Imagine for a moment that you are founding your association today. Your association may have been around for 10, 25, 50 or 100 years, but if you were starting out today, how would you design it?
You’re not hampered by “this is how we’ve always done it” or trying to make legacy systems talk to each other. You know who your members are and what they need. You can hire staff members who understand both your vision and the tools you use to accomplish your mission. And you have a wide range of technology solutions available to you.
What would you do?
Your answer to this question is the heart of digital transformation. We know — the term has been overused, but even so, it still describes an organization that:
- Uses technology to optimize how things get done
- Prioritizes the member experience
- Empowers staff members every day
The goal of transformation is to drive growth within the organization. It moves an association into the present and prepares it for the future. Digital transformation also makes it possible to scale both operations and outreach. So, if you’re working on transforming your association, here are three areas we suggest you explore.
1. Rethink How to Get the Work Done
In the association world, we believe in benchmarking and establishing a starting point. To that end, your association may need to conduct an organizational assessment or a digital strategy assessment to reveal how well your strategic plan is working for your:
- Staff members
The assessment will answer the question: Do you have the right people in place, and are they able to work efficiently with existing technology?
Conducting an in-house assessment of any kind is overwhelming, but it’s still an essential element to digital transformation. If you don’t have in-house resources to review your association or technology strategy, reach out to management and technology consultants to help you. You should look for a person or group that mirrors your association’s personality, as well as a consultant who can help maintain focus to uncover your strengths and weaknesses.
During organizational and digital assessments, we find that data problems often prohibit an association from moving forward. Your staff may not have the hard numbers to prove it, but they know how inaccurate some of your data is. They know how unreliable reporting can be. And they know whether they can trust automation to deliver messages to the right person at the right time.
The state of your data may be keeping you from moving forward. If, however, you can clean your data, design good reporting protocols and demonstrate to your staff that the new methods work, you will have made a major positive shift towards digital transformation.
2. Champion Excellent Member Experiences
Do you have someone on staff who monitors member experience (MX) in your association? It’s likely that you don’t. “Member experience manager” isn’t a common job title in associations, but examining how your members interact with your association is important.
The quality of your members’ experiences with the association demonstrates how much the association values having them as members. Creating positive experiences for your members indicates that you are concerned about meeting their needs and solving their problems. Digital transformation is central to positive MX because it can help create those positive moments.
When we examine MX we’re not just concerned with your members’ interactions with your website, although that’s important. We’re thinking about how easy it is for members to ask a question, or register for an event, or book a hotel room, or report a missing journal, just to name a few. In short, we want to know how easy it is to interact with your association across the board.
Thoughts From Experts
Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it.”
Similarly, you can’t develop a website or buy an AMS, CRM, CMS or LMS and hope to attract members who like to use it. Instead, you need to know what makes the customer experience outstanding and then work back to how you can provide it. That might encompass a new AMS or LMS, but what you choose will be based on what makes your members’ experiences the best.
Once your staff is grounded in what delights members, they can start to be creative. They can think about new programs or ideas that will resonate with your members. Part of digital transformation is being able to create new things – products, services, other offerings, or more efficient ways to operate. These ideas can help your association stay ahead of its competitors.
3. Empower Staff Members through Culture Change
Are your staff members generally excited about change? Let’s be honest; most aren’t. They’re wary at best and skeptical at worst. But moving from “the way we’ve always done it” into digital transformation often requires a shift in culture, not just a change in technology tools.
We’ve seen association staff members argue vehemently for their old process, even when the new one will make life easier. It seems to be a human characteristic to hold onto what we know even when there may be a better way.
Our job is to make the transformation as easy as possible. We know several tricks of the trade to help staff members willingly move to a new process, and we like to share our knowledge whenever we can. It often takes time and conscious dialogue to overcome ingrained habits and opinions.
Ultimately, however, making processes easier, more automated and less time-consuming wins over even the most dedicated resistor. Answering the culture question is critical to your success.
Commit to Change With Support From Dennison & Associates
Finally, you must be committed to change. You’ll need to set expectations and support your association’s transformation with leadership in all departments and at all levels. Inclusion and buy-in are critical, and training is essential.
Props to associations who have the resources to approach digital transformation internally, but others should ask for help when it’s needed. That’s where the Dennison & Associates team comes in — we can help you thrive and grow. Want to discuss possibilities? Contact us!
Featured image via Unsplash