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Going live during a pandemic

How Tessitura is helping the Sarasota Ballet and others implement exciting changes — remotely

Dana A.

Dana AstmannContent Manager, Tessitura Network

TitleGoing live during a pandemic

Published5/7/2020

Read/View Time7 min


Even with their doors closed and in-person programming on hold, arts and cultural organizations are successfully going live with Tessitura. 

It may seem a strange time to go live with a new system. Across the globe, the mood is one of uncertainty. So why change systems now?

“I think largely it’s a reaction to the benefits that people see Tessitura offer, during a time in which not all vendors are offering those benefits,” says Katie Loden, Senior Director of Onboarding for Tessitura. “They want to get on a secure platform, they want a platform that's going to allow them to offer donation avenues during an unsettling time, and a platform that's going to make flexibility an option at a time in which they're being asked to be very nimble.”

Keep moving forward

“This is a great time for you to focus on the direction you want your company to move forward,” says Marisa Perry, Director of Onboarding for Tessitura, “and to focus on how you could best provide excellent customer service to your guests.”

“That’s where Tessitura shines,” she continues, “and we’ve actually had a few organizations push forward their go-live despite not having performances, because they want to provide customer service that Tessitura allows them to do that their legacy systems don’t.” 

“This is a great time for you to focus on the direction you want your company to move forward.”

Katie notes that many people she’s working with want to use this time “to focus on the transition to a more robust CRM platform, because they know when they are back up and running they're really going to need to have all the tools in their toolbox.”

When approaching an implementation during COVID-related closures, the basics still apply. “We can get online transactions up and running. We can get the donation path in a good place,” Katie says. “And we know that ultimately, if you’re live on Tessitura, even if you’re not selling tickets in this moment, you now have the opportunity to interact with your patrons at a different capacity.”

Two people in a museum looking closely at a display case

Virginia Museum of History and Culture 

It helps that Tessitura is a cloud-based system that staff can access securely from anywhere. “The way that Tessitura is accessed by nature,” she says, “allows people who are working from home to be able to go live and go.”

“It’s been really joyous to see that we can still do this,” Katie continues, “working with Sarasota Ballet, Seattle Art Museum, and Virginia Museum of History and Culture, to name a few.”

Seattle Art Museum

A surprisingly good time for a system change

Implementing a new system requires focus and dedication. So in certain ways, it’s helpful to go live when buildings are closed. Normally, arts and cultural staff are “pulled in ten different directions,” notes Annie Gribbins, Project Manager and Consultant for Tessitura. But without visitors queued at the door or events coming up each evening, there’s more room for other projects. When “they don’t have the demands that they would have otherwise,” Annie says, “they are more focused.”

“It’s hard when you’re sitting at home and you feel like you can only half do your job,” Katie says. “I think people are really excited right now to accomplish things, and this is a big accomplishment.”

“In this COVID-19 world, people are happy to have something productive to do,” agrees Marty Kennedy, Tessitura’s Vice President of Business Services. “They can focus a little bit more, and the focus brings the optimism that we are going to get past this.”

Annie is hearing organizations say: “We want to get going because we have the space to think about this right now.” When they get ready to reopen, they will already be comfortable in Tessitura and ready to move their organization forward.

“People are really excited right now to accomplish things, and this is a big accomplishment.” 

Sarasota Ballet in Sarasota, Fla. went live with Tessitura in early April. “Because of the way the world is right now, it was a bit of a soft launch,” said Chad Morrison, Senior Development Officer. After going live, for example, their ticketing team has started with subscription renewals first; next up are new subscriptions, and then single tickets.

That timeline provides a cushion for the Ballet team as they continue to grow in their usage of Tessitura. “We felt like we felt like we were in a really good place to go live, and the soft launch helped quite a bit,” Chad noted. “The deeper I dig, the more questions I have, but I think that’s just natural, especially for a first-time user. Those will come with time, but we’re in a really good place. The Tessitura team has been super-supportive.”

Sarasota Ballet. Photo by Frank Atura

Personal attention, remotely

For a long time, the Tessitura team had been committed to providing in-person support for a go-live day. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re finding inventive ways to provide that same high level of personal support without going on site.

Tessitura has been a virtual company since its very beginnings. However, that is not the case with most arts and cultural organizations. “We’re so used to working remotely,” says Annie. But when Tessitura’s member organizations began to close their buildings, “We had to give them some time to get themselves coordinated and figure out how to work from home, because they just weren’t used to doing that.”

Once all the staff involved were set up to work remotely, the next step was to translate the on-site process to a remote one. In-person gatherings became GoToMeetings. The Tessitura team made themselves available through open online meetings that people could drop into anytime they had questions. “They were flexible; we were flexible. We just figured it out,” Annie says simply.

“It’s been a great relationship with our Tessitura team. They’re just incredible.”

“People have been very gracious,” Marisa says. “The teams are optimistic because we’re moving forward on schedules, and people across the organization have been willing to jump in.”

