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How technology and agility can help associations stay competitive

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When it comes to preparing for the future, the key for the association is to have a strategy that enables them to better serve their members by leveraging technology, experts said at a recent webinar.

Wendy Sahli, technology director for the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, found that her organization’s strategy of using landing pages to gather information and direct members to content wasn’t working.

“Through usability research, we found that users primarily access all content via Google or Search,” Sahli said at the webinar. “So they ignored all these pretty landing pages and ended up with exactly what they wanted.”

Upon discovering this, RAPS determined that it was not ideal for members to get different information due to the pages displayed in their searches, and sought a way to fix it.

“The next step is to attach relevant content together so that if we have a news article on a specific topic, we can offer a webcast on that specific topic,” says Sahli. “Everything in a convenient little package.”

This is a strategy that technology can support, but it’s important to implement that strategy before implementing it.

“If current organizational practices are flawed, digital transformation will only magnify those flaws,” he said. “Before you invest in anything, you have to understand the business strategy.”

RAPS’ strategy focused on understanding what they wanted their members to experience when interacting with the site. This is a key touchpoint for most members. They asked the staff to look into the issue to understand what was needed.

“It was one way to really get [staff] Think as a customer and get involved in saying, “OK, as a customer, I want to solve this problem, how do I want it to look?” What would you like to do with that experience? ‘ said Saari. “You have to give that to your users. So these conversations are very important.”

Determining what that endgame should look like is critical to understanding how to implement it.

“They looked at the process before deciding which tools to use and how to use them,” says Dorsey. “So when they envision what the future holds for this organization, it drives the technology, not the other way around.”

Bringing the Silicon Valley Mindset

In a new world of change, it is important to be willing to try new things.

“You almost have to bring this Silicon Valley startup culture into your organization,” said Dorsey. “I mean, Silicon Valley startups are known to be agile. They are fast at prototyping. We need to be aware, changes will be made on the fly.”

The way of thinking is that the way of thinking of the staff is also different.

“You always have to analyze what works and what doesn’t,” says Dorsey. “So we need to find the right people who can adapt to it—people who are willing to be flexible and agile in a culture that encourages quick failure. Department people are not wired that way.”

Some people aren’t wired that way, but many can learn. Before the pandemic, Sahli said, people were reluctant or unworthy of trying new things. He said that he often took the attitude that

“I would say COVID has changed that a lot,” Sahli said. “I think people have learned quickly that they have to get up to speed. And what they can do. They’re amazed at what they’re capable of.”

Encouraging a forward-thinking attitude helps the association succeed in navigating new challenges. What strategies is your organization focusing on as it plans for the future? Share in the comments.

(jamesteohart/iStock/Getty Images Plus)