This is a discussion guide for the Technology and Operations workshop

THEME: Understanding SI’s current approach to technology and operations
At the end of the day, whatever the online vision and mission of the Smithsonian Institution will be, there must be a concept of operations upon which that vision can be built, and there must be a concept for a technology platform that supports the enterprise vision.
  • Obviously, everyone here has a very clear idea of the Smithsonian’s mission, right? And how well are you doing supporting that mission with your operations and technology management?
  • What do you think that mission is?
  • How well are you supporting the mission from an operations perspective?
  • How well are you aligning your technology planning with that mission?
    • I made a comment at our last strategy workshop that I was starting to realize that the Smithsonian was probably one of the most siloed and bureaucratic organization I had ever worked with, but at the same time, it was also among the most inventive and entrepreneurial organizations I had ever seen. Is that true?
  • How can this be possible? How can an operations and technology team support both of those totally disparate states?
  • Does the Smithsonian really exist as a core entity, or it is more like a holding company umbrella that sits across 39 unique museums and research centers?
  • What happens at the core of SI that’s different from what’s happening in the 39 museums and research centers?
  • Does all budgeting for operations and technology occur at the core or at the unit level?
  • What is it that makes the Smithsonian bureaucratic in some regards?
  • What is it that stimulates all the innovation and entrepreneurial energy at the edges of SI?
  • Is there a centralized “concept of operations” for the Smithsonian or are operations managed more at a local or business level?
  • What are the principal responsibilities of OCIO?
  • How does OCIO sync up with the individual museums and business units?
  • Where are the Smithsonian’s technical teams housed? In OCIO or in the units?
  • How does the Smithsonian determine which aspects of technology and operations are controlled centrally vs. which are controlled within the museums and units?
  • How do you know if the technology and operations function at Smithsonian is being successful?

THEME: Understanding SI’s current technology strategy and priorities for action
  • How important is the Web and New Media to SI’s technology planning?
  • Is your current technology budgeting in alignment with that level of importance?
  • What’s the process for securing budgeting / FTEs to support a newly planned web initiative?
  • Who “owns” www.si.edu ?
    • Hardware, infrastructure and hosting?
    • User experience and content?
    • Utilities like search, analytics, ecommerce?
  • Who “owns” each of the museum sites?
    • Infrastructure / applications?
    • Content, user experience?
  • What, if any, technology services are shared across the entire SI web enterprise?
  • How do you determine which technology services should be provided by centralized services (OCIO) vs. which ones should be provided at the museum / unit level?
  • From a best-practices perspective, how much of your technology could be standardized into a pan-institution framework vs. how much should be determined independently within each museum or research center?
  • From a cost perspective, what is the ideal balance between centralized technology services and decentralized services?
  • What are the reasons given by the museums and research unity for NOT using centralized technology services?
  • Does the Smithsonian support a standardized technology platform? ( PHP, .NET, Java/ J2ee, Ruby)
  • What is your standard development environment?
  • What are the most important technology initiatives you’re currently working on?
  • What was the process you used to establish these initiatives as priorities?
  • How are these initiatives being funded?
  • Were there business cases created to support these initiatives?
  • Who has the responsibility for approving those business cases prior to actually making a technology investment?
  • Do you have clear objectives for the initiative set forth to measure its performance and judge its success?
THEME: Understanding SI’s views on Web 2.0
  • How were you impacted by Secretary Clough’s announcement in January of the Web 2.0 initiative?
  • What are the implications of Web 2.0 for operations and technology management within SI?
  • When we talk about Web 2.0, what are we really talking about?
    • Greater levels of interactivity with our virtual audiences
    • Enabling user generated content in the form of blogs, wikis,
    • Enabling our content to be used and shared in social networking sites
    • Mobile access
  • Are there pan-institutional policies regarding the use of social media sites / tools?
  • Does each museum do whatever it wants?
  • Who owns the Smithsonian’s Facebook page or the Smithsonian Channel on YouTube? Who determines what is and is not posted there?
  • Many organizations have a social media presence on FaceBook, flickr, YouTube, etc. What should SI do and not do on those social networking sites?
  • What kind of restrictions do you place on content that is posted to a social media site? Why?
  • Regarding Web 2.0 technologies, do you have back-end and front-end support? Do you have developers capable of building these projects?
  • How are you managing user-generated-content on Smithsonian sites today?
  • What technologies are you using to build relationships with younger audiences?
  • Do you currently support any logins or restricted content (other than admin services) with the public or with partners?
THEME: Understanding digitization, storage and retrieval of assets
  • How much of your collection is currently captured in digital formats?
  • Who determines what assets are digitized and when?
  • How much of the collection are you committed to digitize?
  • How does the current digitization process work at SI?
  • Who does the actual scanning work?
  • How are the digital files it stored? Is there a central repository?
  • How do potential users of these digital assets get access to the files?
  • Who pays for the digitization?
  • Who benefits from the sale or licensing of digitized assets?
  • Are these digitized databases accessible to web search engines?
  • What would you like to do from an operations or technology perspective to improve the digitization process?
  • What are the other major technology initiatives that you’re planning for the next year or two?
THEME: General concluding questions:
  • What are the best things you hear people say about SI’s current web presence?
  • What are the most frequent complaints you hear?
  • If you were responsible for driving only one technology initiative across SI next year, what would it be?
  • If you had only one message to deliver to Secretary Clough through this Web Strategy, what would you tell him?