5 min

“Having one system as a source of truth has been transformational for our business,”

Jaime Lemus

said Jaime Lemus, Chief Information Officer at the California Academy of Sciences. “With a single system — a CRM that houses all the information about our constituents — we have the potential for robust insight into our customer journey.”

Transformation has long defined the Academy’s journey. The San Francisco institution has welcomed guests through its doors since 1853, just three years after California became a state. It was the first U.S. scientific academy located west of the Atlantic seaboard.

Not once but twice — in 1906 and again in 1989 — earthquake damage forced the Golden Gate Park institution to start over. And each time the attraction reinvented itself. Today, the Academy houses an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest and natural history museum under one roof. More than 15 million people visited in the decade before the COVID pandemic.

Visitors in the lobby of the California Academy of Sciences are greeted with a large skeletal fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex greets visitors in the entrance of the California Academy of Sciences.

As the organization grew, so did the need to harness its visitor data. In 2019, the Academy moved from several separate business systems to Tessitura. The team uses Tessitura to manage its revenue-generating programs, including ticketing, fundraising and memberships. Jaime oversees all technology functions to serve the organization’s broader goals.

A single system built on industry-leading technology provided the best opportunity to advance the Academy’s mission.

When making the switch, the Academy team looked at several solutions. One option was to integrate so-called “best-of-breed” tools. Ultimately, they decided a single system built on industry-leading technology provided the best opportunity to advance their mission.

It also allowed them to streamline operations. “Most of us have a hard time getting our jobs done with one application, let alone trying to integrate three or four. It’s a real challenge,” Jaime said.

“Tessitura is at the center of our business. It is the connective tissue,” Jaime continued. “It’s what binds the things we do behind the house. That includes how we raise funds to the way we reach out to our younger constituents. It’s how we reach the people we want to get into our front doors to give a sense of joy and wonder every time.”

The ability to analyze visitor information across the organization proved particularly essential during the pandemic. With a better understanding of their guests, the Academy reinvented admission products, customized their visitor experience and revamped website paths with confidence.

“Tessitura is at the center of our business. It is the connective tissue.”

“The ability to have that information, to make informed decisions, helped us get through that very difficult period,” Jaime said. “And it’s helping us recover.”

With recovery comes an eye toward the future. The Academy appreciates that Tessitura’s unique structure as a member-owned cooperative gives its team a place at the table when charting their technology roadmap.

“We have a technology company that’s a nonprofit, a nonprofit completely devoted to serving cultural institutions. You just don't have technology companies that do that,” Jaime said. “You don't have communities that gather around a technology to help you get the job done. To help you get creative. To help you see a vision that maybe you didn't even know you had. Tessitura is very special.”


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