The American Institute of Conservation (AIC) is the largest professional association for people dedicated to the conservation of artistic and cultural works. They hired me (Matt Morgan) to be their Digital Strategy Advocate; we didn’t know it at the time, but that was the birth of Concrete Computing’s Concierge CIO service. As a Concierge CIO, we regard it as our role to take on any technical task or issue, from digital strategy work, to infrastructure, to cloud migration, to user support, to website design and build. We even take on some production work, like web maintenance and email marketing.
In 2015, AIC was in an interesting place. It had inherited many distinct websites and online services all devoted to different aspects, or multiple aspects, of conservation. For example:
- CoOL (Conservation Online). CoOL had been around for many years–it was founded in the 90s and updated frequently since. CoOL was thousands of HTML pages and a lot of perl scripts, as well as a WordPress site and a lot of other custom code. It lived on an Apache/Linux server at a traditional web hosting facility.
- Conservation Distribution List (now the Global Conservation Forum), a 10,000 subscriber email list that had been active for many years.
- Resource Hub, a WordPress Multisite housing the websites of many grant-funded collaborative conservation projects.
- AIC’s main site, which provided general info about AIC (the membership organization) and FAIC (the organization devoted to keeping AIC running); membership information; conference information, proceedings and registration tools; and links to many other AIC resources.
- The AIC Wiki, a massive body of user-generated conservation information.
Why did AIC manage all these different sites in addition to its own? Primarily because they would have been lost had AIC not taken them over. In general, they were created with grant funding with a limited lifetime. When those projects ended or lost funding, AIC would step in to save them for the future. The problem was that they were all running on different platforms, in different places. They didn’t need content work, but they needed a lot of IT help.
As AIC’s Digital Strategy Advocate, in seven hours each month, we performed many services over about 3 years:
- We advised AIC on its relationship with its outside provider of PC/Mac and network services, while minimizing its reliance on the MSP by making sure important business software and infrastructure was all SaaS or cloud-based.
- We migrated CoOL to Amazon Web Services and built a search, using Google Custom Search, to make the entire server and its many parts searchable in one place.
- We contributed to AIC’s Digital Competencies project, in which AIC established modern standards for conservator’s professional competency related to information technology, the internet, and various other technical areas.
- We researched and wrote a technology strategy plan for AIC, in which (among other things) we discovered a great advantage AIC had as a result of its practice of adopting abandoned websites: they had huge digital engagement among their membership. Much more, proportionally, than any of their colleague associations or any professional association we compared them to in any field. What many of us had seen as a burden and a cost now seemed like a strategic advantage and opportunity.
- Managing the Conservation Distribution List (CDL) was a huge manual task costing about a thousand dollars each month. Moreover, more and more email servers were beginning to reject mailing list messages, threatening the value and ultimately the existence of this tremendously valuable tool. We encouraged AIC to invest in an account with Higher Logic, the online community site, and helped them to transition the CDL’s content and functions to Higher Logic.
- We built several small websites and helped consolidate many WordPress websites under one banner and one management structure, saving many hours of admin work each week.
Since then, we’ve done all that and more for many other clients and employers, and that makes up our Concierge CIO service. Anything tech that you need, to keep you running smoothly.