John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer, Tessitura

Propelling innovation


5 min

Disruption is to be expected.

Digital transformation prepares our organizations to adapt. It aligns people and strategy with modern technologies to improve customer experience and deliver value. But which technologies are most relevant in making digital transformation possible now in arts and culture?

In another article, I shared the importance of digital transformation and explained why the topic is trending. I then debunked several common myths. Now, I’d like to dive deeper into the technology powering current digital transformation. I’ll describe how arts and culture organizations can benefit from cloud services, data analytics and artificial intelligence.

The cloud provides a foundation

The first concept in modern digital transformation is the cloud. This term has become pervasive, but I’d like to offer a simple definition. The cloud is someone else’s server or service that you access over the internet. That’s it. This can include everything from computing infrastructure to databases to full-blown applications. Cloud services contrast with running local servers or applications on your workstations. So, think of the cloud as someone else’s server that frees you from managing local resources.

There are several benefits to arts and culture organizations of shifting some workloads to cloud services.

  • Switching from local to cloud services increases flexibility, mobility and convenience. You can access cloud resources from anywhere you have an internet connection.
  • Using the cloud increases scalability. The cloud is designed for elasticity. Resources can be rapidly scaled up or down to match changing demand. It is likely your local infrastructure is not as flexible.
  • Moving to the cloud often generates cost savings. It removes the need to buy and maintain costly local hardware or other infrastructure equipment. The cloud should ease your IT and infrastructure management burden.

The cloud enhances collaboration and reduces friction, making organizations nimbler.

Do you need to set up a box office off-site? Do you need to manage ticket exchanges from home during a winter snowstorm? Do you want to reference key reports on your way to a donor meeting or make an unexpected VIP reservation on your way to work? If your ticketing system and CRM are in the cloud, all are possible.

Many arts and culture organizations have limited, or shrinking, resources for IT staff and tools. Moving to the cloud can streamline technology management and software upgrades. It can give you access to stronger security protections through your platform provider and free time so your team can focus on other needs.

The cloud also enhances collaboration and reduces friction, making organizations nimbler. Both are critical prerequisites to adopting a culture of innovation. Evaluating your migration to the cloud should be the first step in your digital transformation.

Data offers context

The second concept that underlies modern digital transformation is data. Data analytics delivers the context for our transformations. The cloud facilitates our ability to collect, process and analyze more data, delivering more impact. Just as the cloud is the foundation to digital transformation, data is the backbone.

An effective customer relationship management (CRM) platform lets you integrate demographic, behavioral and transactional data from across your organization. You may ask: Which visitors are more likely to buy tickets months in advance? How many members face retention risks because they’re not using their benefits?

Your CRM system should not only capture and store data that allows you to answer those questions. It should also enable intuitive visualization, analysis and sharing across your team so you can make those insights actionable.

As you adopt more digital technologies, you’ll be able to coalesce disparate types of data and make better-informed decisions. When you center your customers, you can use that data to personalize and improve their experiences.

There is a catch. Good decisions require good data and great analysis. The reality for many organizations is that much of their data is not in great shape. That means 80% of your analytics activities may be data cleaning and preparation.

We waste resources and miss opportunities by failing to fund this work. So, standardize your data entry rules. Document your data processes. Make data cleanup everyone’s responsibility. Encourage your front-line teams to take on new roles as data customers, data creators and data custodians. This might be an area where you’ll want to invest in more tools or training.

The cloud enables better data agility, so you can reveal actionable insights and achieve more.

As you adopt more digital technologies, you’ll be able to coalesce disparate types of data and make better-informed decisions.

Artificial intelligence unlocks value

The last technology pillar driving digital transformation is artificial intelligence, or AI. This is another term I’d like to define. I think of AI as teaching machines to do human-like tasks. For example, we can teach machines to recognize objects, draw pictures, make music or write stories. To me, the most immediate application of AI in CRM is its ability to make predictions, recommendations and decisions.

AI learns by analyzing data. Once it learns your data, it can make predictions based on previous history. Importantly, predictive results will improve over time with more data. We call this machine learning.

New technologies like ChatGPT may steal headlines in the AI world. But the reality is that AI is universal, even if it’s subtle. All major retailers use AI for marketing. Google uses AI in search. If you use Microsoft Office, you’ve received AI suggestions as you type email messages or write documents. If you viewed any web page today, AI was a part of your experience in the marketing, analytics or content.

AI matters for digital transformation because it can do a better job of unlocking the value in your data than traditional technology. Traditional technology can store, report and visualize data. But AI can learn and predict.

And, yes, AI can help arts and culture organizations. It can inform your decisions about everything from event pricing to membership structure to donor stewardship. The embedded analytics suite in Tessitura, for example, includes powerful AI-driven forecasting. This gives arts and culture administrators another tool for making better predictions about attendance, ticket sales and donations.

AI matters for digital transformation because it can do a better job of unlocking the value in your data than traditional technology.

I hope you see how these three pillars of contemporary digital transformation build on each other. The cloud provides the foundation to transform our operations. That elevates our ability to collect and analyze data. It culminates in the proliferation of powerful AI, which enables machine learning and predictive analysis.

Are you taking advantage of these opportunities? In other articles, I’ll look at how digital transformation can help us leverage our audience relationships. And I’ll explore an example of an arts and culture team bringing digital transformation to life in their organization.



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John Jakovich

John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer

John Jakovich leads Tessitura Network’s technology teams.

Prior to joining Tessitura Network in November 2015, he had spent more than a decade as a senior technology leader working with some of the non-profit industry’s largest organizations and within the Tessitura Network ecosystem. He was the Vice President of Technology at SofTrek Corporation, a provider of non-profit CRM systems for philanthropic organizations and, before that, Chief Information Officer at Jacobson Consulting Applications (JCA), a firm that provides strategic and technology consulting to non-profit organizations.    

John has over 20 years of experience in IT management and software development for enterprise systems, the majority of which he spent developing business intelligence solutions for the non-profit industry. He studied computer science at California State University Chico and San Marcos and started his engineering career in the dynamic southern California internet start-up market of the mid-nineties.  John worked at several successful start-ups in the e-commerce and artificial intelligence and eventually landed at Kintera, Inc. (later acquired by Blackbaud Inc.).  

John lives in Fort Collins, CO. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, taking advantage of the active Colorado lifestyle, including snowboarding, hiking and running.

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