Every three to five years, associations gather their board members, executive, senior staff, and other volunteers for a strategic planning session. It's a time to map out a plan for how the association intends to grow its membership, increase its impact, and engage its members. The vision gets shared and all participants get down to the practicalities of how exactly the vision is going to be put into action.
What better time to start the process of digital transformation (DT)?
Too often, associations confuse digital transformation with being simply the adoption of social media, or developing a responsive website. We've all been fueled by the horror stories of businesses and organizations that did not realize that customers wanted way more convenience, responsiveness, and engagement. Instead of planning and deciding how to implement transformation across the organization, associations will often buy more tools and then hire a junior staffer to use them or, in fact, ignore digital altogether.
Understanding Digital Transformation
DT is not the development of better communication processes. Its very name implies transformation of all your work processes, operations, and association's entire outlook. It's the process of moving towards a place where your member comes first. Digital is only the tool to achieve that end.
As Peter Boag (1) puts it, digital is "the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle." For associations, digital tools now give you the ability to anticipate what your members want, based on their past experiences with your association.
It means you can now more easily discover what will make the process of membership easier for your members, and now have the tools to deliver. It means associations can evolve beyond being the only source and guardian of all information related to their industry or profession and become innovators who guide the way associations engage with members for the future.
In order to keep our edge as leaders and innovators, associations now need to plan for the member of the (near) future.
What Digital Transformation is NOT
In brief, digital transformation is not:
- Finding better tools or techniques with which to communicate with your members
- Determining how many social media messages we can send
- Choosing what social media platform to use
- Getting a maximum number of likes and followers
- Attracting a hot keynote speaker to our events
- Choosing the right database or association management software.
What the Future Holds
Digital Transformation is becoming a place where:
- Upcoming generations are nurtured and mentored.
- Members are given tools and techniques to advocate for themselves and their professions.
- Conferences become events where members are provided with experiences that lead to growth and are empowered to reach higher levels personally and professionally.
- Members become communities of colleagues who support, guide and mentor each other.
- Members reach out to other communities to inspire and support those associations who need help and resources.
That's the edge associations need in order to become innovators that no technology or tool can replace. To get to this place of innovation, associations need to:
Listen to what members are already saying. What complaints or murmurs have you heard? What do they want more of? Why are they not joining or renewing? If money, time and resources were no object, what type of association would your members want?
Consider what your long-term vision is for your association. Does it feature your members prominently? Is it a vision that speaks to their needs?
Analyze each interaction your member has with your association. How can it be made better? How can you inspire the member to aim higher, even within those interactions?
Once all these factors are determined, only then can you consider what digital tools and techniques you need to adopt.
The association of the future starts now. Where do you want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now? Consider this for discussion at your next strategic planning meeting.
Temi Adewumi is principal of TAGb Consulting, which teaches communications professionals how to initiate digital change in their not for profit. Through training, coaching and consulting, she breaks down organizations’ resistance to adopting technology and empowers professionals to get their leadership on board.
Visit TAGb.ca to get more tech insights for the solo not-for-profit communications professional.
Digital transformation can be both daunting and risky. The better prepared and informed you are, the less likely your organization is to be surprised (or harmed) by the unexpected. CSAE can help your organization be better prepared through its upcoming Cyber-Security for Associations webinar and its publication, Social Intelligence Demystified: How Associations Can Master The New Rules of Engagement in the Digital World publication by Julie King. Both address strategies, processes, and goals that can help.