While change in your association is inevitable, it’s important not to change for change’s sake. To make a real impact, harnessing your association data as a guide to meaningful change will benefit your members — and your organization.
In this blog, we’ll examine how successful associations manage change and transformation of technology, with wisdom from Reggie Henry, Chief Information & Performance Excellence Officer for ASAE.
Leading the keynote session at the recent Association Analytics annual user conference, Predict, Reggie gave us a deeper look at how your association can use technology to go beyond simply collecting and storing transactional data to unlock the possibilities of analytics insights.
Share Tools with the Whole Team
One of the common questions that often leads to change in an association is, “What keeps you up at night?”
Identifying that triggering issue and finding a solution can lead to the most impactful kinds of change. For Reggie, one big concern is how to make sure everyone has access to the insights they need to help them do their jobs more effectively.
“The people on the front lines hardly have access to any information that they need to do their jobs.That keeps me up at night: Data democratization,” Reggie said.
When your team understands how your members are engaging with you, Reggie said they’ll be empowered to more effectively work with your most — and least — engaged members and take appropriate action.
“I don’t want to assume what people need to do their jobs better, I want to make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs better,” he said. “Everybody has access to all the stuff. I want a t-shirt that says ‘Everybody has access to all the stuff.’”
Taking a step beyond access, he also pointed out the importance of making the entire team aware of your technology stack. At ASAE, Reggie said technology is divided into three categories, customer-facing technology, run-the-business technology and insight and analytics.
Take Your Association from Data to Insight
While most associations are used to looking back at past data to help inform their next decision, Reggie pointed to the uncertainty of the past few years as a reason that approach is no longer reliable.
“If you think about what we went through in the last couple of years and how much change we had to go through in the last couple of years just to keep up. [The change curve] is steeper every year,” he said.” But still you see people planning … and using data to look backwards and then planning for the wrong thing. We need to be planning way ahead of that. We need to be looking three years into the future at least.”
While it may feel impossible to plan this way, Reggie thinks it all comes down to listening data. There are many ways to better understand your members through data, including by watching what topics are most popular in association communities and using that data to plan relevant events that members will find valuable.
For example, he said conversations about Covid-19 helped the ASAE team plan events and resources around the topic. This data helped ASAE identify popular meeting facilitators by showing which members were active in the chats.
“And you know what? All the CEO Roundtables had record attendance,” Reggie said. “Duh! This is what they needed. The community is telling you what it needs you to respond with.”
This is not the traditional data that many associations are used to making decisions around but it’s how associations can move from focusing on the past to building for the future.
“That [data] is not how many people came to the event. That’s not how many people registered. That’s not how many people came into the exhibit hall. But this told me something to do, not something I did. So my goal with our systems, with our data analytics systems, is to go from data to insight.”
Getting Closer to Your Members
When you’re thinking about undergoing a data transformation, it can be overwhelming to consider all the possibilities and options out there, but Reggie said the process can all be summed up simply.
“I think that data transformation is all about getting closer to our customers,” he said.
As ASAE began its data transformation several years ago, Reggie said a key question the team asked was, “What do our members need our systems to do?”
After identifying about 45 or 50 things, the team consolidated the list down to six things that members hold the association accountable for and they were able to focus on tools to help them in those areas.
“I will submit to you that in the coming years, knowing that information, knowing what your members need from you is something we all need to do. And I’m not talking about crappy member satisfaction surveys. I’m talking about really knowing what your members need on an individual basis.”
Reggie pointed to the types of data that your association likely already has access to but isn’t using. For example, if members expect your association to connect them with peers in their industry, it’s likely that you have information in your registration system that will tell you job title and seniority.
“We should be able to look at our data and say, ‘What are the things that other directors of marketing are doing? And be able to provide that information to a marketing coordinator looking for their career path,” Reggie explained.
Changing the Way Your Association Does Business for the Better
When you’re looking at implementing new software, while it’s important to make sure everyone has access and is aware of the tools you’re investing in, Reggie explained it’s not reasonable to expect full adoption out of the gate.
“It probably took us two years to get to where I felt we were making progress, quite honestly. What made that happen was diligence. What made that happen was Christin (Berry) going to each department and saying, ‘Let me show you what’s here’ and then, ‘Let’s have a conversation about what you need to do your job better.’
Using Association Analytics tools like Acumen enables associations to unlock insights hidden in their data, including the unstructured data lying in their online communities and social platforms.
“Dig into the data that’s below the surface. This is how I think about Acumen: All the gold is below the surface.” Along the way, it’s important to remember you’re doing more than implementing software, you’re changing the way your association does business for the better.