Modernizing Your Tech Stack: Powering a seamless member experience
Professional associations promise members access to knowledge, resources, and community to help them learn, grow, and connect—and technology empowers them to fulfill that commitment.
In an increasingly tech-driven environment, association leaders are leaning into digital solutions to deliver the education and connections members need and desire. During a collaborative session at ASAE TEC, we tapped into two association leaders to explore how the right capabilities and partners can drive new levels of loyalty, growth, and revenue.
This recap of our conversation with Sid Bhatnagar, Chief Operating Officer at American Society for Quality (ASQ), and Todd Lockhart, Senior Director, IS at the association management company Anthony J. Janetti, demonstrates how technology elevates the member experience.
How has the technology supporting your member experience evolved over the years?
Todd’s journey in the association space began more than 30 years ago. He has always been engaged on the tech side, looking for and implementing solutions that increase engagement and allow associations and their members to meet their respective goals.
Sid joined ASQ three years ago, bringing with him a core competency in technology. He spent most of his career in financial services, focusing on the link between tech and effective operations.
Sid and Todd recognize MX as new terminology—and a new philosophy—that has evolved in recent years. Its emergence has been linked with members’ increasing expectations and accelerated advancements in technology.
“There are many different aspects of MX, from contacting customer service to logging into your account to the events component,” said Sid. “Technology is in the middle of everything we do, and we’ve adopted a tech-first strategy.”
Both Sid and Todd echo what other associations often voice: tech is an ecosystem in which everything is connected. And that means it should be easy to plug in and engage.
“As technology shifts, it becomes more and more important to plug and play,” said Sid. “The experience should feel seamless.”
Todd sees some associations moving quicker than others, but all acknowledge the trend toward supporting MX with modernized tech. He believes that in the process of evaluating their current tech stacks, association leaders should focus on optimizing experiences by adding automation, personalization, predictive modeling, and more.
Sid agrees and notes how important it is for associations to engage with partners who are well-equipped to advise and support their strategies. “We’re looking for best-in-class partners who can help us evolve with members,” he said.
What percent of your budget is spent on member-facing versus back-office technology? What do you see as the right mix?
“Every tech investment we make touches the member experience,” said Sid. “Most of our members would not say technology is the main driver of the member experience, but how they experience our brand is enabled by technology.”
ASQ has identified directly correlated expenses between technology and MX. “When I talk to the board, the story is joint,” Sid said. “Forty to forty-five percent of our spend is member facing, but sixty percent does impact MX.”
“There’s very little that doesn’t affect the member experience in some way,” Todd said. “The lines are definitely blurred.” He noted that the associations he supports can focus strictly on member-facing investment because Anthony J. Janetti bears the brunt of the responsibility for infrastructure.
Where do you see barriers to engagement, and what are you doing to overcome them?
Everyone has experienced it: although technology is celebrated for its ability to create more, faster, and better connections, it often causes frustration and creates barriers to engagement.
Todd rattled off a number of challenges that the associations he works with have experienced. “Leveraging separate systems that may or may not communicate, no single source of truth to search and find content in one place,” he said. The solution, he thinks, is federated search engines that bring in data from everywhere.
Sid echoed the need for robust search functionality, noting that ASQ is challenged with cataloging content across a large number of applications. “We have more than 80,000 pieces of content on our website,” he said. “It becomes a big point of focus for us.”
What tech trends stand out to you today?
Both Todd and Sid are excited about the potential for technology like association management software (AMS) to deliver enhanced features that allow association leaders to better manage their operations and serve their members.
“AMS has gone through changes over the years, and it opens a lot of doors,” said Todd. He also sees data and predictive modeling as drivers of associations’ next steps in technology. He believes there’s a distinct opportunity to leverage data “for the member benefit.”
Todd and Sid also hear members’ cries for increased speed, relevance, and personalization as they engage with technology. “There have been changes in how people want to consume content,” Sid said. “How do we enable that? With smaller bites, modularization, curation, transcription.”
Assessing their current tech stacks and investing in tools that support a new approach to delivering education, content, and connections will allow associations to keep pace with these trends and evolving member needs.