David Coriale is president of DelCor Technology Solutions, a consulting firm that advises associations and the tech companies that serve them. He has worked with more than 600 associations and other groups over the past 28 years, giving him superior insight into how technology has evolved — and where it’s going — in the association industry.
Where do you see tech trends heading in associations?
In the past, we have seen associations view technology as a cost cutter. They really tried to keep their technology expenses down. The other extreme is focusing on using technology to move whatever needle they are trying to move. Now it is critical to their vision, operations, and business objectives. The trend is moving
in that direction.
Operations people focus on integrating their systems with the latest smartphones and tablets. But [they have to] think about the issues that come with increasing use of technology itself, like what are their management planning tasks and policies? What is their social media strategy? How does technology fit into the strategic plan?
Social media is the big wave that has hit associations. How are they figuring it out?
Your mileage may vary. We’re still seeing conference talks about social media successes or failures, as if people still need to learn social media 101. That’s great. Some are getting their foot in the door, now that they have a Facebook page. Now people are telling them to get on Pinterest and they don’t have the staff for it. Those who are getting social media right are tying it back to their business and strategic objectives.
Mobile is not a secondary product. It has to be a part of your social and web technologies. How do you tie mobile into social media strategy? That’s the buzz.
Where does mobile technology fit into the picture?
It’s part of the conversation. We saw this coming. Mobile is not a secondary product. It has to be a part of your social and web technologies. How do you tie mobile into social media strategy? That’s the buzz.
How are associations dealing with this shift?
The first thing they do is create a mobile version of the web pages for their conferences. You want to see that page render correctly on a cellphone. But you can’t do everything. You have to identify the top-five things you want to get done in a mobile environment. If you have a conference, attendees expect you’ll have a mobile app to guide them through it. The majority of websites we looked at don’t have a mobile-friendly rendering.
Describe how a model association has embraced technology.
They are reallocating resources and making decisions based on data. They use technology to collect and analyze the data and then make decisions based on that data to change their services. They use technology that applies to their specific situation. Skill sets have to expand in communications, marketing, and community management.
They are looking at what they are trying to accomplish. One of the worst reasons to do something is because we’ve always done it this way. If only a quarter of the members open up an email newsletter, do you need it? Would you be better off taking part in social media conversations on Twitter? You can make a tough decision on how you use technology, based on data.
What is under the radar, tech-wise, that associations might want to know about?
If I knew, I would invest in it. You have to follow what will affect your association’s membership.
Thinking years down the line, what’s leading the trends in association technology right now?
What the associations are doing with mobile. That’s where it is. Bringing your own device is another trend, where you use your own personal computer or smartphone. Corporate America is ahead on this. If you allow people to do this and work from where they are, then you have to decide who is allowed to do that. With “always on” communications, you might never be able to get away. I can go on a field trip with my kid and still communicate. It’s a double-edged sword.