2018 Membership Resolution: Master the Art of Project Management

Association professionals should make it a resolution to use project management tools to deliver better experiences for their members in 2018.

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I think there’s something to be said for people who are constantly self-improving, regardless of the day, month, or year.

Project managers, by their very definition, are people with the motivation to set goals, plan for them, and then achieve them. For an association, and more specifically, a team focused on membership, project management tools and leaders are essential.

Don’t believe me? Just talk to Patty Uy, business strategy and insights manager for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

In the last three years, she served as a project lead that resulted in a digital transformation for AACN, including a website launch, which involved a cross-functional team of IT, design, marketing, and communications professionals, as well as outside consultants and senior leadership.

The digital transformation is an ongoing process, but much of the team’s early success has been built around effective processes rooted in project management 101 [ASAE member login required].

“The most important thing that we did was establish a process of making sure we had a core team that met frequently and communicated effectively,” Uy says. “Our goal was to have everyone understand what was happening and to create a constant feedback loop that allowed us to shift when necessary.”

The project resulted in a highly personalized website, which launched more than a year ago. It was a seamless switch—the site never crashed—and it was a big reason why AACN’s membership grew by 5.3 percent last year.

Whether you’re about to embark on a massive digital transformation or looking to bring a few departments and work streams closer together, focusing on the right project management tool and leader, can help put you on a path to success in 2018.

Here’s how to get started.

Pick the Right Project Tool

Good project management starts with the right project tracking tool. If you’re just getting started, think about which tool might best serve your team.

Last month at ASAE’s Technology Conference & Expo, Jason Heydasch, technology solutions director for the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), led a presentation on the variety of free tools available.

Popular options include Asana, Trello, Office Planner, or Wrike, but the best tool will vary depending on your technology and staff needs.

I personally have used Asana and found it to be adaptable to teams working on multiple devices and computer operating systems. Meanwhile, there are some perks to Office Planner if your team uses the Microsoft’s Office 365 platform.

However, system integration is only half the battle; the other challenge, Heydasch says, is team adoption and use.

“As you start to find a solution that you think you can roll out, one of the biggest challenges you’re going to face is team buy-in,” he said during his presentation at Tech17. “Getting other departments and other individuals in your organization to test and use the tool is essential.”

Heydasch recommends starting small with a piloted effort involving either a smaller-scale project or one that’s already integrated across multiple departments.

Pick the Right Project Lead

Also, keep in mind that your tools are only as good as the people who use them.

While you can certainly go looking to hire an experienced or certified project manager, Uy suggests looking inside your organization to see if there’s anyone qualified to serve as a project management lead.

“Part of the reason I was tapped was that I had a lot of experience with high-level, organization-wide initiatives,” she says. “I was, in effect, a bridge to multiple lines of work.”

Obviously, every association varies by size, but Uy is proof that there could be a qualified project manager sitting somewhere within your organization.

She’s been with AACN for almost two decades and knows how to talk and engage with different teams, including web developers, designers, and marketing professionals. It was that experience that made her uniquely qualified for the digital transformation project.

“Having the right background and knowledge on membership was critical to our team’s success,” Uy says. “You’re looking for the right person who’s going to be adaptable and take the lead on a change management plan.”

How has your association gone about selecting tools or leaders for previous or current projects? Please share in the comments.

(IconicBestiary/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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