ASAE Technology Conference — Part 3
February 3, 2009
One of the more positive things I took away from the ASAE Tech Conference was that many associations are starting to embrace disruptive technologies.
Disruptive technologies deliver relatively simple, convenient, and low cost innovations to a set of customers who are ignored by industry leaders. Tools like WordPress, YouTube, Facebook are all examples of disruptive technologies. Many Associations are experimenting with these technologies and that is a good thing. Combining the jobs to be done process I described in my last Post with experimentation with disruptive technologies is a powerful way to deliver products and services that resonate with members and other constituencies.
The challenge is matching the availability and use of disruptive technologies with the typical way that Associations budget for and manage technology initiatives. The nature of Associations often dictactes that major technology initiatives get the approval of not only senior leadership but also the Board of Directors (BOD). The result is that most Associations are forced to follow a very deliberate strategy, where they define requirements and goals, define a set of steps to reach that goal, and then methodically act on each step. It is the only way for the leadership team to answer the Board’s questions around how much, when, and why.
This approach is evident in the dozens of RFPs I have seen over the last 4 years for CMS, AMS, and Website implementations that are all virtually identical. They consist of a large wish list of features or requirements, demand a fixed price and schedule, and want to know the total cost of ownership. And the result of this approach is that 4 years later, Associations are still saying that most of their energy is taken up fixing and replacing systems.
It seems that a different approach modeled after the Google approach that Chris Sacca spoke about on Day 2 of the ASAE conference might be worth considering:
- stay focused on the user and their unmet needs (jobs to be done)
- experiment and iterate with simple, low cost technologies.
By following an emergent strategy that is based on gathering feedback from the marketplace and retaining flexibility, Associations can experiment with new technology and change their strategies on the fly to adapt to new information that emerges from members. So when a member survey says “you need to have a blog”, you can quickly go out and set-up a WordPress blog for under a couple of hundred dollars, for example, and test whether the members will really value the blog before developing a major initiative around blogging (or video, or Twitter …).
Maybe the time has come for Associations to create small R&D organizations that are charged with innovation: understanding the jobs that members need to get done, and following an emergent strategy that incorporates learning and rapid adjustment to create products and services that resonate.
It seems to me that this is the best way for Associations to break out of the technology inertia that keeps them focused internally on their existing systems and to get back to delivering killer applications that make it easier for members to do something they were already trying to accomplish.
And then maybe next year ASAE can host the first Innovation Conference for Associations too.
What do you think?