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DT:TV Case Studies

The National Youth Orchestras of Scotland (NYOS) – case study of The AmbITion Approach

logos of the eight NYOS ensembles

The National Youth Orchestras of Scotland’s (NYOS) core mission is to provide high-level musical education and performance opportunities for young musicians in Scotland.  NYOS is unique in that it provides orchestral experiences in classical and jazz music for its students from the age of 8 – 25, through no fewer than eight ensembles, ranging in age, size and musical style.

In addition to organising training, intensive rehearsals and national and international concert tours for its orchestras, The National Youth Orchestras of Scotland is committed to introducing musical experiences to Scotland’s young people through workshops in community groups, primary schools and secondary schools.

Why the Ambition Approach

The core business of NYOS is music education for 8-25 year olds with a focus on Classical and Jazz training and performance.  The organisation is a registered charity; therefore part of the business model is to make the organisation more sustainable through cost reduction.

seven young musicians look at a phone

NYOS has a wide a varied stakeholder group, however its key service users are its students.  Approximately 600, 8-25 year olds register, apply and audition for NYOS every year.  A full list of stakeholders includes:

  • Current Orchestra Members
  • Potential Orchestra Members
  • Past Orchestra Members (Alumni)
  • Current Parents
  • Potential Parents
  • Past Parents (Parents of Alumni)
  • Potential Funders
  • Current Funders
  • Audience Members
  • Collaborators (e.g. other orchestras, other youth arts organisations etc)
  • Friends of NYOS
  • Seat sponsors
  • Corporate Sponsors
  • Staff
  • Instrument Specialists
  • Music Tutors
  • Schools/School Teachers
  • Press/PR
  • Job Seekers

Our initial aim was to digitise and streamline core, but labour intensive admin tasks i.e. student registration, student applications, audition booking and so on.  We knew our main user group would have no problem adapting to this new way of working and engaging with us, we also felt these new processes could greatly reduce admin hours and therefore costs, while freeing up key staff to work on other core activities.


NYOS musicians posing in front of the Sage Gateshead

In the medium term our aims and aspirations were to then develop our digital interaction capabilities to engage better with the wider stakeholder group with on-line functionality such as fundraising, chair dedications, legacy donations, sponsorship, merchandise sales, surveys and so on.

Therefore our over-riding aspiration for the Ambition approach was to utilise the funding, consultancy time and resources to review our starting position and ascertain exactly what would be required in terms of time, cost and resources to achieve our aims.

What Happened Next.

NYOS applied to the AmbITion Approach Fund in January 2013 and we were delighted to receive funding to begin the digital development process.  The support NYOS received enabled the organisation to employ Sarah Gee from Indigo Ltd.

young woodwinds section in performance

After a relatively short consultation period the team, in consultation with Indigo Ltd, realised it had to go back to basics and look at NYOS afresh, both subjectively and objectively to understand what information was important to which department and at what time?  We began to realise that the future development of NYOS wasn’t simply about better management of key stakeholder information.  It was about understanding the journey through NYOS from a service users point of view.  If we fully understood this and what information was required at key junctures, we could then design, develop and choose software/hardware compatible to the needs of NYOS and begin to develop the organisation further and with confidence from there.

We wanted to engage better with and appear closer to our key stakeholders.   It is fundamentally important that NYOS is able to communicate with its key service users in the most appropriate ways.  After a great deal of research that included prototyping the NYOS journey from ‘cradle to grave’ we came to realise that our core business is individual centric. Moreover, a member of our Junior Orchestra aged 8 could stay with us for many years and take on many different guises.  It became clear; the key to better stakeholder engagement was accurate data retention, management, analysis and profiling.

Where do we go from here?

We now had a clearer idea of what was required in practical terms to achieve our digital development goals.  We wanted to design, develop and implement a new robust, future-proof database, develop, design and build a brand-new website with login-membership area and back-end with far more online functionality and also provide a mobile version of the site to suit the communication needs of our key service users.

NYOS senior musicians on the steps of Glasgow City Halls

Working in Partnership

The process of working with Ambition has provided NYOS with far more than just funding.  Members of the team started to attend organised events and seminars.  These events allowed members of the NYOS team to meet people from other arts organisations with similar goals and aspirations.  These organisations had been through very similar situations, encountered the same difficulties and more importantly, had discovered how to overcome them.  By sharing information in this way we were able to identify previous projects and case studies that had similar design briefs and budget.  One such case study that stood out was Catherine Wheels Theatre Company (CWTC) .

NYJOS posing in front of a castle

CWTC website has a simple yet very effective front end.  It showcases the theatre company perfectly by highlighting upcoming performances while providing an image and video gallery of past performances.  The site avoids over cluttering and therefore allows new visitors to navigate around the site with ease via any device and quickly find what they need.  However this simplicity belies the amount of forethought and innovation employed to produce such a straightforward design.  Moreover the back-end or CRM side of the website is where the real ingenuity of the site becomes apparent.

The back-end of this site is an extremely robust CRM system and has so much capability that the entire company could, in theory, be run via this interface and this could all be done remotely.  Need-less-to-say NYOS do not require such an all-encompassing build; there are however key elements of both the design and CRM functionality we wanted to build into the NYOS design.

Once again thanks to Ambition I was introduced to Paul Fitzpatrick from CWTC who very kindly allowed me temporary access to the administration pages of the site.  Our entire team were extremely impressed and I immediately arranged a meeting with the people behind the design.

Where we are right now

The two people behind the CWTC build are David Kelly from David Kelly Design and Neil McGuire from After the News.  From the outset NYOS wanted to utilise the competitive tender approach.  By Inviting 3 or 4 companies to answer the brief, interviewing 2 and then deciding upon 1 successful bidder we hoped to keep costs down.  As luck would have it Neil and David offered this service to prospective clients. We decided therefore to employ them as consultants to lead NYOS through the procurement process for a digital build, provide recommendations and ultimately help us produce a tender document that we can then send out to 3 or 4 other web development companies.

NYOS ensemble in Perth Concert Hall Nicola Beneddeti

Part of the successful bid remit will be to produce a rich media case study of the build to be showcased on the Ambition Scotland website upon completion.

To be continued….