Colan Mehaffey, Head of Digital Media, National Trust for Scotland
For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland
Colan Mehaffey (@colanm)
Job Title/Organisation: Head of Digital Media, National Trust for Scotland
What does your role involve?
I’m responsible for consumer-facing web services for Scotland’s largest membership organisation, the National Trust for Scotland, which has 340,000 members and two million visitors to our properties annually.
I set the digital strategy and roadmap for the organisation and ensure our digital engagement team deliver against the Trust’s objectives, through monetary and message conversion online. We manage new products for web, mobile and apps, social media, e-communication, and e-commerce channels.
What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?
Undoubtedly it’s the enhanced acquisition and intelligent use of data to deliver meaningful and personal digital experiences for the Trust’s members and supporters. From my discussions with others in the industry – from big brands to public sector - I know that we’re not alone in getting to grips with ‘big data’.
The products we have in development will, hopefully, take the organisation to the next level.
What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?
Over my time with the Trust there have been plenty of highlights but, most recently, our partnership with Google on the Trekker programme – creating ‘virtual tours’ of iconic mountains, islands and more using the Streetview camera.
It really captured the public’s imagination, getting national press and TV coverage, and promoted our countryside properties wonderfully. I didn’t do the walking but seeing the results and their impact was very satisfying!
How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?
In the industry sense, I’m heartened by the presence and growth of worldwide players such as Skyscanner and FanDuel. However, there’s a real pressure on further and higher education to produce the talent which will help attract more international investment.
The commercial, public and third sectors all have a role to play in supporting talent development through collaboration.
Which new technology excites you the most?
It’s not really ‘new’ per se but there are some very exciting developments in VR and interactive video. It’s a hugely exciting and increasingly affordable way to allow users remote access or even real-time experiences.
Our interactive, 3-D Battle of Bannockburn project was our first step in this new direction for visitor experience.
What's your favourite app and why?
As an avid American Football fan, my NFL GamePass. It’s a visionary product which blazed a trail for personalised, on-demand media. It doesn’t, however, make my team perform any better!
What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?
I think the Internet of Things will finally become embedded in everyday experiences, domestic and otherwise. The potential application – and benefit – for heritage and wider visitor attractions is huge.
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