Interoperability: When Systems Talk, Everybody Wins

Associations that embrace this new wave of technology won’t just survive, but stand to experience explosive growth, says JP Guilbault.

Who enjoys the constant logging in and out of multiple applications throughout the day while working on complex projects or facing strict deadlines?

“Solutions and platforms which have yet to connect with each other are more than just annoying; the incapability to connect has become detrimental to an organization’s ability to grow,” says JP Guilbault, President and CEO of Community Brands, the leading software solutions provider for associations, nonprofits, K-12 schools, and faith-based organizations.

JP goes on to mention “In a 2018 Pegasystems study examining productivity levels between desktop use and employee engagement, reports of current connectedness, or interoperability, has revealed a massive problem. Data within the study found that employees switch between 35 applications over 1,100 times per day—nearly once every minute. They also found that employees spend only 28% of their workday inside of structured applications, suggesting that the technology we use isn’t adequate in appropriately sharing data. According to ASAE, the average association spends $74,000+ annually on software tools. A significant expense for tools that create a siloed approach to running an organization and roadblocks efficiency.”

“Interoperability is the ability to work seamlessly across multiple applications or platforms,” explains Guilbault. “Without the ability to connect seamlessly, associations will find themselves in a data silo quandary. Either staffers are tasked with manually connecting the dots on data or they are bogged down with creating system workarounds to try to keep up with evolving modes of communication.”

Guilbault places emphasis on how, “associations must relieve themselves from the limitations of these silos. Customized systems are costing you money, be it maintenance or inefficiency. Organizations must be prepared for change because at the end of the day, for an organization to thrive, your team needs to be focused on their primary mission: enhancing the value of the association for its members.”

Throughout this piece, Guilbault further breaks down the need for interoperability and the positive results of seamless connectivity.

Data silos and dinosaurs

“A lot of association technology was, and still is, legacy based. Association technology was built for on-premise, perpetual installation, and for self-hosted servers. It was not built for connection and unfortunately, in a technological sense, that leaves many associations stumbling around like technology dinosaurs. Now, we all know the fate for dinosaurs was disastrous. Unless adaptation occurs, associations could face a similar fate of destruction. This time, rather than an enormous asteroid, it will be wasted time and money and the worsening of products which will ultimately wipe them out of existence.”

The new wave of interoperability

“Fortunately,” Guilbault guides us, “if leaders embrace and adopt the new wave of technology that is focused on interoperability, associations won’t just survive, they stand to experience explosive growth.” He goes on to explain further, “think about the main categories of association technology: association management software, learning management software, the career center and the web site. These all have incredibly important member information and if those systems are seamlessly communicating with each other, a new world of customized experiences opens up for members.”

Guilbault paints a simple but compelling picture, “If someone goes onto a job board and they’re not a member, the membership database system is alerted and triggers a value proposition for that person to join. Let’s say someone is taking a particular course through an LMS—algorithms could connect them with a job search that is related to the skills they are currently being certified for. These kinds of interoperable experiences make things better for members—and better for staff because they don’t have to data jockey this information.”

Data-powered personalization

“Interoperability allows associations to know who their members are and what they want—even before they do,” says Guilbault, “and that can be a powerful way to enhance their lives.”

“The association community falls victim to the negative side effect of highly fragmented technology by relying on disconnected point solutions to manage member databases, engagement, learning systems, and revenue streams. These solutions are typically quick to implement and serve a singular function” JP explains. “The disjointed nature of transferring data from one system to another, isolates information resulting in a loss of meaningful records and membership efficiencies.”

Guilbault provides an example of how our world can be more efficient and create more meaningful experiences for staff and members by citing an airline company which provides passenger data to their flight crew before every takeoff. Passenger mile status, their chosen meal preference, can lead to situations such as, “if I usually get a vegetarian meal and I forgot to preorder it, yet the flight attendant offers it to me before I even ask? That makes me feel like a valued customer.”

Guilbault sees that level of personalization becoming a reality for associations powered by interconnected data hubs. “I see a future where you could predict what sessions a member will want to go to at a conference. Imagine showing up at a conference and the system has custom-crafted your schedule based on your history: what sessions you want to attend, how long you will stay—what you’ll order for lunch. That makes you feel respected, connected to the association and is the kind of experience that fosters loyalty.”

Guilbault finishes with a statement of hope for those navigating disconnected systems, “the fragmented technology associations experience is soon to change. Top notch product suites are creating a unified and uninterrupted member experience through product integrations. By adopting a fully integrated suite of products, organizations can manage memberships, career centers, learning, accounting, mobile giving, donors, and events in one centralized location from one vendor. The power to connect, cross-promote and add member value is mightier than it has ever been before. With a technology suite equipped with interoperability abilities, associations can focus more time on members’ needs, personalized messages, and its mission.”

About  Community Brands &  JP Guilbault

JP Guilbault currently serves as CEO and President of Community Brands, the leading provider of business management, engagement, commerce & payment solutions to member-based organizations. With 3,000 employees serving over 130,000 clients in 34 countries, CB empowers people and organizations to grow stronger, succeed faster, and achieve their dreams- because powerful work needs powerful tech. 

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