Technology drives new ways for professional associations to expand their membership
Like many organisations throughout 2020, professional associations have been forced to dramatically reconsider how they interact with both current and potential members, in light of social distancing requirements and the move towards a distributed workforce.
With many professionals now working from home, and no indication that they'll be permanently returning to the office any time soon, associations are now relying more than ever on their digital presence to run events, communicate with their existing members, and reach out to new ones. In the 'new normal', a professional website isn't enough - with more and more associations beginning the process of digital transformation, the quality of the digital experience must be considered for every interaction with both new and existing members.
So, what are the key elements professional associations should consider when planning their own digital transformations?
Embracing that we live in an 'always on world'
In an increasingly interconnected world, professionals expect the information and applications they need to be available at their fingertips, 24 / 7. This means associations' infrastructure must be deliver the power, performance and connectivity to achieve this, ensuring a consistent quality of experience for all members, wherever they are located and whenever they are logging on - throughout the registration process and every interaction that follows. This must be supported by well-considered disaster recovery and business continuity plans, ensuring any issues do not result in downtime.
Maintaining the 'human touch' with digital engagement
Professional associations are inherently social environments, where professionals from the same industry come together to share the latest innovations and current best practice, for the benefit of their entire sector. It's this all-important human touch that typically attracts new members and encourages them to keep taking part in events and sharing their own experiences and insights. With face-to-face communication now limited by government regulations, multi-channel communication and collaboration is the key to maintaining this type of interactions, so that individuals and organisations alike can enjoy the fullest range of benefits from their association memberships.
Ensuring IT teams are properly supported
The move to a distributed workforce and the increasing popularity of Cloud-first strategies has placed a considerable strain on professional associations' IT teams, who're forced to devote considerable time and resources to maximising uptime and resolving any potential security threats, taking them away from activities that drive business growth and enhance members' digital experience. For this reason, we're seeing more and more associations engage with technology partners to deliver managed services that ease the strain on internal IT departments, without compromising security, compliance or connectivity.
Don't neglect security and compliance
Another powerful argument for partnering with an experienced manager services provider is the fulfilment of the increasingly complex security and compliance challenges associations face. Providers with a well-established network of data centres that has already fulfilled all relevant compliance requirements around the GDPR, data protection and privacy, and sector-specific requirements regarding certain types of sensitive data will make the audit process much more straightforward for internal teams, while providing association members with an additional layer of confidence.
Be ready for unexpected shifts in the landscape
The biggest takeaway from 2020 is that organisations must constantly be prepared to adapt to the unexpected, building sufficient flexibility into their infrastructure and working practices to pivot when required, without any compromise in terms of performance or security. It's no coincidence that many professional associations are accelerating their journeys to the Cloud, phasing out on-premise legacy infrastructure and embracing SaaS platforms. Not only does this offer a wide range of opportunities for streamlining and cost cutting, it will also ensure that infrastructure can be effortlessly scaled up or down in response to future COVID-scale shifts in the landscape, so association members can stay connected and BAU can be maintained as much as possible.
Keeping members at the centre of everything
Throughout all these innovations in technology and working practices, it's important that professional associations maintain their focus on the key element that makes each of them unique: their members. By centring their members' digital experience and ensuring they are equipped to maintain this regardless of what the future holds. This way, they will remain champions for high standards and a culture of constant improvement in their industries.
To find out more about the principles of a successful digital transformation and how they can be applied to professional associations, we invite you to download our DX blueprint.