When working in a digital environment we often focus on the technology; whether its digital images, databases, social media or audit tools, outcomes are dependent on the successful completion of these projects. However, one of the main advantages of bringing digital expertise to problems is not the technology itself, but the process. When we approach such problems from a digital perspective we can go beyond the obvious benefits of being able to accomplish tasks more efficiently, manage larger amounts of information and communicate these across time and space.
The best digital projects force us to think from the outset more closely about the nature of the problem, the objectives we wish to achieve, how we are going to achieve them and how we measure success along the way. This may sound like traditional project management with its workstreams, dependencies and milestones mapped out on the ubiquitous Gantt Chart. There is an important difference, however, in that digital projects typically don’t work well this way, especially in an academic context. The work is neither static nor predictable enough to lend itself to a traditional ‘waterfall’ project management approach.
As research projects still need to come in on time, on budget and demonstrate reliable results how can we deal with this uncertainly? The answer is Agile Development, the ideas of which are beginning to be adopted in the business world as agile or radical management. In the arts scholars are used to dealing with uncertainty, the very problem being investigated may be hard to define, information incomplete and results hard to predict. Consequently scholars often adopt an iterative process of incremental gains, each small step yielding a return along the way to greater insights and understanding. This approach can also be found in software development and from where the term Agile Development comes – working in shorter, often simultaneous, cycles where requirements and solutions evolve in an adaptive, evolutionary and responsive manner. Combine the Arts and the Digital and you have a powerful combination where we seek to understand problems better, work collaboratively, are flexible and adaptable and provide solutions that are enabling and innovative.
Throughout the course of the coming month we shall be featuring our broad ranging expertise from the development of innovative preservation, management, and access strategies for blogs to the creation of learning aids for adult literacy. We invite you contribute thoughts on how we can integrate better with the non-academic Digital community to create an environment of shared knowledge.
Text by Dr Ian Anderson, Senior Lecturer and Director of Museum Studies, Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, School of Humanities.
Dr Anderson’s related YouTube video
Learn more about Digital or to discuss developing a partnership with the College of Arts please contact Dr Fraser Rowan the College of Arts Business Development manager by email or phone (0141 330 3885).