How Do You Make Impactful Change? Start with Research.

You can flip a switch to achieve transformation, but take time to determine what that switch is, says this changemaker.

Whether it is fixing a leaky sink in her kitchen or overhauling the association management solution at her company, Mary Yokose says she always take the same approach to problem solving: “Be methodical, factual, make a checklist, do your research—make sure you have the best solution.”

As Vice President of Operations for S&S Management Services, one of the largest association management firms in New England, she has to be extremely detailed-oriented—or as she puts it with a laugh, “I have a bit of an OCD-type personality.” S&S provides services to a great array of business and professional communities, some with memberships numbering in the hundreds and others with memberships in the thousands. There is a lot going on, there are a lot of moving parts, and when you’re stuck with a management system that Yokose says “was probably older than me,” there can be a lot of problems.

The major issue, Yokose explains, was that while the old system worked, it was “clunky” and not at all flexible or configurable. And perhaps worst of all in this day and age, not mobile-friendly. So if you received an email on your phone about an event, you would have to get yourself to a computer and log in to sign up. Not exactly “with the times,” as Yokose describes. The clunkiness was becoming increasingly burdensome for the associations S&S supports, so Yokose was tasked with finding a new membership management platform that would meet the needs of all of their clients, from medical groups to real estate organizations.

Yokose got to work, implementing her preferred method of problem solving: “I spent probably about six months researching different vendors, platforms, and various solutions that we could possibly implement,” she explains. “I did a whole lot of testing, signing up and doing demos of all the products that were out there, trying to find the one solution that would meet all of our clients’ needs.”

Her research eventually led her to a system that checked all of the boxes. The system is intuitive, user-friendly, mobile-friendly, Yokose found, and had options S&S didn’t see anywhere else. “One of the biggest differentiating factors was its ability to implement abstract management within the system,” Yokose explains. “Such as the submission of abstracts, reviewing of abstracts for selection at meetings. That was a big process that a lot of other membership management solutions could not offer without much customization, support from a third-party vendor, and the added expense.

Her months of researching and testing paid off, bringing positive change to the associations S&S serves. “The ability to have mobile compatibility has been very helpful for some of our larger groups. Now their members can register for an event right on their phone, which wasn’t possible before.”

And its left the S&S staff, and Yokose in particular, feeling happy as well. “I definitely have a lot fewer people flying in and out of my office door with complaints or issues with the system being down or buggy reports. Now when people come to me with questions, it’s more questions like, ‘What is the best way to do this or find that?’ It’s more of a ‘how-to’ question at this point versus ‘something is broken.’”

New capabilities have a way of invigorating and sparking creativity within an organization. “I think it motivates our staff when they’re on site at an event and they hear from the members of the association that they like the new Impexium system—I think that energizes them.” And ultimately, that is the result that any association disruptor hopes to achieve.

Change may be the only constant in business – but that doesn’t make organizational transformation any easier. Association leaders are balancing competing priorities and increasing demands, enough to make even the most driven executive fall victim to the inertia of the status-quo.

But not every association stays still while the world seems to change around them. For her willingness to upset the association technology status-quo, Impexium is proud to recognize Mary Yokose as one of 2018’s Association Technology Disruptors!