The Right Tech Tools Deliver the Frosting and the Cake


.orgCommunity’s June 9 Innovation Summit showcases the most interesting trends in the association industry and the people who make them happen. Planning this event is an annual reset. It’s an opportunity to consider fresh ideas and the strategies that keep them growing. It’s also a chance to discover the technology that supports this new thinking.

Events are great, but innovation needs to occur all year long. How do you make that creativity part of your organization’s daily life? Having the right talent and providing an environment where those employees flourish, is the bottom line. But limiting the think-tank to a few “creatives” is like eating the frosting and leaving the cake. The ideas might be too rich and there’s a lot of stale potential. Cultivating problem-solving across the organization pays powerful dividends on your investment in people.

Technology is a critical tool to maximize that brain trust and help employees view their challenges from fresh perspectives. Innovation is all about making connections, and digital platforms reveal those important relationships.

Digital transformation is the process of seamlessly integrating technology across business strategy, administration, and operations. Although digital transformation involves both technology and culture, it’s a little like the chicken and the egg. Identifying which comes first—the equipment or the attitudes—isn’t always clear. One thing is certain. There can be no transformation without connectivity. The right technology makes sharing information and ideas and keeping everyone on the team looped in on the latest thinking easy.

Facilitate Communication

Continuously building better requires understanding the big picture and the details.

Continuously building better requires understanding the big picture and the details of what you already have. You need the multidimensional view of your members that only integrated software provides. But first and foremost, it’s critical to focus on how your people communicate that information to each other.

I hope that the pandemic pushed any group that was reluctant to invest in a file sharing platform to take this necessary step toward better collaboration. There are many options including Teams, Hive, or GoogleDocs, which is free.

Project management software and apps, like Wrike, Basecamp, and Monday keep initiatives on track and help everyone, especially remote workers, stay up to date. These programs are often bundled with file sharing, or they can be stand-alone platforms. The features and benefits are plentiful, but remember bells and whistles only make noise when someone uses them. Do the research to identify which of the many platforms will help your group keep the idea balloons popping.

Assess Needs

With everyone connected, you can begin to consider the technology stack, or the configurations of software, which will support your team’s best creative thinking. A shift to a new AMS, LMS, or CMS isn’t a move to be taken lightly. But don’t stay married to a loser. If your current tech stack, or lack thereof, is preventing you from growing engagement, achieving goals, or actually sabotaging your success, it’s time to rethink that relationship. These are indicators that point to considering a new direction:

  • Online platforms that are difficult to navigate
  • Inability to use data for objective decision-making as a result of:
    • Unreliable input
    • Insufficient reporting capabilities
    • Complex user interface
  • Declining registrations
  • Member attrition without new growth
  • Revenue losses as a result of the challenges above
  • Siloed operations
  • Ineffective and/or costly meetings
  • Manual activities that consume significant staff time

technology assessment can confirm which systems need replacement and identify gaps in resources. The process is an in-depth exploration of your current digital competence as well as the status of core business activities, the cultural environment, and your short-term and long-range goals. The objective is to determine what tools you will need to build for the future and to develop a roadmap to get there. An assessment includes evaluating:

1. Strategy

A technology assessment can identify gaps in resources.
  • Organizational attitudes toward digital thinking and outreach
  • Digital integration with strategic planning

2. Decision-Making

  • How decisions regarding technology are made and who is responsible
  • How data is used in decision-making

3. Innovation

  • Organizational willingness, ability, and processes to innovate

4. Revenue

  • Financial diversification and streams of revenue

5. People/Skills/Culture

  • Whether leadership, environment, professional development, and training promote digital literacy and thinking
  • Whether there is adequate talent to achieve the desired goals

6. Processes/Operations

  • Where data resides, who owns it, and how it flows through the organization
  • Definition and documentation of processes and responsibilities
  • Human, financial, and equipment resources

7. Technology/Systems

  • Current systems and how they interact
  • User satisfaction
  • Efficiency

8. Cybersecurity

  • Processes for safeguarding systems and data

9. Metrics/Analytics

This detailed understanding of your digital capacity will help you to pick the right tools for the work ahead. The list may seem daunting or like overkill. But the extra effort on the front end builds a smooth runway for innovation and growth.

Study the Landscape

Five years ago, a robust association tech stack might have included an AMS, CMS, and LMS. Today the options have exploded. There are powerful add-ons for analytics and reporting as well as platforms that enhance system compatibility and integration. A consultant can guide you through the selection process and match your needs to the right products. But executives seeking to lead innovative organizations should be familiar with this rapidly changing landscape.

For a quick snapshot of the breadth and depth of the digital resources available to associations today, visit .orgCommunity’s Solutions Center. Whether you’re searching for an abstract management system or a platform for webinars, you’ll find a curated resource of industry providers on the site. Our partners share their videos, whitepapers, and a variety of other content to help you discover the most up-to-date information technology services.

In addition to the data, content, learning, and analytics tools that are standard operating equipment for innovation, there are new platforms specifically designed to facilitate the creative process. Innovation software can be used to gather ideas from both internal or external sources and rank and sort the submissions based on a set of predetermined criteria. Ideas are automatically vetted and can be tracked from inception to impact.

For businesses looking to capture the expertise of outsiders, innovation software is an effective strategy. Collecting input from thought leaders and customers is a powerful problem-solving tool that can be used to avert disruption. Innovation platforms also promote an egalitarian approach to the creative process. They make it easy for employees at every level to submit ideas and have a voice.

Keep Creativity Growing

Technology hasn’t caught up to the human brain yet. We are still the primary source of inspiration and ideas. But don’t eat the frosting and leave the cake. The right tech tools will ensure that everyone on your team contributes to growing the brain trust for a successful future.

Position Your Organization For Success

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