et al describe their collaboration around developing steve.museum, detailing the following ideas:
One thing that struck me was this comment: “... adhering to such a structured method of working together requires discipline and persistence from the team” – this suggest that while you need to be agile, you also need a set of underlying processes and structures in order to do this.
What could we do?
We’re going through a deep thinking process, with a final approach that might look something like this:
What has to change?
This does mean however, that the traditional exhibitions model described above won’t work in the agile approach, but what we need to remember is to:
I also think this model can be used across a broader range of museum processes and am keen to get started!