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Nimble Technology Strategy Flows With Association Goals

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With the world changing quickly, organizations need a tech strategy to match. The best approach is to align technology goals with strategic goals and check in regularly so your team can shift gears smoothly—and on the fly.

If the pandemic taught associations anything, it was that the world can change more quickly than most people realized. Being able to adjust technology strategy as circumstances shift requires a nimble approach to your plans.

“Once you do the strategic plan, you need to think about the technology that’s going to support the strategic plan,” said Duane Capuano, senior consultant at Tecker International, LLC. “So that could be an [association management system]. That could be a new website. It could be a new online community. It could be an email or marketing automation software, depending on what your strategic needs are. For every strategic goal an organization has, there is definitely technology that can support that goal.”

Anne Ornelas, senior operations manager for CASSS—Sharing Science Solutions, said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago, her association initially revisited its technology strategy every three months to make sure it still met the organization’s needs. In typical times, organizations can stretch out such check-ins, but staff should be doing them if they want to remain nimble.

“Revisit things every six months to a year, just to check in,” Ornelas said. “Just to see: Are these [goals] still on track? Are these things we still need, or have we found other resources or other areas we need to focus on?”

“Overall, look at all the technologies you’re using and then focus on prioritizing each project, but with that long-term view of, where is it going to take us?” — Anne Ornelas, CASSS—Sharing Science Solutions

Like Ornelas, Capuano has worked with an association whose tech strategy changed as real-time events impacted its three-year technology strategic plan.

“In the case of our client, the initial plan was to do the learning management system in year two, but when we came to year two, we realized the website was much more of a priority because of what they were hearing from members and what they were hearing form the board,” Capuano said. “You absolutely need to be nimble in terms of how you’re looking at it, and certainly if there something new coming, you need to modify the strategy or perhaps reprioritize the technology.”

Ornelas agrees that prioritization is essential. “Make sure you have that roadmap for things that are priorities: high priority versus low priority. That way, you can tackle them beyond the initial engagement,” she said. “Overall, look at all the technologies you’re using and then focus on prioritizing each project, but with that long-term view of, where is it going to take us? Is this something that is too big for us now? Would we really have to grow into that, or is it something we can use now and grow with us?”

Gather the Right People

When strategic changes do happen, it’s important to get the right people in the room to talk about how those changes affect the technology you need. “I think that’s really key: making sure you have the right people on the team for each project,” Ornelas said. “It doesn’t have to be the entire team.”

Most likely it will be a cross-functional team, Capuano said. “Right now, many associations are thinking about meetings differently,” he said. “They are doing hybrid meetings. If the initiative is going to change the curriculum, offer online and in person, [then] the meetings person and the professional development person who will be interacting with that software need to be involved.”

Both Capuano and Ornelas noted that lots of small organizations don’t have IT staff and instead work with consultants. Bring them in to help with any needed adaptations.

“We’ve employed consultants over the years to support us in that process to make sure that we’re looking at what are the needs of the organization,” Ornelas said. “Having a consulting partner to really drive data-driven results with you and provide that in a cohesive report and message to the board is important.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a senior editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips.

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