The CIO of an association for associations offers some practical advice for surveying the emerging technology landscape and filtering out what isn’t a priority.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is a rather meta organization, as it is an association of associations. It is an organization for association management, representing both organizations and individual association professionals. The organization works to nurture a community of smart, creative, and interesting people: the members and their associations.
Reggie Henry joined ASAE eight years ago, and as chief information officer, his job is to implement "exemplary" systems at ASAE that can serve as a model to the rest of the association community and to ratchet-up the use and understanding of technology among ASAE members. Informally, that means questioning everything that can be made better, more efficient, less costly, or more useful to members by the application of current and emerging technologies.
Peter High: What are you priorities for the foreseeable future?
Reggie Henry: Continuing to evolve the mindset and toolset of ASAE to match the growing "mobile" mindset of our members. My question to our staff is always "how can we be present at the moment of need" for our members. How can we part of their "digital reflex" when they want to know something, do something, buy something, or go somewhere? What can we do to become a habit for our members? How does technology allow us to do that?
High: One of your roles is to develop technology education materials for the ASAE's members. How do you determine the curriculum, and how do you develop or buy the relevant materials?
Henry: First of all, lucky for me, ASAE has a fabulous learning team, and tried and true processes for building world class education experiences for our members. Secondly, I have great colleagues who serve with me on the ASAE Technology Section Council. One of the council's roles is constantly survey the emerging technology landscape and filter out what associations should be paying attention to. In large part, that group helps determine the "curriculum", or more importantly, the content that's needed to build the curriculum. In terms of actual content development, we do a call for content and our members develop a lot of the materials for our Technology Conference. If we have gaps, and again the Technology Council comes into play and often develops content to fill those gaps.
High: You have also focused on implementing world class technology at ASAE. Please describe what this constitutes.
Henry: I'm not sure we meet that mark all the time, but one of my goals is help us all understand that associations don't have to be/don't need to be second class technology citizens. Having an effective technology strategy today is just as much about choices as it is about costs. I've got a great staff that's nimble enough for us to shift our thinking when necessary. A lot of what we are able to do is because we've shifted in a number of ways. We've shifted our attention from buying and managing servers (a good cloud strategy allows for that) to establishing and refining forward-thinking business processes. We've shifted from trying to get one enterprise-wide system (AMS, or whatever) to do everything, to making sure we have world-class APIs that allow us use "best of need" solutions and "plug em in" when needed. We're in the midst of shifting to the "mobile mindset" I mentioned earlier, where we're beginning to meet our members at their "point of need", on the devices they use most often.
High: In your role, you have an opportunity to partner with and advise the CIOs across the association community. What insights do you have into the priorities of your members, and how they are using technology to deliver against those priorities?
Henry: Just to be clear, it's more partnering than advising. Part of ASAEs role, and therefore part of my job, is to be the laboratory for things we think can have a positive affect on the association community. I'm luck to have colleagues who are willing to join me/support me in that role, both internally at ASAE and also in the greater association community. The aforementioned Technology Council is a great example of what I'm talking about. Together we scan the landscape, evangelize on the role of technology in associations, build and disseminate great technology content, and experiment-fail-learn together.
High: What other technology trends particularly excite you as you look to the future?
Henry: I think the continued evolution of mobile is still a big deal. The ability for us to be "present at the point of need" on the devices that our members are now using most often, is in its nascent stages in most of our community. We've picked some of the low hanging fruit, e.g. apps at meetings, but what about all of the other facets of the association? We've got some rethinking to do there. If I can board a plane with my watch, why can't I check in at a conference with it? If I can one click buy just about anything with my mobile device, why the heck can't I register for a conference that way with my association. I/we've got to figure that out.
I also think we're just beginning to scratch the surface with business analytics. Again, we've been picking the low hanging fruit of organizational metrics and dashboards. How do we push this technology down throughout the organization? What do personal dashboards/work boards look like that? How can we use this technology to really create "data-driven" workers at all levels of the organization.
Finally, and I'd almost given up the notion that I'd be able to say this again, but the stuff Microsoft is working on with Office365 and the technology behind it (most notably the office graph stuff), is cool. The insight into an organization's work that you get with tools like Delve and Delve Analytics is on another level. Their not all the way there yet, but the connectivity of the Groups, Planner, Delve, and other apps have the ability to really change the way we work in ways I hadn't imagined before. Couple that with their new "more open" policies that has them making all of these new tools available on Android and IOS platforms positions them as innovators. Love it!
Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book is Implementing World Class IT Strategy. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. He speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.