As associations have worked to innovate, there has been a proliferation of point solutions. Too often, your association’s systems and content are siloed, and these silos create a threat to the member experience.
Amid enthusiastic cries of, “there’s an app for that!” many organizations found themselves with a variety of technology to handle everything from managing relationships to automating communication to hosting virtual events.
Professional associations, with their specialized requirements, have been susceptible to adopting a breadth of platforms and tools. Look around many professional membership organizations and you’re likely to find multiple systems that manage a myriad of processes and house a variety of content.
But has all this technology really made things better? Easier? Faster?
Consider this scenario: You share a social post linking to a recent study. That post piques a member's interest, so they click on the link and are directed to your LMS. Here, they have to log in to read more. They learn about a webinar you’re hosting on the topic and are directed to another system to register for that event. On the day of the webinar, they log in to yet another platform to join the event virtually. Afterward, you direct them to your website where they can access a session recording and you encourage them to visit your online community where they can connect with their peers and continue the conversation.
Whew! Not only has your staff juggled several different platforms to create, manage, and run the event, but your members have run circles around your systems to earn the full value of their participation.
The Threat of Siloed Tech
When you’re faced with multiple platforms that all play specific roles, you might find yourself thinking you’d have been better off without embracing so much innovation.
Too often, the problem is that the systems you’ve acquired—and the data and content they hold and manage—are siloed. They work in isolation, rarely talking to or integrating with one another. The tech challenges these silos create become a threat to:
Your staff’s effectiveness. Many associations are challenged to do more with less, facing budget and staffing constraints that make efficiency a must. When your staff is forced to work with multiple systems, the ease you’d hoped for can quickly devolve to confusion, frustration, and overwhelm. It can dramatically increase their time spent running processes and managing content and shrink their capacity for other important work.
Your member experience. Consciously or subconsciously, your members are constantly evaluating their experience and the value gained from their membership. When they encounter stumbling blocks seeking the support and resources they’re after, their impressions may turn sour. They may also become more likely to turn to outside sources (think Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn), prioritizing time and convenience over content credibility and reliability.
Your value proposition. As a professional membership organization, it’s natural that you purport to be the pinnacle of knowledge, resources, and development in your industry or profession. When your technology becomes more of an obstacle than an aid to accessing the resources and support you offer, your core value proposition is at risk.
Overcoming the Obstacles
It may seem like the only solution to breaking down your association’s tech silos is to seek an all-in-one solution. But streamlining your tech stack—which is a significant investment of time and resources—might not be in the cards for every association. Luckily, even if slashing your number of systems isn’t feasible, there are steps you can take to make navigating your association’s technological jungle a little easier and optimize your use of the systems you have and the content within them.
Offer a map to member resources at multiple touchpoints. One low-effort way to stem members’ frustration with accessing your platforms and content is to give them clear direction on where to go for what. As part of each member’s onboarding package, offer them a thorough overview of everything included in their membership—the platforms they can use, how to get connected, and the resources they’ll find there. Offer the same information in bite-sized pieces periodically (including at renewal time!) as a reminder of the tools they can take advantage of.
Duplicate content to increase awareness and accessibility. We get it—duplication does not sound efficient. But neither is forcing members to find content spread across multiple platforms. If you’re going to publish a resource on your website, assess whether that same content should also be accessible elsewhere (like in your online community).
Seek insights on member preferences to prioritize your efforts. You’re likely asking for member feedback through occasional surveys and other outlets. Add questions about technology and content preferences for insight into the platforms members are using, which resources they’re seeking and where, and how they rate their experience. The knowledge you gain could cause you to strike something from your list, which has the potential to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and open capacity.
Gain cross-functional input about systems. Sometimes the functions or departments in your association are as siloed as your systems. When evaluating new technology, invite others to participate in the decision-making. If marketing is seeking a solution to improve member communication, chances are it could also benefit membership. Or maybe a system already being used by one group could present a solution to another group’s challenges.
Understand the roadmap and future vision of the platforms you invest in. When you make a move to adopt a new system, be sure you understand what’s on deck for future iterations of the technology. Especially when the platform you sign onto is subscription based, it pays to have clarity about whether the provider will be able to support your long-term strategy.
Assess each tech provider’s client success strategy. Most tech providers make strong claims about customer service—but there’s a difference between platform support and client success. Whether you’re evaluating your current or engaging a new partner, it’s important to assess whether they’ll be with you day-to-day providing on-demand support and long-term helping you set and execute strategy.
With today’s technology offering such a wide variety of solutions, associations may find themselves working through a web of platforms and providers. While streamlining your siloed tech stack is the ultimate way to untangle, it’s possible to take smaller steps to make the most of your systems and content and bring greater ease and accessibility to staff and members.