“I didn’t really ‘get it’. I thought the process we were undergoing would provide a roadmap for tech implementation, but that actually came a lot later.”The organisation was undergoing a period of change with a growing membership, mainly owing to successful expansion internationally through offices in Singapore and a soon to be realised Middle East office. The nature of the membership and its competition was also changing. Training, which is a core service and a significant revenue driver, is increasingly provided online and no longer is access a function of membership. Disruptive forces such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are also competing, so the organisation can no longer rely on somebody committing to two years to do one of its courses as the sole bastion of knowledge for the industry being represented. Digital overhaul therefore had to be accompanied with a reassessment of what the organisation was for. This process of defining purpose was used to engage with staff, empowering them and bringing them onside as part of the process. Working in a cross-functional way, team members from different parts of the organisation helped define customer personae to help focus their efforts by giving a picture of who the members were and what they needed. This in turn helped to reframe NPD and web development by placing the audience back in the centre of the picture. It also became clear that the organisation needed to invest in people, culture and processes or the technology would perform sub-optimally. With such a transformation on the cards, a different approach was adopted. Like many professional bodies, change can come slowly due to a reluctance to let things go live until they are ‘perfect’. However, the organisation opted for a more iterative approach that broke with this philosophy. It needed to be more agile, and so adopted working to a series of 90-day sprints, a common practice employed by the technology firms of silicon valley. This allowed the project to be broken down into more manageable chunks and reassessed regularly. It broke out of the more traditional two-year development cycle and gave the organisation a way to move forward with confidence.
“My proudest moment was putting the site out in Beta. It is something that just wouldn’t have happened in the past and was an indication of how much we had changed the organisation.”A project that started with the FD worrying about cost became about the strategy that will underpin that investment. The outcome has been organisational change and a parallel soul searching about the brand and its future-value proposition. Hard decisions have also been made about resource allocation, but the result is an organisation that is more in tune with the demands of its members. The experience chimed with the other bodies present. Although each was at a different stage in its digital transformation, they had plenty of examples of how digital was changing their organisations, and the challenges that brought.
“You can’t please everyone. When you look at the bell curve of the membership, there is a core group with particular needs, and maybe this should be what you aim to serve. You can spend a lot of time and effort on the needs of minority interests.”At the same time, there is a tandem need for targeted and personalised information that digital can service, such as for international members with specific requirements. One organisation said it envisaged a ‘digital self-service machine’ to provide for its international members.
“Social media ‘lights up’ ahead of meetings of our younger members. They plan what will happen ahead of the meeting and then discuss it at length afterwards, but they still want a physical meeting.”Some organisations are also trialling the use of digital collaboration to support its members. Digital may also provide a way for members to contribute something back to the association. The fact that membership is a two-way thing is sometimes lost on newer generation, but through technology, this engagement is easier. There was consensus that there was a need to involve Millennials in transformation. As well as being the future of the organisation, they are ‘born digital’ with a preference and aptitude for technology. Their input is vital.
“It’s no longer a case of ‘build it and they will come’, but you can provide an authoritative voice and bring people into the association by presenting that voice and expertise on relevant forums when the opportunity arises.”