3 Tips for Creating an Innovative IT Department

Staying ahead of the technology curve and connecting it to your business goals is a daunting task, but that's the job of a strategic IT team. Opening the 2014 ASAE Technology Conference & Expo on Tuesday, the head of a CIO advisory firm shared some tips on how those tech-savvy folks at your association can help drive innovation and business results.

The pace of change in technology has increased tremendously over the years—a reality that affects every aspect of an organization and makes it tough to stay ahead of the curve.

But that fact, according to Peter A. High, president of CIO advisory firm Metis Strategy, LLC, also presents an opportunity for association IT departments to become significant drivers of innovation.

“For very long the joke was that CIO stood for ‘Career Is Over,’” High said Tuesday morning at the Opening General Session of the ASAE 2014 Technology Conference & Expo. “But IT is becoming so much more strategic within the organization. It’s becoming part of how new ideas are brought to life.”

High gave attendees tips for creating an organizational culture that allows IT departments to innovate to better engage members. Three highlights:

Focus on customer experience. High pointed to Amazon and Netflix as companies relentlessly focused on customer experience—and examples for associations to follow. Neither has a true physical presence, but “they know what we’re searching for, they know what we like and what we are browsing through, what we’re watching,” he said. “They gather the kind of information about us to make the experience that much more compelling, to make us want to return, for us to use the service that much more. And so, as you look at your own organization, what is a really compelling online, digital, technical footprint with the customer at the center of that experience? How do you make your association easier to work with?”

This kind of discussion—creating a member-centered mindset—might be already taking place within the organization, but High stressed that IT should have a seat at the table.

Remain abreast of technology innovations. New technologies are being introduced left and right, and it’s imperative for associations to keep up and identify how those tools might be integrated into the work of the organization, said High. He pointed to the major changes in tech that occurred between the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics—including the introduction of the iPad and the rocketing popularity of Twitter and Facebook—and how event planners adapted those tools. “What worked well in Beijing [in 2008], obviously a very successful Olympics, some of that should continue, but a great deal needed to be rethought” for London in 2012, he said. While associations don’t produce events on the scale of the Olympics, “it’s important that you have the pulse on those changes, that you’re engaging in conversations with your peers.”

Integrate IT strategy organization-wide. IT can breathe life into all parts of an organization, High said. But “IT investments have very long tails to them in terms of cost, in terms of management, and a lot of complexity,” he said. IT leaders can help the organization prioritize how resources are deployed and help develop a business plan for the association. “It’s a great advantage of the IT leader to be engaging in this way and to identify where there are common themes, and where there might be overlap in what different departments are looking for from a technology aspect,” he said. “That much more reason for IT to be one of the bodies that is pushing the rest of the organization forward.”

Peter A. High, the president of CIO advisory firm Metis Strategy. (Sabrina Kidwai, APR, CAE/ASAE)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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