Universities tend to be abuzz with brain and other activity at all times of night and day with lectures, student gatherings and debates all crowding the roster for both students and professors. Lancaster Arts is no different — apart from the fact that this particular creative hubbub doubles as the cutting edge of today’s art world. Lancaster doesn’t just teach art, it produces it, showcases it, lives it.
This translates into art exhibitions, a series of classical concerts, contemporary art performances, artist residencies, Summer school programmes, workshops and — if that wasn’t enough — support for emerging artists in the contemporary art scene. With all of these events spread out over three venues, imagine the complexity of managing venues, personnel and gear for all these simultaneous happenings.
Further complications: out of the nine employees working hard to run a tight ship organising all these events, several work remotely. Some use Macs, some prefer PCs. And to make matters even more hairy, many of the venues used by staff and students aren’t actually owned by the university.
“From art exhibitions to workshops, Yesplan serves as A ONE-stop-production-shop for every event at Lancaster Arts AT Lancaster University.”
“Five years ago, we had just one theatre programmer and a black book”, recalls Jamie Wooldridge, marketing and communications manager at Lancaster Arts. “We were using the university’s room booking system, plus SharePoint. We managed the basic, shared calendar, but a lot of emails were going back and forth concerning detailed information and specific requirements. A lot of other info was stored only inside a few people’s heads, but none of that knowledge was stored centrally. We had a bunch of files and hard disks. At meetings, we’d sometimes declare we hadn’t been able to do this or that, simply because we didn’t have access to the right drive.”
And then came Yesplan, solver of all problems? Not exactly. “In the beginning, I was sceptical. I knew we’d have to combine our university’s bespoke room booking software with something else, but what? After just ten minutes of the Yesplan demo, though, I realised how customisable it was. This wasn’t just a space management package, we could choose the fields and type of info and centralise all the intel that hitherto had been flying around.” “It’s not just about getting to know the system, it’s really about analysing your own workflow.”
It’s been six months since Jamie and his team went live with Yesplan. “For a while, we used SharePoint in conjunction with Yesplan. Now, it’s merely the latter. It’s nice to see it come alive with information and events. We’ve learned a lot about the way we work, too. It’s not just about getting to know the system, it’s really about analysing your own workflow.”
A small team with staff members from the technical department, the gallery, finances and other university staff was put together to take the first steps. These involved customising the dashboard to each department’s needs and getting acquainted with the terminology. “It’s been a very interesting learning journey”, Jamie says. “Our ultimate goal is to reduce email threads and not be swamped with inboxes. That’s been a major step ahead.” Thanks to built-in checks, those in charge now automatically receive a notification as soon as a venue is booked. Aka: no more emails. “The addition of such alerts for room bookings has been a big step forward for us.”
Jamie isn’t done improving, though. “Now that everybody’s got the basics covered, I want to dig deeper into what the system can do for us. First up are full reports, which will give us a lot more insight in how to better run things even more smoothly.”
“In another six months, we’ll have redefined our workflows completely, making the system work for us.”