CEO to CEO: Tech Strategy and Job Wish Lists

How do you integrate technology into your association’s strategy? What’s one thing your job doesn’t allow you to do that you wish you could do?

How do you integrate technology into your association's strategy?

Technology plays a critical part in our organization's support to our membership. Given the increasing, critical goal of achieving meaningful use of electronic health records, our member clinics are working to select, implement, and achieve meaningful use within a relatively short timeframe. Our organization provides members with technical support, vendor selection support, training, implementation, and more. We have also co-developed a software program to help member clinics share quality data to enhance performance. We continually seek ways to improve our own organization's expertise and performance through the tools of technology.

—Victoria Emmons, CEO, Community Health Partnership, Santa Clara, California. Email: [email protected]

Very carefully. Like Baskin-Robbins' Flavor of the Month, there is an unending stream of cool new software and hardware. As a former mentor of mine used to say, "You want to be on the leading edge of technology, but you don't want to fall off the cliff." So these are the critical questions: Does the technology really perform as advertised? Is it relevant to the association's membership, and will it add value to their association experience? Do the members have the tools necessary to use the new technology, and will they be motivated to use it? How does the association monetize the use of the new technology to keep it from becoming a cash drain in terms of investment, maintenance costs, and staff time? PDAs have passed the tests. The jury is still out on Twitter.

—Rick Cristol , president, Kellen Company, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

We understand how important technology is to our overall strategic vision. Since our vision is shaped by various environmental drivers, our use of technology lets us address issues quickly, accurately, and professionally. 

We designed our own association management database that allows us to oversee all of the organization's business functions. We also use a unified communications system that ties email, phone, instant message, and fax communications into one platform, and we are in the process of developing a full-service learning-management system that will provide members with online access to information and educational opportunities 24/7.

By embracing technology, we've been able to enhance productivity, drive innovation, and stimulate creativity among our staff members.

—Sal Martino, CAE, CEO, American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Email: [email protected]

Understanding technology and thinking strategically about our client partners' technology needs is one of our most important—and challenging—responsibilities. It's not just about what AMS we're going to use; it's about how that AMS will integrate all of the services our client partners need and expect from us, including e-learning, social media, virtual conferences, certification management, and so forth, into one powerful technology suite. We are addressing this by ensuring our web and IT departments are openly communicating with one another on a strategic level with a vision toward the future, as well as with all of our executive directors to understand each of our client partners' unique needs, while also educating the associations we manage about what's on the horizon. It is the single most important focus for our company in 2010.

—Mike Dwyer, vice president/senior account executive, Association Headquarters, Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Email: [email protected]

What's one thing your job doesn't allow you to do that you wish you could do?

Speak more honestly! I serve a profession. It is my job—ethically and professionally—to support their needs and to work within their culture. However, there are times—especially when I am engaged in public speaking—where I want to say something with a little more rawness or clarity. However, in order to ensure that my messages get heard, I have to craft my comments within both a language and culture that my audiences accept. Otherwise, I lose them, and my message gets nowhere. I worry at times that by being less direct I may be diluting my points and, in the process, my ability to help as much as I want to.

—Nelson Fabian, executive director/CEO, National Environmental Health Association, Denver, Colorado. Email: [email protected]

Specifically, my ability to play a more activist role in growing our clients into the best organizations they can be. With the pressures to oversee a growing list of now 20-plus clients and running a company, time is not my friend. What I have done, however, is surround myself with a world-class leadership and management team who are both client-centric and proactive in meeting the changing needs of our client base—both internal and external. My role with clients has morphed a bit over the years and centers on my "in touch" initiative with our groups from a higher-level, strategic perspective; a few less meetings but an equally strong outreach.

—G.A. Taylor Fernley, president/CEO, Fernley & Fernley, Inc., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Email: [email protected]

Inadequate thinking time. The demands on the CEO and his or her senior management team in a nonprofit volunteer association are such that no matter how disciplined you are, there never seems to be adequate time to sit back, to think strategically, to be visionary, and to do the kind of contemplation about the future of your organization that you feel you should be doing. From time to time you may get a bit of time to do this, but it is never adequate, and it can be a cause of great frustration. It is something you know you absolutely should be doing, but when the organization is always going 100 miles an hour, it is a huge challenge.

—John D.V. Hoyles, CEO, Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, Ontario. Email: [email protected]

In past years I always enjoyed getting out and visiting my members to better learn their business operations and the challenges they faced. As the profile of several associations I manage changes to regional in nature, sheer geography makes visiting many members difficult. Financial and time limitations have made email the electronic communication of choice. The silver lining in this evolution is that we actually communicate more often than ever, albeit not face to face. I always felt this personal interaction strengthened the bond between the members and staff. 

—Donnelly K. Eurich, CAE, president/CEO, Eurich Management Services LLC, Lansing, Michigan. Email: [email protected]