How a New Digital Experience Transformed the Sydney Opera House—and Set a New Bar for Government in the 21st Century


Adobe
At the Adobe Symposium in Australia, an iconic arts center revealed how they improved the online experience and sold more than $2 million worth of tickets in 24 hours. Missed the event? Here are our biggest takeaways and video links to all the talks.  
By Brian Paget, Technical Director at Adobe Government
G’day mates! I’ve just returned from sunny Sydney, where Adobe held a 2-day symposium at the iconic Sydney Opera House. It brought together 3,000 innovators to share ideas about how digital experiences are transforming the world and keeping organizations ahead of the competition.
We were fortunate enough to hear from leaders at not just Adobe but also from Australia’s national bank, cybersecurity experts, along with actors and comedians, including Eric Bana. There were representatives from the ATO (equivalent to our IRS), Defence Forces, Accenture, Healthcare, Contracts, Personnel Management, Queensland Transportation, EDU leaders, and more.
The partnership between the Sydney Opera House and Adobe has been extremely exciting. We teamed up to modernize the arts center’s website, a move that led to more than $2 million in ticket sales in 24 hours, and that allows them to maximize their digital channels. It has been the most ambitious tech project in the history of one of the busiest performing arts centers in the world.
 
An Ideal Partnership in Creativity
The CEO of Sydney Opera House, Dr. Louise Herron, kicked off the event by speaking about our shared values of creativity and innovation.
“Innovation is part of the Sydney Opera House’s DNA,” said Herron. “This partnership is about much more than simply implementing a new marketing solution; it represents a true collaboration to realize the full potential of Adobe’s technology across the Opera House and our digital visitor experience.”
Watch the 5-minute intro.
There was no better place than this creative arts center to have a conversation about the importance of digital experience. Paul Robson, president of Asia Pacific at Adobe, said the sheer amount of people present shows how many organizations are embracing digital transformations and how important the digital experience has become to a company.
Technology—and what consumers expect from technology—is so fast moving now that it’s imperative for companies to make sure they stay up-to-date with the new changes.
“Growth and innovation must become mission critical to your organization,” said Robson. “Digital experiences must be “personal, consistent, elegant, and everywhere your customer is.”
The question is: What’s the best way to create those experiences?
 
How Government Can Create Better Experiences
In the realm of government services, this has been a persistent issue. Greg Reeder, my colleague and head of Industry Strategy & Marketing of Government at Adobe, and I spoke about how good digital experiences are akin to good government. It helps citizens to find and do what they need.
We spoke about how digital has been less than ideal for citizens, so much that some would rather interact with an agent in-person than do something through a website. But in-person transactions are expensive. In-person transactions with the government cost $16.90, whereas digital transactions cost $0.40. The challenge is for governments to create positive online experiences for their citizens whether it be for filing taxes, applying for a license, signing up a business, booking a train ticket, or offering tourism advice.
Take the website for the United States Marines. Reeder spoke about how the Marines’ official public site had a list of information. In contrast, the Marine Corps’ upgraded recruiting website has compelling imagery, videos and inviting / interactive content which can tell stories much quicker and more effectively for a more digital-experience driven audience today. The site delivers emotion, and a positive experience – directly and upfront.
I also said, “The combo between content and data will allow us to deliver and optimize experiences over time.” Watch our full talk.
In the Sydney Opera House’s website, for example, there’s great content about shows that are currently appearing, the history of the center, and backstage stories. But in order to see and understand how that content is consumed, you have to embed data into the content. Data helps personalize content to different kinds of users. Data also helps to understand what customers are interested in and clicking on, which makes it easier for you to predict the future.
The Executive General Manager of design and innovation at the Australian Digital Health Agency, Rachel De Sains presented on how Adobe’s Experience Cloud gives access to a single health record for all Australians (available today) along with mobile apps for scheduling and ensuring that children’s immunizations are up to date.
And the government of Australia and their Data Think Tank Data 61 are currently looking at ways in which they can use the power of big data and predictive algorithms to test the effectiveness of policy.
The goal is to ultimately help influence policy by measuring citizen interactions online to see directly what citizens prefer. Their concept of using A/B and multivariate testing was the most interesting because it automatically test different versions of policy. This allows algorithms to decide based on citizen responses what policy works the best instead of arguing amongst parties about what works (something I would love to see right now in this political environment)
 
It’s All About Storytelling (and Data)
The most compelling digital experiences begin with a story. Mark Henley, APAC Director of Transformation and Digital Strategy at Adobe, shared his experience working on the Sydney Opera House project, which he described as a beautiful, grimy, and creative place filled with ballerinas in tutus and people in dragon costumes.
“The Opera House has done an incredible job of taking place and presence and physicality and turning that into a story that can be told digitally,” he added. Watch his talk.
Data is the other vital piece of the storytelling process. An organization knows it has created a positive digital experience not because it looks pretty or feels good, but because data shows a positive reaction from a customer.
For Qantas, Australia’s flagship airline carrier, data and technology are always used to think about the customer. Stephanie Tully, executive manager, Group Brand and Marketing/CMO at Qantas, spoke about how a company should not get bogged down in a sea of data. Instead, a business should always be asking how they can use and tailor data to better customize experiences to each specific customer.
“If anyone ever asks you ‘What’s your big data strategy?’ you should say, ‘I don’t have one. I have a customer or business strategy and this is how I’m using data and technology to enable it’,” said Tully. Watch the presentation here.
When it works, the data should speak for itself. A well-designed, compelling online experience should allow organizations to help users find what they’re looking for in an easy way.
 
What Next? Are Investments in New Digital Experiences Worth It?
Here are just some of the results from Adobe’s collaboration with the Sydney Opera House:

Page load times were reduced by 82.75% during checkout, saving customers an estimated 37,000 minutes per year.
Adobe Campaign saves the Opera House about 1000 hours work per year on email campaigns – and it has already delivered the highest ever email open rate in their history.
Electronic tickets mean less printing costs. There is an estimated 50,000 fewer customers waiting in ticket lines now that they can download a ticket.
Online donations have risen 150%.
An Emotive Search filter allows customers to search for a performance based upon how they want to feel—whether that’s to get their blood rushing or mind bent.

And that is just the short-term results since launch. We’re excitedly tracking the ongoing and long-term outcomes, and their continued evolvement using data to determine the best, measured actions.
I left the event inspired and ready to take my lessons back to my friends in the U.S. There is something so powerful about being around a shared energy that is all about transforming citizen experiences. The possibilities are endless. That was my favorite part about my time in Sydney. People are pumped and excited to engage and connect with citizens in new ways, through the extraordinary stories and missions of these organizations. That is, why we are doing what we are doing!
The exchange of ideas during the symposium has been unparalleled. I remain impressed with how far (and quickly) Australians have evolved their online citizen journeys. And I hope in the future, the U.S. and Australia can learn from each other in applying modern technology to solve citizen-focused problems. I also hope this opens the door for other governments around the world to share in the same positive, innovative and empowering outlook as our friends in Australia.
See a country or local government delivering a great citizen experience? Share it with us! #newdigitalgov
 Learn more about Adobe Government Solutions.