Association for Cultural Enterprises

Creating a bench-marking tool for the heritage sector



One of the functions of The Association for Cultural Enterprises (which is funded by Arts Council England) is to plan and deliver a Retail Resilience Programme. The programme’s goal is to deliver core retail skills to 180 accredited museums and heritage sites. To assist these members we were asked to build a benchmarking application, to add to the existing website.


One of the requirements of this project was that the application should be as simple as possible and easy to use.




This benchmarking application processes data entered by museums and heritage sites and outputs it as a dashboard of reports. Four data series, for comparison, are plotted against four metrics. This allows these organisations to compare their recent performance against the same period last year, against a user-defined sub-group (using filters), and against the whole heritage sector.


Any authenticated user of the site can register to be part of the benchmarking exercise and may indicate their wish to access the data of a particular organisation. Both requests must be authorised by a site administrator.


New users are helped with progress indicators and help messages, in order to instruct them how to register and how to start entering data. They are also aided with strong validation, which can either stop them, or warn them, about submitting wrong or incomplete data.


To ensure that data is entered by a large enough sample of organisations, individual organisations must enter complete and up-to-date data in order to see any reports. Email alerts are sent to participants who fall behind with their data entry as a gentle reminder.


However, if a participant falls more than 12 weeks behind with their data entry then they cannot access any reports and their data is excluded from all results until such time that they can rectify the situation.




The data presented in the dashboard reports can be manipulated by adjusting the filters, and for those participants who manage several shops and/or sites the organisation represented may be switched too.


In addtion a ‘calculator’ is also available so that organisations can model different scenarios, based on the current information detailed on their dashboard.




At the time of writing, the first phase of this project has been delivered. For the future, we are planning to add more reports to give users greater insights into their industry, and to enhance the user experience of the application.