Two Keys to Tech Success

Tech Success March 21, 2016

New ASAE Foundation research examines what drives associations’ successful use of technology. Key takeaways: Associations succeed when technology decision makers are engaged in the organization’s strategic discussions and are mindful of stakeholders’ “techno-readiness.”

What factors directly contribute to associations’ effective use of technology to drive success? And how can association IT professionals direct their efforts to ensure that they are meeting the needs of their staff and members? The ASAE Foundation has partnered with DelCor Technologies and Rockbridge Associates to research these questions at the core of association technology efforts.

With the first phase of the project completed, two essential findings have emerged.

The Rise of Strategic Decision Making
Strategic decision making is (and should be) supplanting operational concerns as the primary function of association IT departments. The findings indicate that association technology efforts are most successful when technology is embraced as a critical component in association-wide strategic planning. In successful organizations, technology strategy is aligned with, serves, and is reinforced by organizational strategy. Rather than focusing solely on technology infrastructure, IT leaders are included in discussions of diverse functional areas, including research, membership, and education. This enables IT leadership to provide crucial insight to strategic considerations such as data collection, member engagement, and talent development.

In successful organizations, technology strategy is aligned with, serves, and is reinforced by organizational strategy.

Having IT leadership in the room during strategy discussions can also help cut through the technology noise. Given the endless parade of new product releases and splashy profiles of innovative companies, it can be difficult to distinguish between what is possible and what is possible and valuable. In this environment, it has become even more important for IT and association leaders to work together to decide which available technologies are the right fit for their organization and its membership.

To help manage these strategic demands, many IT departments are outsourcing operational tasks like system disaster recovery and system upgrades. IT departments remain engaged with some operational tasks, like security issues and mobile development, as they tend to go hand in hand with strategic priorities.

Variations in “Techno-readiness”

“Technology readiness,” a measure developed by Rockbridge Associates, assesses a person’s propensity to embrace technology. It captures both feelings about technology adoption and level of comfort in using technology. Both factors are key, as a person might be positive about new technology in general but express a disinclination toward adopting new technology personally.

Among the research participants, there was a recurring perception that a large number of their organization’s members may be hesitant or uncomfortable using technology, despite their sense that their members were generally optimistic about technology. Staff, too, are likely to have widely varied levels of comfort and optimism related to new products. While these factors may not affect the technologies that organization leaders select, they should have a bearing on the methods and education involved in deploying new technologies.  

Next Steps

Next on the agenda for this research is a series of case studies to provide in-depth analyses of several associations’ technology usage. A third phase, for which the ASAE Foundation is currently recruiting organizations to participate, is slated to take place over summer 2016. Phase three will measure members’ expectations for their associations, how they interact using technology, how successful associations are in meeting members’ needs, and members’ readiness to adopt new technologies.

For details and to express interest in participating, complete this form.

Final results of this study will be available later this year. Plans are being made to use the findings to develop an association-specific tool for assessing IT maturity and technology readiness in organizations.