Simpson Associates unlocks hidden data for the Natural History Museum (NHM): helping meet its vision of championing the natural world and our global future 

Data is the lifeblood of the NHM. Much more than a museum, this globally recognised institution plays an integral part in British culture and research. Not only does it inspire the next generation of scientists and educators;  its new strategy, taking it to its 150th anniversary in 2031, sets out how the NHM will become a global scientific and cultural leader that champions the future of the natural world. Pivotal to achieving its vision is the creation of the museum’s Digital Twin Technology Vision and to support this it needs a central data hub that brings together a myriad of data sets and systems in a coherent way.  

The goal is to ensure the NHM is an evidence-led and data driven organisation by unlocking data from siloes and enabling employees to understand and plan scenarios. Such insight will help the NHM to make better decisions based on understanding how people use spaces, the condition of its unique collection of 80m specimens, and how to run and maintain its estate sustainably.  The NHM needed a solution to provide all employees with secure data access to drive decisions that help deliver on those strategic priorities.  

 Power BI on Azure saves Retail 10 hours per week and cuts reporting time by 80% 

One initial department of focus for the NHM was Retail, who generates around £2m a year to support the museum’s collections, buildings and ground-breaking research. With a complete lack of trust in their management and revenue reporting, Retail wasted hours every day manually consolidating data using complex spreadsheets from different sources and constantly debating the validity of numbers. This left them with neither the time nor ability to drive valuable actionable insights.  

“We used to spend 90% of our time building reports, with only 10% of the time to make decisions based on the output. We often had conflicting reports and competing datasets.”Richard Hinton, Head of Enterprise Architecture and Planning, NHM

 Simpson Associates deployed an automated reporting and analytics platform using Power BI on Azure, saving Retail 10 hours of reporting time per week and removing all risk associated with manual reporting and providing confidence in consistency and accuracy of data. Retail now has one single source of truth with reusable datasets such as visitor counting data, which can be used in other important reports across the museum.   

“The big difference is that it’s released staff time from generating and inputting data into spreadsheets. We now have time for actioning data, drawing insights and making decisions to drive and increase income that goes directly back into the museum.” Claire Bevan, Head of Retail, NHM 

Inaccessible repair costs for 100,000 square metres of NHM space 

The second area of focus for NHM’s transformation was Estates, who found its building survey data difficult to access and evaluate. Hidden in a siloed system were thousands of lines of conditions data and estimated repair value for each space within the museum’s 100,000 square metres. Estates were in desperate need of a way to present data in the context of a site map to assess repair value and help decide how to invest limited resources into improvements. 

Power BI visualisation helps optimise space and transforms the future of NHM operations 

By demonstrating that CAD vector site drawings can provide a dynamic 2D representation of the museum in Power BI, we showed Estates how to see where and what type of repairs are needed and repair value by building, floor and room. This new streamlined process works regardless of whether staff are maintaining one area or combining repairs across spaces, saving time, and increasing efficiency. Management can make effective decisions such as how to reduce energy use and meet the museum’s sustainability goals using NHM space data presented in an impactful way. With a taste of what’s possible, the NHM plans to expand visualisations across the museum and look for wider datasets to incorporate into the model; such as pest management, occupancy, collections locations and environmental monitoring data.  

“Thanks to the work achieved with Simpsons Associates, what we’re embarking on truly is going to transform how we operate as a museum. A digital twin will give us a much better handle on what’s happening and model the likely impact of the changes we’re making.” Richard Hinton, Head of Enterprise Architecture and Planning, NHM 

Using Power BI, the NHM can now embed data into every role in a digestible visual way, transforming its culture and ability to impact on the natural world and society. Employees can confidently use data in a more collaborative cohesive manner knowing what’s being presented is accurate, improving predictability and real time decision making.  

“Simpson Associates are playing a pivotal part in helping NHM work towards their long-term digital journey, bringing data into decision making which is driving significant additional value.” Catherine Devine, Business Strategy Leader, Libraries & Museums at Microsoft 

Broadening industry scope with a scalable Power BI and custom visualisation solution 

The custom visualisation of floor plans we developed for the NHM is a repeatable solution that can be adopted by industries such as retail and manufacturing where optimisation and floorspace management is vital for success. By visualising data related to space performance, retailers can transform the customer experience and optimise return on space. While manufacturers can see how production might work in any situation, how certain setups might impact operations and compare alternatives. Floor plans combined with data enriched with spatial context can play a vital part of the journey towards complete automation, because of the way it provides insights which are impossible through simple bar charts and tables. The ability to present data in an easy to use format for all employees increases engagement and empowers fast decision making, critical for industries where time means money. 

 Support from Simpson Associates  

 Simpson Associates help organisations unlock the power of their data and make better informed decisions, with data solutions. Today’s organisations are handling increasing amounts of data, often from disparate sources. But even with data management systems in place, many businesses still struggle to interpret and gain the actionable insights needed to support critical decision-making. Simpson Associates considerable skill and experience enable long-standing relationships with their customers, and their principal partnerships with Microsoft, IBM, BOARD and Information Builders.  

Contact Simpson Associates

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact our team of data experts. We’re here to help.  


T: +44 (0) 01904 234 510