Analyzing your community online? Why, how and what to do.
Measuring the lifespan of technology can be challenging (and at times impossible).
Predicting when a certain device, software or platform will be usurped by the “next big thing” (whether it’s an industry shake-up or passing fad) is usually left to the high-tech giants and industry leaders. And with an association, as with any company, technology touches everything you do.
But what about the more powerful, invisible technology you rely on for databases, email campaigns, and websites to stay afloat and engage members? For associations, technology isn’t about the newest, shiniest thing out there - it’s about function, efficiency and meeting goals.
So how can you effectively analyze your association’s technology and processes to recognize redundancies and missed opportunities?
Commit to scheduling a time to sit down with employees from every department of your association, order some lunch for everyone, and do our segmented exercise below. It will help you to gain a clearer picture of how your association, your technology, your membership and your management processes are all tied together and how they can be improved.
1. Draw Out Your Technological Components
Draw a picture of your technological structure. Don’t be intimidated if you’re not incredibly tech savvy - this first step is not about having an intricate understanding of how each technology works, but rather knowing how each technology functions for your association. This includes all tangible and intangible technologies including but not limited to:
- Email Campaign Account
- Internal Software
- Internal Messaging Systems
- Employee Cell Phones
2. Define Each Part by Function and Outcome
Next, define in more detail how each those technologies function for your organization. Some sample questions to get you going:
- Does this software database help you track member’s subscription levels and participation or does it just store their phone numbers and addresses?
- Does this app help you manage marketing or design email campaigns?
- How does it help you do that?
- Is there a “gap,” or a discrepancy between what the technology is supposed to do for you and how it actually functions effectively?
3. Add Detailed Connections
Consider how all of these parts are connected. Which supports the others from a physical, cloud-based, hosting and information perspective? At the end of this part your map should start to look more like a web with little notes on different parts’ relationships to one another.
4. Add Process Details
Next, put everything into a process perspective. Is the route in this technology map different for a new member than a low-level member you’re trying to convert into a more committed member? It should be!
5. Look at the Big Picture
Step back and appreciate:
A- all of your hard work in drawing this all out!
B- if what you are looking at is a logical structure for you and your future goals. Will this setup directly enable you to get where you want to be? Is there a way that you could optimize or streamline some of your Operational, Marketing or Management processes?
6. Research and Reach Out
Once you’ve identified redundancies or technologies that have fallen short of their role in your overall process, do research online to see if there are other software or platforms that could replace or supplement certain pieces of your technology map. This of course needs to be supervised by someone in the association familiar with your association’s technological requirements.
If you come across a few products you think could be useful, reaching out to discuss options, with zero commitment, can be a great service to you. While you may not yet be ready to take the jump and upgrade large parts of your system, speaking to a sales rep can be another great exercise in and of itself.
By observing how they ask you about your process as an outsider and seeing how you evaluate yourself from their angle to describe what you’re looking for you’ll glean insights as to what you need moving forward.
This technology and process exercise is great at a departmental and organizational level to provide you with an unambiguous view of your tech setup and ensure you’re not missing out on growth opportunities. While some technology can be useful for the long term, you should never go too long without questioning, reevaluating, and researching your association’s technology. This exercise could result in sweeping reform such as a new management platform, or simply change when you send out certain materials or how you store data. No matter the situation your association finds itself in, this is an invaluable exercise for you to do.
We created rasa.io because we fundamentally believe that up to now, the approach most associations take to online community building has been far too narrow. Networking, resource sharing, and Q/A are just a part of the online community experience, so we created a platform the puts member engagement where it should be - at the heart of your association’s community.