ENO is ‘the national opera house for everyone. "Its performances, sung in English, help to break down language barriers and ‘create new experiences with opera that inspires." Championing inclusivity, the English National Opera defies traditional expectations for guests to wear formal attire, instead opening its doors to one and all. ENO has built an innovative model fit for the modern era. But its operations systems were stuck in the past.
Like any opera house, ENO is challenged with extremely complex logistics: Managing staff working hours, meticulously documenting and storing props and costumes, planning performance runs for the coming years, and shipping rented operas overseas.
Managing complex logistics with manual legacy processes
Staff juggles a stream of continuously evolving information affecting each production element daily. Incredibly, says ENO's Katie Haynes, it has all been managed using a master Excel spreadsheet called "The Cards", or on paper records pinned to boards in each department.
"It is an awful lot of manual checking things, and every time we announce a season, I have to sit at my computer, check the database and ensure all the details are correct. Everyone carries around their own version of The Cards, printed off, and when something changes everyone has to change the information in their own documents. The possibility of human error, because we are all only human, is incredibly high, and if something is wrong, it could be really bad."
Driven by a clear need to centralize, improve the accessibility of information and modernize operations, ENO entered a tender process to find a technology partner, which concluded in 2020 with the selection of GoMeddo.
"Ultimately, GoMeddo offered the greater capacity to customize and run with our ideas," says Katie. "As an opera company, we have very specific, not particularly mainstream, requirements for manipulating and handling bookings. GoMeddo has been really receptive to that."
A single source of truth and simple digital management system
As a result, ENO and GoMeddo have partnered to create a completely tailored system capable of rationalizing the many bookings and intricate details shared from one department, production, or run to the next. Custom functionality has been developed to address ENO's specific needs. This includes creating a "ghost" function that allows draft schedules to be created before pushing live, enhancing planning capabilities, and creating a QR code system to track and group all costume items with their rightful performer and performance, ensuring continuity and saving precious time. ENO now has 6 separate calendar views that can all be overlayed, customized, and manipulated as appropriate by anyone assigned permission. This is providing visibility that ENO has never experienced before. Every single detail of a performance now exists in one space. Show Bibles that provide each department with unique requirements for each show can directly be accessed centrally, providing a more joined-up working experience. In an industry steeped in history, the ability to look backward at the details is essential.
"We now have an everlasting record of who wore what and in what performance. In this industry, it's crucial to know. We can say that 'this item of clothing was worn by this person 30 years ago'. It also allows us to record former measurements. Previously it was very painful to do that for every weekly performance, but now it's very nicely handled in the system."
For the first time, a new Performers Calendar offers ENO a comprehensive view of what performers are doing and where. Each performer's activity and requirements, from legal obligations to allergies, are logged, providing swift visibility over availability and ensuring work regulations are followed. Calendar views have also been created for performance spaces, opera rentals, staff, performance runs, and, of course, The Cards, providing a complete overview. ENO and GoMeddo worked to build a near-exact digital replica of The Cards, allowing anyone with an iPad or smartphone to access the most up-to-date version while on the move - essential in a theatre setting. Importantly, ENO now has a single source of truth for all of its planning, significantly reducing the possibility of human error. The functionality comes at the toughest of times for the Arts sector, with COVID restrictions severely hampering performance access. But Katie advises that technology is needed more now than ever.
"Historically, we would plan production runs years in advance, and everything was very set; we knew our budgets, and there wasn't loads of ground movement. But with COVID, I had to send The Cards out weekly because of the constantly shifting plans."
Changing regulations and audience numbers
The changing regulations around audience numbers and safety precautions meant that performances had been replaced with recordings or commercials that could safely use the space within COVID regulations. GoMeddo meant that ENO could be agile in response and plan ahead with greater ease. As a Salesforce integration, GoMeddo provides detailed reports to support onward planning and budgeting. The staff calendar is one feature providing ENO with a significant impact on the budget.
"Historically, we could never say these are the hours we're working on a show. We just didn't have that ability. We couldn't record what shows staff was working on, which meant that we were always working on an educated guess when it came to our budget. Whereas now we have a very accurate report that says exactly how many hours were spent on that show, and we can make small changes that make quite a big financial difference."
These kinds of budget savings have never been more important than during these times of uncertainty in the Arts. GoMeddo continues to work with ENO, evolving the system to meet changing requirements as they navigate COVID challenges, helping ENO continue innovating and bringing opera to the masses.