Years ago, we started working with an association that thought they wanted to upgrade to a progressive association management solution (AMS) like Altai’s. They only offered yearly memberships and hosted one event annually. Their membership was comprised of individuals who participated in a historical event, and their membership was declining. They weren’t looking for any new lines of business; they were NEVER going to “drive” membership; they only wanted to maintain the status quo – period. If status quo is all you want, then digital transformation is clearly not for you.
On the other hand, …
We recently met an association that wanted to expand on every level: membership, revenue, engagement, etc. They wanted to institute at least three new lines of business but were hindered by their current infrastructure. In other words, their mindset was “We want to grow!” but their infrastructure said “$$$custom$$$.” The bottom line is that if the cost of customizations exceeds the opportunity of revenue, you have the wrong infrastructure.
Scenarios like these are not new. As an industry, Associations were notoriously slow to change. Constraints such as consensus by committee, budgeting, complacency and a board’s divergence in strategic vision can all contribute to a slowdown in the progression of change. As confirmed in a recent survey, investment in new technology is often placed at or near the bottom of an organization’s priority list, yet for members, having up-to-the-minute technology is often a main driver of their engagement in the association.
What’s an Association Leader to Do?
First and foremost, association leaders must consider their organization’s mission and how to best execute it. To do this, they should first look internally at their resources. A key strategic partner that is often underutilized is an organization’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) or other like technology leader. The key for integrating the CIO as an influential leader is to allow him/her to empower users and instill trust and open communications in the organization. Leaders should create an environment where those working in the organization feel like they can approach IT with creative ideas and solutions.
Unfortunately, the reality of a CIO’s role differs from the ideal. A recent survey of senior executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that only 7% say the CIO plays a leadership role in identifying opportunities to innovate within an organization. When asked to identify the primary role of IT within the organization itself, 14% said leading technology innovation, versus 86 % who cited more traditional IT functions such as maintaining and integrating legacy systems and operating as a service provider to the business.
The mentality of “maintaining” legacy systems sets the path of the organization toward becoming “penny wise, pound foolish.” In essence, organizational leaders are making decisions with relatively small amounts of money (i.e. cheaply maintaining a legacy system) that ends up making bad sense for affecting larger amounts of money (higher revenues from membership, events, etc.) down the road. This mindset does not apply only to organizational executives, as many IT departments themselves have been reluctant to embrace new ways of working, even stifling innovation and collaboration in favor of maintaining cross company standards in the name of cost efficiency.
One of the largest obstacles organizations face in instituting digital transformation internally is best summed up by Gartner Research Vice President Donna Fitzgerald who wrote, “the digital transition for IT requires giving up a service mentality and instead adopting an investment mindset. Supporting the legacy systems of the past can’t be allowed to consume all of the money necessary to thrive in the future.”
What Does Investment in the Future Look Like?
The future of Digital Transformation is one where organizational leaders embrace new ways of connecting people, data, and processes to create value for their members. To accomplish this, we recommend Microsoft’s model –
- Engage Members
- Strengthen member acquisition and loyalty using a smart platform that enables personalized experiences.
- Empower Employees
- Boost team productivity with solutions that support mobile teamwork and flexible workstyles.
- Optimize Operations
- Drive efficiencies with a cloud platform that optimizes operations and accelerates responsiveness.
- Transform Products and Services
- Create new revenue opportunities using intelligent technology to innovate products and processes.
Organizational CIOs and leaders should do the following when considering implementing a solution that follows the Four Keys:
- Examine their mission and see what ways they can improve the delivery and implementation of that mission from a digital standpoint
- Look at their membership base and assess how and where they consume their information
- Examine the internal processes of the organization –
- Are there redundancies?
- Are there inefficiencies?
- Do they have out of date software that could be updated and improved?
- Look at long term ROI instead of short term cost savings
Ultimately, the best Digital Transformation solutions are based on progressive IT solutions that offers users flexibility, extensibility and automatic upgrades. Altai’s AMS is such a solution as it’s built within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform.