John Jakovich

Chief Innovation Officer, Tessitura

Beyond the buzz


5 min

What does “digital transformation” mean to you?

To many, the words are just more technology jargon. Digital transformation may evoke projects that are overwhelming, aspirational or even out of reach, especially for nonprofits. Or it may feel like digital transformation is the domain of your IT team with little connection to your day-to-day work.

Earlier this year, I presented at the annual INTIX conference. I explored how arts and culture organizations benefit from digital transformation. In recent years, I have attended a dozen or more presentations extolling the benefits of digital transformation. I left these sessions underwhelmed and unconvinced. I think these well-meaning digital evangelists failed to explain several key points that show why we need to pay attention to these trends now more than ever.

  • What is digital transformation? Many assume everyone already understands digital transformation. When a definition is given, it’s often circular. Take this one: Digital transformation is the adoption of digital technology to digitize non-digital operations. (Does that clear things up for you? It didn’t for me either.)
  • How can arts and culture benefit from digital transformation? Many conversations about digital transformation remain conceptual. They offer few specific, practical or pragmatic recommendations for arts and culture organizations trying to adopt these strategies to advance their digital acumen.
  • Why is this important now? In my experience, presenters often don’t account for recency or explain the sense of urgency permeating the conversation. Digital transformation isn’t new. So, why is it trending now?

When I planned my presentation, I challenged myself to deliver the session I wished someone had shared with me. I wanted a straightforward explanation of digital transformation. I sought an introduction that explains what digital transformation is (and isn’t), why it’s in the zeitgeist now and, finally, why it matters to arts and culture.

Digital transformation isn’t new. So, why is it trending now?

What is digital transformation really?

Let’s start with my definition.

Digital transformation is the alignment of people and strategy with modern technologies to improve customer experience and deliver value.

Digital transformation does not center technology. It centers people, agility and new ways of thinking.

The key to understanding digital transformation is recognizing it’s about people, not technology. Technology is a tool, not a strategy. You must center the people in your organization and the audiences you serve in your digital transformations. The key question is: “How can we incorporate modern digital technology to better serve our staff and our visitors?”

The key to understanding digital transformation is recognizing it’s about people, not technology.

Why is digital transformation important now?

As professionals, we’ve used technology to advance our businesses our entire careers. Yet, the sense of urgency around this topic is heightened today. Why?

Digital transformation is more salient now because digital disruption is no longer the exception; it’s expected. We need to operationalize the reality that technology can change quickly. And there’s no doubt the past few years have accelerated change in most arts and culture organizations.

1. Audience behaviors are evolving.

Customers today are not passive consumers. Instead, thanks to social media and mobile devices, modern audiences are part of intricate, interconnected and dynamic digital networks. This evolution in customer behavior requires us to redefine our communications and relationships with them. We must reimagine customers’ journeys with our organizations and anticipate their digital experiences.

2. Technology advances are making transformation more accessible.

Digital transformation was once only an option for the largest organizations or those with the most resources. New technologies including the cloud, advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence have expanded the landscape of what is possible. These tools are now ubiquitous and available to everyone.

3. The global pandemic accelerated digital trends for all of us.

The pandemic was a reminder that the pace and direction of technology — and especially how we use it — can change quickly. There’s no question the pandemic hastened cultural digital shifts and adoption trends that were already underway. A desire for digital customer convenience is a legacy of the pandemic. Wherever you thought your organization needed to be five years from now has already arrived.

4. Staff shortages and cost-of-living challenges are driving the need for more efficiency.

Though these challenges affect every business, they are acutely felt in arts and culture organizations. It’s imperative we drive success through sustainable operations. We must automate manual or labor-intensive processes using digital technology so staff can focus on higher-value priorities.

Digital transformation is about preparing our people and strategies to be successful in a digital, data-driven future.

What does digital transformation look like in arts & culture?

The pandemic forced everyone to work in new ways. It challenged us all to make decisions faster. We asked, “How quickly can we act on new ideas if we abandon old assumptions and traditional constraints?”

We learned we could be more flexible than we thought. We learned that agility is what we’ll need moving forward.

Digital transformation is about preparing our people and strategies to be successful in a digital, data-driven future. That translates to building an agile, learning organization. We need to create teams that can quickly pivot and experiment to manage the unexpected and adopt emerging technology.

I’ll dive into specifics in other articles. For now, whether you’re just beginning or are already deep on your journey, here are three important reminders as you consider what digital transformation looks like for your team.

  • Digital transformation is an organization and people issue. The key factor for any transformation, digital or otherwise, is that the entire organization benefits from it. That means the entire organization participates in it.
  • The real investment in digital transformation is only partly in technology. Sure, you may need to fund new tools. But you also need to set aside time for culture change and learning. You need to give your team the support, resources and materials they need to internalize changes.
  • Digital transformation is not change for the sake of change. It’s not about chasing every shiny new object. The purpose of digital transformation is to identify opportunities where you can deliver real value: to your team, your institution and your audiences.



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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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