Museum Web and New Media software projects offer tantalizing rewards, but the road to success can be paved with uncertainty and risk. To small organizations these risks can be overwhelming, and even large organizations with seemingly limitless resources can flounder in ways that profoundly affect staff morale, public impact, the health and fitness of our partners in the vendor community, and our own bottom lines. Something seems to happen between the inception of projects, when optimism and beneficial outcomes seem clear and attainable, and somewhere down the road when schedules, budgets, and outcomes go off course. What is it? And what can we do to gain control?
This paper, created for the 2008 annual conference of the American Association of Museums, describes some common ways that technology projects get into trouble. It examines a proven project-process framework called the Capability Maturity Model and how that model can provide insight and guidance to museum leaders and project participants, and it tells how to improve real-world processes that contribute to project success. The paper includes three brief case studies and a call-to-action which argues that museum leaders should make technology stewardship an urgent priority.
The intended audience is people who are interested in understanding and improving how museum-technology gets done. The paper’s primary focus is Web and New Media software projects, but the core ideas are applicable to projects of all kinds.