NYSAE Technology Institute Explores
Strategy and Implementation

By Nicole Millman-Falk, CAE

Click image to enlargeNYSAE Technology InstituteSpeakers at NYSAE’s April 23 Technology Institute included (left to right): Andy Steggles, President & Chief Customer Officer, Higher Logic; Pat Ahaesy, SMP, CSEP, Chair, NYSAE’s Technology Committee, and President of P&V Enterprises; Tom Lehman, President, Lehman Associates; and Adam Hostetter, Manager of Design & Development, American Technology Services. Not pictured is Nikhil Subramanian, Manager, Development, American Technology Services.

Technology remains the biggest single outside expenditure for associations. "We want to demystify technology so that every association can leverage the right technology to maintain and grow membership and do all the things it stands for," said Pat Ahaesy, CMP, CSEP, Chair of NYSAE’s Technology Committee and President of P&V Enterprises.

Technology needs to be seen as more than a tool needed to accomplish a task, maintained the speakers at NYSAE’s April 23 Technology Institute. "Technology needs to be part of the overall strategy of the association to advance its mission and goals," said Tom Lehman, President of Lehman Associates and the Lehman Report.

Tools are cost centers. "When you move technology from a tool to a strategy, it becomes an investment opportunity for the association because the ROI is no longer linear," said Lehman. Technology, he added, will help create the conditions for success–the experience that members have online, the services that the association provides and the ease with which members can access them. This means that IT becomes less a purely reactive support function and instead becomes a strategic resource to help achieve objectives. It becomes less about the management of data and more about the analytical analysis of that data. What can the association expect to happen based on what it has seen happen? Technology helps associations become predictive about their intents rather than descriptive about who they are.

Building Community
Associations are gatherings of like-minded individuals–whether they are rallied around a cause, a profession, or an industry. Andy Steggles, President and Chief Customer Officer for Higher Logic, spoke about strategic ways to build that sense of community through websites, microsites, and intranets. Among the types of association communities he addressed were special interest groups; component societies; meetings; mentoring; social networks; and volunteerism.

"Technology allows us to connect with our community any time, giving members a feeling of inclusion and belonging," said Steggles. Collaborative sites, for example, can provide searchable access to resource and documents, and a committee workspace. Microsites for meetings can focus on a particular conference or a specific area of content from the conference.

"The more engaged members are, the more satisfied they are with the association," said Steggles. "The idea is to provide them with different types of community and engagement." Measuring and recognizing that engagement is also important, suggested Steggles. "Can you identify your most valuable member?"

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
According to a Pew Internet Project study, as of January 2014, 42% of American adults owned a tablet and 58% have a smartphone. Adam Hostetter, Manager of Design & