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Why Should the Arts Care About Information Architecture?

You’re busy trying to get the next production up by opening. Your Artistic Director wants your suggestions of possible scripts for next season’s play selection meetings. Your Board is waiting for the latest grant proposal summaries. Your Teaching Artists are scheduled to visit a set of area schools this Monday and their curriculum aids aren’t ready yet.

You have lots of things on your To Do list, so why should you care about information architecture?

Good question.

What if your artistic director wants next year’s season to appeal to the fastest growing audience demographic in your general geographic location and you are in a mid-sized city?

As an example, what if the Marketing Department just handed you a study showing that young Latino professionals are the fastest growing ethnic group at your location?

What if you could quickly put together a list of all the scripts in your data collection by Latino playwrights that you have read in the last 5 years?

What if you could pare that list down to playwrights under a certain age to appeal to younger audiences?

What if you could further refine the list to identify the playwrights who are Latino, a certain age, and have had a play produced in the closest large city to your area?

What if you could take that list to Marketing and have them identify how many messages or photos relating to the playwright or the topics of his plays have been posted on Facebook or Instagram to get an idea of general interest?

What if, in addition, Marketing could also produce a list of all the advertising campaigns it has run in the last 5 years appealing to a Latino audience and how many of them responded by attending an event or asking to be put on an email list or making a donation?

What if you could also take that list to Educational Outreach and have them identify from their data how many schools with significant populations of Latinos they have visited in the past five years? How many of those students participated in your company’s programs, attended your company’s productions? Or even a list of those that didn’t create some kind of connection with your organization, so you could analyze why they didn’t take the next step?

What if you could take the list of topics to the Development department and ask them to tell you how many grants were written in the last five years that addressed this population’s top care-abouts, the playwrights on your list or how to build a better relationship with this group?

Being able to connect data throughout your organization quickly is the key to success for any business today. Don’t throw money out the window. Take care of your information. It’s as much an asset as the stage on which your actors perform, the revenue from ticket sales or donations from loyal patrons. But since it’s an intellectual asset, sometimes it gets overlooked.

Good decisions by an organization rely on solid knowledge and the knowledge of your organization comes from data. Information architecture is the bedrock that ties the data from different departments together to create a powerful context for decisions and action.

Don’t waste it.

Jayne Dutra is an enterprise information architect passionate about the performing arts. One area of her knowledge management consulting practice is designed to support stage companies, enabling them to better organize their materials so that they can focus precious resources on the creative process instead of drowning in information overload.

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