Every association has once had that feeling where everything just feels…stuck.
Maybe it’s just the doldrums of August, but work is piling up, the office is feeling less energetic, and everyone dreads the thought of opening up the AMS software. It’s not a good feeling, and if left unchecked, might cause serious damage—whether to your morale, membership, or bottom line.
You need to change something, but what? Just like weekly hosted happy hours won’t change a poorly performing technology system, a software upgrade won’t help if you have deeper issues with your team or structure.
We understand that it can sometimes be hard to find the root of the issue, and sometimes it can help to have a fresh perspective. Through many years of experience in the association and membership management industry, we’ve found that the solution usually lies in a change in one of three areas—or all of them!
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at three distinct areas to look for opportunities for change: technology, talent, or culture.
With that said, let’s jump into where to look for circumstances for change in your organization.
Limitations with Existing Technology
At Aptify, technology is our specialty—specifically for membership management software.
The system you use can have a huge effect on member satisfaction, employee productivity (and morale!), and workplace efficiency, so it seems natural for us to start there. Here are a couple extremely common areas for improvement in an organization’s software:
Reporting: What kind of access to data do rank-and-file employees have? Are they able to quickly and easily answer questions that a member may have by accessing their file? What about more in-depth reports that your board may request regarding the success (or failure) of the most recent marketing campaign? If this information isn’t readily available and easy to parse into intelligent reports, you may want to look into a software upgrade.
Functionality: What does your software do for you? Can it makes mundane tasks easier, or make them completely automated? Can it use logic to connect the dots and help you make better decisions on complex subject matter with data-backed points? How is performance? There are few things worse than a slow system clogging up your day with buffering icons and loading screens!
Configuration: Since every organization is unique, does your technology stack have the ability to bend and become what you need? A configurable system has lots of options that you can easily turn off or on based on need. Configuration is the key to fine-tuning your processes to make them as streamlined and efficient as possible.
Impediments on Technology Staff
Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them. —Steve Jobs
What an unusual quote from somebody who revolutionized personal computing, perhaps the purest embodiment of technology? Reading between the lines, however, you can see that he thinks technology should be effortless—a path to innovation, not an impediment.
Another related, yet separate, issue with poor technology in your organization is the strain it can put on your technical staff.
Technology and business continue to be interwoven closer together, but the best companies are using technology to drive business, not manage it. In an ideal scenario, your technical team will have time set aside for innovation—they can take a step back and look at your processes and seek ways to improve or automate them.
But if your tech staff is inundated with tasks to manage the software and systems your organization uses every day, you’ll never reach the potential of what’s possible.
For example, in customized membership management software, there are usually lots of workarounds in place. This is because you’re asking the software to do something it wasn’t intended to do—like putting a turbo charger on a Prius. Workarounds tend to be technical in nature, which means you’ll need the support of your IT department to get the result you’re looking for.
Another example of technology impeding progress instead of supporting it is the need for constant troubleshooting and an overflowing inbox of support tickets. A poorly performing member system, or a team that hasn’t been sufficiently trained, create undue strain on the technology staff to be putting out small fires day to day.
This cultural issue has a tendency to fly under the radar, yet can cause major inefficiencies that are felt company wide. Company hierarchy can be political at times, and when different people or departments have different goals, growth can be hard to come by.
One of the classic examples in team structure issues is when a team member has multiple bosses. Think about it—when the direct report under each boss has a project due at the same time, which should she prioritize? If it’s not clear, that can put a lot of stress on the employee.
Or, think about it in terms of Peter Gibbon’s memorable quote from Office Space about having eight different bosses:
“Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job.”
Team structure, which has nothing to do with the talent level of your team or the technology they use, can have a huge impact on the culture of your workplace.
Time and Effort Inefficiencies
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having your time and effort being completely wasted while at work. Sure, everyone has a day like that every once in awhile, but when it becomes an ongoing pattern, you might have a problem.
One of the examples we see frequently of wasted time and effort at associations is when the membership management software isn’t user-friendly. Standards for technology and usability have increased over the last few years (and will continue to do so!), and there’s just no excuse for a system that doesn’t provide, at minimum, the following options:
- Mobile and app access
- At-your-fingertips report creation
- Training resources for self education
- Intuitive navigation that doesn’t require a user manual to understand
In that list, the reporting features actually deserve a bit more explanation: every team member should be able to pull reports on any data point, using any filters they need, at any time.
In a digital-driven world, data is not a luxury only accessible to those with authority. You team needs to feel comfortable and empowered to use data to increase their decision-making ability and be able to perform their duties better.
The ability to connect the dots between engagement statistics, financials, and various other data points is the future of effective member management.
Impact on Other Departments
This is a biggie.
Interdepartmental operations are always tricky. Let’s face it—each department has different goals, mandates, expertise, and priorities. And even if you get all of that straight, you still have to deal with the communication aspect, which can throw a wrench in even the best thought-out plan.
In our experience, you wouldn’t believe the amount of inefficiencies present in many associations that rely too much on inter-departmental operations to accomplish something that should be able to be accomplished by an individual.
We’ve discussed this previously, but reporting is a common scenario. Here’s an example:
- The member management team make a request to IT to pull some member data they don’t have access to
- Then, member services makes a request to the accounting department to pull the financials from from the past quarter
- Then, the same team requests engagement and event attendance data from the marketing team
- Lastly, they compile all the information together into a PowerPoint to present
This whole process can take a week, but it’s entirely possible to get in done in just a few clicks if you have the right system!
Not only is this inefficient from a workflow standpoint, look at all the other departments that had to be drug into a project that really doesn’t concern them.
Don’t underestimate the tax that is place on other departments by poorly designed software or team workflows. Consider making changes to optimize the way the teams operate together.
We appreciate your attention to this subject! If you’ve decided that the change needed at your organization is tech or software related, we have a free guide you will enjoy: How to Subtly Push for Change When It’s Obviously Time for an Upgrade.
We also have a ton of other resources devoted to helping you on your path to a new member management system, and we’ve packaged them together to make it easy to research and shop. Check out our Membership Software Buyer’s Guide today!