Three Ways Digital Transformation Can Add Value to Your Association

Not every attempt at digital transformation has to be massive or earth-shaking. A smaller, more methodical approach can work as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The words digital transformation strike fear in the heart of some leaders, in part because it sounds like a heavy lift.

But the truth is that you don’t have to transform everything all in one bite. By working more slowly and efficiently and narrowing your digital transformation goals to focus on smaller pieces of a larger whole, not only do you stress-test your organization’s ability to handle change, you also lay the groundwork for a bigger change later on.

A few examples of smaller-scale digital transformation in action:

Modernizing something you’re already doing. Before the podcasting boom, the National Speakers Association would send copies of its audio productions to its members on a CD attached to its magazine. But when NSA tried to move this format to a podcast, the approach didn’t fit the needs of the audience. So, as a part of a broader reinvention of its membership model, the organization hit the reset button, creating Speakernomics, a podcast that offers listeners short, insightful advice on becoming more successful professional speakers. The organization’s CEO, Mary Lue Peck, says that the group emphasized creating unique value in a short amount of time—each episode is around 25 minutes—and found an effective host, Thom Singer, to present the new offering. “Launching a new podcast allowed us to rebuild our audio program from the ground up,” Peck says. “We were able to set new goals for our show and develop a new workflow for each episode to ensure each episode is laser-focused on our core purpose of helping listeners become better speakers and build better businesses.”

Promoting cross-department collaboration. It can be harsh to change everything all at once when trying to tackle a digital transformation culturally, but a great place to start that conversation involves getting people who might have traditionally been siloed to talk to one another. During the 2020 ASAE TEC Virtual Conference, presenter Kevin Hastings, a manager for web strategy at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, explained how the pandemic shifted the organization’s strategy for working across departments. “One thing that’s been really great and eye-opening is that you have these conversations about all of these fragmented systems, and all of these capabilities that one department is working on,” he explained during the event. “And you have these lightbulb moments where someone in another department says, ‘Wow, I had no idea that we’re putting together a comprehensive system for taxonomy.’ That’s really great.”

Presenting a seamless image of integration to members. A key to strong digital transformation is to send a message that everything works efficiently as one piece. Problem is, it’s common to have many accounts across an organization—and it can be a major pain point if your organization’s WordPress site doesn’t talk to your association management system (AMS), requiring the use of separate logins. But building an integration between your platforms via the login page can help make the different platforms work more seamlessly together. Joe Aldeguer, the director of IT for the Society of American Florists, says that he worked with his AMS vendor to integrate single sign-on (SSO) functionality into his organization’s different platforms using an application programming interface (API). “Our members can navigate from all platforms—AMS, CMS, and LMS—using one login,” Aldeguer says. “Many of our members are not tech-savvy, so I wanted to make sure technology does not get in the way whenever they want to use our member resources.”


(Eoneren/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!