Study: Where Associations’ Tech Strategies Are Succeeding—and Falling Short

While members have high opinions of associations’ technology, staff doesn’t feel quite the same way—with long-term concerns a big factor why, according to a Community Brands study.

Technology and associations are like awkward roommates sometimes—obviously, they have to work together to keep things going, but it might get a little bumpy along the way.

A new report from the membership-focused software firm Community Brands finds that while things are looking a little rosier these days on the association IT front than they might have in the past, there are still plenty of bumps in the road to get past.

“The accelerating pace of technology innovation poses a significant risk to professional membership organizations,” the Digital Evolution Study [registration] says. “If they don’t keep up, their member experiences will suffer, and the success of their organization could be in jeopardy.”

A few key pain points highlighted by the report:

Members approve of the tech more than staff does. The report, which surveyed 1,143 association members and 405 staff members at associations, found that while 7 in 10 members approved of the technology offerings of their primary professional association, just 38 percent of employees felt the same way about the tech. Part of the reason for the disparity might be that association professionals are looking to stay ahead of the curve.

Tech pain points. However, there are plenty of places where associations need to up the slack, and a key one is mobile functionality—something just 34 percent of members and 16 percent of staff members approved of. While desktop experiences are mostly built out, most members wanted an equivalent mobile experience. Another pain point was personalization technology, which many members now expect to work throughout a broader experience.

The data factor. While data and analytics are key points of interest, especially when it comes to the deeper business intelligence that can be culled from them, the growing interest comes up at a time when data and security are key considerations for members. “Members view data privacy and security as a top concern for both today and ahead, but there is currently a disconnect with association professionals who are underestimating members’ concerns,” the firm said in a news release.

Is staff ready? Two key pain points specific to staff cited by the study involve where IT departments are spending their time (on issues of member retention, rather than big-picture ideas) and whether professionals feel prepared to take on a growing tide of technology (generally, they don’t). “This study suggests most professional membership organizations continue to feel technologically unprepared for the future,” the report said. “In many areas, they don’t believe their technology offerings are high quality. Given that technology and member loyalty go hand in hand, it’s time to change this trend.”

In addition, the report offers five key suggestions for associations to move forward, including a focus on closing member value gaps with technology; an increased focus on mobile; more training on data analytics and business intelligence; a stronger focus on data privacy, especially when it comes to personalization; and a general recommendation to be prepared.

“Ensure you have technology solutions in place that support a great mobile experience and allow you to collect, analyze, and use member data to deliver the personalized technology experience members expect—today and in the future,” the report said.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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