She also notes that in working remotely, “We’ve had more people speaking up, having a voice, reaching out to ask questions.”

Listening is always an important part of tailoring an implementation to an organization’s specific business needs. “We can listen without actually being there,” Marty noted. “I think some of them are surprised how much we’re still able to accomplish, even though we haven’t gone on site.”

“It’s been a great relationship with our Tessitura team. They’re just incredible,” Chad says. “They don’t feel like consultants that we call on to help us; they feel like they’re part of the team, and that’s one of the most satisfying things.”

That feeling of partnership is important to the Tessitura ethos. “We’re partners, not vendors,” Marty says. “They know we’re there to make them successful.”

“We are the kind of company where if someone is struggling, we will fly there and we will sit with them for a couple of days to catch them up. And that’s a pretty strong tool in our toolbox, that we’re willing and able to do that,” Katie says. In today’s landscape, “We just had to be more creative about what that looks like.”

“We’re partners, not vendors. They know we’re there to make them successful.”
Marty Kennedy 

Online meetings are valuable, but “sometimes on a webcam people just are not as engaged,” she acknowledges. The Tessitura team has been “adjusting our style to still provide that level of assistance and support. We want to make sure that people still feel that Tessitura touch, where we’re always there for them, always willing to help them.”

Deciding to go ahead with a go-live

Is it a difficult to make the decision to go live during a global pandemic? “If all the pieces are in place, they’re in place,” Annie says. “You’ve been through your training, looked through your data, you understand how you’re moving forward.”

There are also other factors that may come into consideration. “No one wants to spend money extending a contract for a system they won’t be using,” Annie notes.

“We’re seeing the majority of people move forward, and even some new folks have decided to come on since the coronavirus pandemic started,” Katie reports. “They’re excited to get Tessitura so that they can have that tool once they come back.”

“We’re seeing the majority of people move forward. They’re excited to get Tessitura so that they can have that tool once they come back.”

“Yes, I would say go live now,” says Chad. “It makes a lot of sense to go live, work out any kinks in the next month or two, and be ready to go” when organizations reopen.

“If you’re just now looking at Tessitura, in some way it’s the perfect time” to start an implementation, he adds. “So jump in, get set up, figure it out, and by the time some of this gets back to normal and your go-live is coming up, you’ll be in a good place.”

Screenshot from an online class offered by Sarasota Ballet via Facebook Live 

New tools for unprecedented situations

“Because we were so unhappy with our previous software,” Chad recalls, the Sarasota Ballet team was eager to move forward with their Tessitura go-live. “People are excited. They want stay up-to-date, and they want to make their jobs easier… We don’t have anybody clinging to their spreadsheets in their cold, dead hands.”

One example of making their jobs easier was being able to take advantage of Tessitura’s fundraising flexibility. They quickly set up an emergency fund in Tessitura and began working to retain ticket revenue from cancelled events, and to raise funds to help support the company through these challenging times.

“We’ve had a great response,” Chad said. “Tessitura is making it easy for us to deal with the way the world is at the moment, especially with the cancellation of our season. That’s a huge, huge help.”

 “Tessitura is making it easy for us to deal with the way the world is at the moment.”

He appreciates the guidance of the Tessitura team through this transition. “The team has been amazing. I just can’t say enough. In six months I feel like I’ve had a multi-year relationship with this team.”

Reflecting on the challenges of working during the coronavirus-related shutdowns, Katie says: “Every day I feel like the team is challenged to do something that a month ago I would have said, ‘Now we have to go on site to do that.’ And what I’m finding is that we can make things happen. I feel like that’s across our entire company: things that we thought we couldn’t do, we’ve done in weeks because we’ve had to. And when this is over, all these challenges will have just made us better at what we do and better at being a provider to our members.”

Annie expresses a similar admiration for the hard work of the arts and cultural organizations who are achieving big goals during a daunting situation. “It’s such a huge thing to have people that are under tremendous stress, and tremendous upheaval, be able to get all of this accomplished,” Annie says. “I think it’s a testament to the people that work in this industry.”

 

Top photo: Sarasota Ballet in Will Tuckett’s Changing Light. Photo by Frank Atura.

Dana A.

Dana Astmann

Content Manager

Tessitura Network

Dana Astmann joined the Tessitura Network staff in 2016.

As part of Tessitura’s marketing team, she works on content strategy and writing projects for tessituranetwork.com and other channels. In her previous position as Manager of Communications at the Yale School of Music, she served as the lead content strategist for YSM's Webby-nominated website and the editor of the alumni magazine. Earlier jobs include box office and development positions at the Norfolk (Connecticut) Chamber Music Festival and Long Wharf Theatre, respectively. A native of New Haven, Connecticut, Dana is a company member of A Broken Umbrella Theatre, which creates original works inspired by New Haven history, and plays accordion with the klezmer ensemble Nu Haven Kapelye.

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