Technology to Bolster Tradition:
Apps for the National Theatre of Prague
The theatre has many ancient traditions: Macbeth is known as The Scottish Play. Never say “Good Luck”, say “Break a Leg” instead. And don’t whistle backstage.
Unfortunately, oftentimes, theatres also have ancient software that is no longer practical.
The National Theatre of Prague had just such a problem. Despite world-class performers and beautiful buildings, the reliance upon old spreadsheets and paper documents had become overwhelming.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have debuted his Don Giovanni in the Estates Theatre in 1787, but passing paperwork through the chain of command for signatures felt just as old.
The organization had two pain points (and a third that was addressed soon thereafter; see the Case Study below for detailed descriptions):
- First, they needed a way to keep thousands of employees and members of the public on the same page and working with the same guidelines; and
- Second, they needed a way to expedite the decommissioning of old decorations, out-of-style costumes, and frayed wigs.
Alfaveo.cz, a bespoke app development company, took on the challenge and developed solutions for both with the Jetveo App Builder.
“The development was professional and we appreciated the good advice and ideas that went beyond our assignment,” said Ing. Dagmar Růžičková, the Economics Manager who served as the point person for the National Theatre of Prague.“It helped us to further improve the developed applications and make them user-friendly.”
Jakub Ráček was put in charge to develop the project on the Jetveo App Builder: “You have to do an analysis and decide how it is going to look and work. Then you just go step by step and implement it. At first it is a creative process to figure out how it will look and work, and then it is a mechanical creation”
The first application was, in essence, a headless Content Management System (CMS).
“That application was quite simple,” Ráček said. “It was just a place to upload the text and directives so that people could go there and read them. We simply built a single-page application on the web that communicated with the app.”
The second application for decommissioning items was more involved because there were many steps in the theatre’s internal process.
“I spent about 45 hours on it,” Ráček said. “We had the first working version in about 30 hours. The remaining time was spend on different changes that came from them as they were finding the holes in their own system.”
The presentation of the new apps was positive.
“All innovations are not easy to implement,” Růžičková said. “It is always necessary to take into account negative attitudes and people who do not want to learn something new. In our case, however, we were lucky. The applications are so user-friendly that there were only a few complaints.”
National Theatre of Prague Case Study
The National Theatre of Prague has over a thousand employees and dozens of internal processes. They had two problems that needed solutions. One developer using the Jetveo App Builder was able to quickly and effectively create two different apps to eliminate the two different pain points. After the successful implementation of the initial solutions, a third project was requested and started.
As a government-funded organization, many rules and regulations have to be maintained, updated, understood, and followed. A Microsoft Access database with hundreds of files was not enough to manage it efficiently.
A single-page application was created to access a simple back end application to maintain and publish the hundreds of guidelines in the cloud. One administrator keeps the guidelines up to date. Now employees can access them whenever they need to.
An old database for the properties and decorations used in hundreds of performances was the foundation for an archaic approval process. As a public entity, the theatre organization has a lengthy protocol for maintaining the assets. So, when an old on-stage table that was central to an emotional operatic scene finally needed to be replaced, a long set of steps was put into place:
- 1 - An Excel spreadsheet was created with rows of items;
- 2 - An accountant confirmed the value of each item (which was usually zero);
- 3 - A department head or assistant moved the process forward with a signature;
- 4 - Liquidation commissions that consisted of several people (which were different for each of the separate internal departments) had to agree with the valuations, and sign their names;
- 5 - The Technical Department needed to sign off on the decision; if the property was valuable or special, the approval of the General Director of the National Theatre was required; and,
- 6 - Finally, the table was ready to be sold, moved, or destroyed.
The prop and asset data is imported from the accounting database and the approvals are all handled through a dedicated app. The accountant confirms the value. The different liquidation commissions get email notifications and links. Yes or No is entered into the app. The Technical Department — and, if necessary, the General Director — are the final step. The new process is efficient and fast, with emails and online approvals.
Commissioning new items for performances, backstage use, and internal-office use required a department head to begin a Word-document-based process that went through the Technical Department en route to the recipient. Signatures were required at every step. The workflow was not efficient.
The department head now puts the request into an app, with details and the eventual recipient. It is sent to the Technical Department. When the item is acquired, it is sent to IT or the recipient. The appropriate people get email notifications and links to the app. They enter whatever information is required. At the end, the recipient adds a signature to acknowledge receipt.
If these pain points sound familiar, perhaps a variation of these solutions will help you as well.