AWS Public Sector Blog

How one nonprofit digitally transformed to support art and culture in a changing world

Imagine walking into New York City’s Lincoln Center on a Saturday night and showing the usher your e-ticket for that night’s Metropolitan Opera performance. You’re wowed by their rendition of Puccini’s Turandot, and afterwards, you go online and purchase tickets for future shows. Perhaps you even want to become a member and begin making monthly donations to the opera. Arts and culture are an essential part of society, but few realize the intricate network of business operations behind the scenes that make these experiences possible.

Tessitura Network, a member-owned nonprofit company, provides customer relationship management (CRM) technologies and services to performing arts, cultural, and entertainment organizations around the world. Tessitura designs products specifically to meet the business needs of arts and cultural organizations: ticketing, admissions, marketing, membership, fundraising, front of house, and education functionality. Tessitura integrates what used to be disparate components of running an arts and culture organization, and supports organizations to gain a full picture of their customers and patrons, to segment and analyze data for insights, and to build personalized engagements with donors and communities they serve—all using the cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Migration motivated by customer obsession

As Tessitura grew in membership and operational scale, their colocated data centers became increasingly costly—both in staff time and financial resources. While they made substantial improvements to their hosting environment over time, their core infrastructure remained colocation-based, varied in design by global region, and wasn’t originally intended for the scale of growth or the large-size organizations that desired their service. The business of arts and culture demands reliable service 24 hours a day, with ticketed events at all hours and massive online traffic during sales of blockbuster shows,. Tessitura wanted to protect its members from being impacted in terms of efficiency, performance, and affordability in using their services. They began solving for a scalable, affordable, and performant deployment of its CRM platform for members worldwide.

Tessitura selected AWS as the cloud provider to host their new infrastructure. Then Tessitura teamed up with Rackspace Technology—an AWS Premier Consulting Partner—as their engineering and automation partner. Tessitura was already serving hundreds of global customers in 10 countries and counting. To harness the benefits of the cloud as soon as possible, the migration had to be carefully designed and implemented. The team took a year to design each phase of migration, considering key variables such as geography, Availability Zones, and logistics. For Tessitura’s users, this migration directly translated to increased performance and reliability.

Tessitura also embarked on a redesign of their software from a desktop application to a browser-based product, leveraging support from the AWS Imagine Grant. With the migration underway, their software engineers have access to a nimbler platform and serverless technology to redevelop and innovate on their existing products. AWS services such as Amazon Route 53, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) were used as part of their new infrastructure.  Following guidance from AWS, Tessitura embedded security services into their architecture to protect its members’ valuable data, such as AWS Identity and Access Management (AWS IAM), AWS Web Application Firewall (AWS WAF), and Amazon CloudWatch.

Adapting to change in a global pandemic

In the midst of Tessitura’s migration, the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. Its effects on the arts and culture sector were sudden and debilitating. Almost overnight, every institution had to close their doors to in-person experiences.

The community of creative minds adapted quickly. Many organizations began hosting digital content through their own websites and organized digital fundraisers through Twitch and YouTube. Back-office operations needed to change as well: timed admission, integrated streaming, and contactless ticket scanning became necessities. Additionally, organizations needed digital tools to keep donors engaged when in-person interactions were not possible. As the pandemic progressed and new developments occurred almost on a weekly basis, the need for Tessitura’s service and support changed constantly and grew exponentially.

Fortunately, Tessitura could scale and adapt now that they operated in the AWS Cloud. Staff have more time to focus on deployment and customer support while AWS handles the undifferentiated heavy lifting. With the recent migration of thousands of servers, Tessitura reduced downtime, latency, and time to upgrade.

In the midst of continuing COVID-19 uncertainty, Tessitura’s members can have confidence that their central business tool is managed by industry leaders and that their customer data is securely hosted and protected in the cloud. Tessitura’s timely decision to migrate to a browser-based product greatly facilitates remote working. AWS products such as AWS Lambda, Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon FSx all help to support Tessitura’s members and their staff to work from anywhere, anytime, keeping businesses running in spite of unexpected challenges. Finally, Tessitura’s decision to move to replatform their software to web-based AWS serverless technologies means that innovation can continue—and even accelerate—while their engineering team works remotely.

Operational improvements support mission effectiveness

On the surface, Tessitura’s migration was an operational move—often considered overhead in the nonprofit sector. Looking deeper, the migration and product redevelopment addressed critical programmatic needs and tied directly back to Tessitura’s mission to advance the busines of arts and culture through continually innovating technology.

Although change on this scale required investment from Tessitura and its leadership—including shifting their own culture to operate in new ways—it was a necessary and timely step to serve their end users. Tessitura’s increased capacity to perform better and innovate faster on behalf of its members can now directly help the arts and culture sector survive, adapt, and thrive during the pandemic and beyond. At an organizational level, Tessitura’s membership growth continues to rise over the years, with arts and culture institutions reaping the benefits of world-class tools to deliver on their missions. At the individual level, arts and culture fans can get to enjoy performances and exhibitions by our favorite artists and museums for years to come.

Learn more about the cloud for nonprofits, and check out more nonprofit stories.

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