The National Theatre – Enacting cultural change with Navisite
Since 1963, the National Theatre Company has been producing world-class entertainment for audiences in London and beyond. More than 3,500 worked at the NT in 2016-17, making the theatre one of central London’s largest factories. The NT is also a keen adopter of new technologies to serve their goal of making theatre accessible to audiences outside their South Bank headquarters; they recorded 7.8 million engagements with individuals across all of their channels during 2017.
Technology-driven culture change
The National Theatre operations team is made up of 15 multi-disciplinary people, spread across several teams specializing in security, projects and service delivery (among others). In order to improve the overall quality of service provided to stakeholders and customers, a strategic decision was taken to restructure IT operations, to create one multi-disciplinary team operating in a DevOps-like model.
“We wanted to do this by having a single team that delivers the effort. So rather than have the traditional team structure of first, second and third line experts and then whoever else sits above that,” explained Head of IT Operations, George Tunnicliffe, “What I wanted to do and what the IT director wanted to do is create a single team where people could get the maximum out of their time with us, and learn different crafts.”
The change suggested is not easy to achieve; it doesn’t just include structural changes, but changing the culture within a team. A lot of the stakeholders involved in the overall decisions within the theatre were supportive of the change, but were unsure of how George and his team would achieve the goal he had set.
The start of this shift came by freeing up the team, giving them up to 25% more time in their day over the course of this change, so that they could look at additional tasks that could optimize their performance. The administrative tasks were handed to Navisite, so that the operations team could do a true evaluation on what tasks they should involve themselves with, and which strategic projects they could get more involved in.
Implementing Cloud and post-Cloud technologies
The NT already knew that Cloud services would be an integral part of their strategy moving forward – but further ahead they were already planning for a “post-Cloud” future. With the assistance of Cloud partner Navisite they began adopting service platforms that would allow them to better serve internal stakeholders, reduce onsite infrastructure and free up time and resources for the IT operations team.
Navisite played an integral part in helping the National Theatre make the transition. Every new Cloud service created two areas of savings: first, there were the initial cost savings associated using hosted technologies to reduce/replace capital spend on local systems; second, Navisite took over many of the low-level administrative and maintenance tasks associated with each platform, reducing the demands placed on Tunnicliffe’s team.
“We're not checking the discs, the patch records, traveling to the data center downstairs ... We're not changing the plugs, we're not checking the fuses, we're not doing the stuff at the APC and making that work. We're not making sure that all the monitoring and stuff's still working. That's handed over to our friends at Navisite.”
The NT team has also been working hard to integrate each of the platforms that support their processes. Tighter integration helps to streamline operations, further reducing the need for manual intervention.
Tunnicliffe gives improvements to the email server as one example of where the National Theatre benefits from their partnership with Navisite. By choosing the managed Office 365 Productivity Suite from Navisite, the National Theatre has been able to outsource their entire email infrastructure: “In terms of the email platform, that sanitizes our emails, we literally don't touch that. We can now look at the investigations and information that it alerts us to, but we don't have to look at a server, checking its storage or anything to do with how its email gateway's performing.”
More resources for strategic projects
Tunnicliffe has noticed several benefits to the new operating model: “We're changing from capital expenditure, where we were investing in new equipment every few years that then aged and sat on the finance spreadsheets, to an operational budget where we can flex our spend much more easily.”
By freeing up approximately 25% of the IT team’s time, and saving them money, the National Theatre IT operations team is now able to approach challenges more creatively. They have been able to restructure the team, encouraging a new model where everyone has the opportunity to improve their skills by “doing”.
The increased flexibility of cloud platforms is also powering their ability to design creative solutions; the Navisite partnership gives them the time and resources they need to carry out the projects that will better serve their customers.
To find out more about the National Theatre’s journey, please watch our case study. Or to see how the Office 365 Productivity Suite could help your journey towards a similar digital transformation, please get in touch.