June 14, 2016

Future-Proofing Your Association's Technology Efforts

Future-Proofing Your Association's Technology Efforts

Did you know that the decisions you make for your association today will affect its tomorrow? That concept may be difficult to comprehend, but it’s today’s reality. 15 years ago, technology may not have been the first item on your to-do list. However, as technology has advanced, the need for associations to keep up with technology has increased. Fact of the matter is, if an association chooses an unfit association management software (AMS), its future may be bleak. Choosing the appropriate AMS is an extensive and expensive project. Why not decrease the margin for error and future-proof your technology efforts?

Whether you like it or not, your association needs to utilize advanced technology to leverage success. If your association chooses the wrong AMS partner, you will find yourself in a world of hurt. It’s important to think critically prior to starting the selection process in order to understand the long-term functionalities you are looking for. Additionally, you will need to think of any unforeseen issues that may arise. For an AMS to be successful, it should value innovation and have the capabilities to upgrade seamlessly. Your AMS is the heart of your association - shouldn’t you take the best possible care of it?

Get Your Mind Right:

  • Ask questions - ask as many as you can. Get hands on - utilize free trials. Try to foresee any potential issues and ask how they would be alleviated.
  • Review, analyze and synthesize.
  • Understand and judge the future in different phases.
  • Set your own expectations.

Step 1: Get Yourself Organized

The best starting point for future-proofing is to understand and evaluate the stressors that you currently face. Is it duplicate and manual data entry? Not being able to integrate with third-party systems? Servers shutting down unexpectedly? These will become the blueprint of your technology upgrade. It’s vital for association professionals to be mindful of exactly what its association needs. In order to do this, associations should be as intuitive as possible. This is the time to ask the nitty-gritty questions regarding specific software solutions. Be practical- don’t fall into help-desk mode. Have your staff be accountable and learn different processes. This will keep the ball in your court and give you the chance to fix any issues on your own. It’s important to back up your findings with data.

Step 2: Strategic Planning

To ensure that your association will select the best long-term solution, you will need to create a strategic plan. You will need to gauge what isn’t working in your current system. Is it processes? Procedures? People? Once you have established your system’s current issues, you will need to synthesize and prioritize them.

(Tip: It’s important to view these issues as ones that can be fixed with time)

You should make this effort an organizational one: Let as many people in as possible to review, comment and discuss your current planning strategy. By having others observe and analyze your findings, you will be able to get a better grasp as to the pains everyone is experiencing. It’s not enough to just create a strategic plan, you must make sure it’s sectioned into phases. By utilizing phases, you will be able to respect budgets, establish appropriate expectations, and have time to adjust the strategy if necessary. You should adjust this document as much as possible. Document any changes and communicate with peers and leadership.

Step 3: Analyze Technology Vendors

The most important decision you will make in your future-proofing efforts is choosing the right technology partner. This will dictate how your future initiatives will roll out and how your practices will be managed. It’s important for associations to view its technology vendor as a partner - rather than vendor. At the end of the day: Your partner wants to see you succeed. The decision you make today will affect your tomorrow. It’s hard to fix a technology partner mistake, it’s better to be cautious and execute with care initially. To ensure that your relationship prospers, associations should be the best client it can be. This relationship starts in the sales cycle. Nobody wants to be the client everyone hates getting onto calls with. Understand and trust that your partner has your best interests in mind. Additionally, it’s important to be transparent about your budget; this way, you and your partner will be on the same page.

Still not sure how the future-proofing process works? Check out our streamlined process:

  • Develop a flexible strategy that is open to feedback.
  • Create internal champions who have skin in the game.
  • Be the broker of technology ideas.
  • Help solve the big problems.
  • See setbacks as opportunities for deeper discussions and consensus building.

Future-proofing your association’s technology efforts simply lays out a long-term solution to your current problems. It’s important to be aware of your current issues, but also vigilant of future potential issues. By creating a strategic plan, you and your peers will be able to adjust it in order to better fit your needs. Remember, the decisions you make today will affect how you conquer tomorrow.

To learn more about choosing the best AMS, take a look at our blog, “Why Your Board Denied Your Request for a New AMS.”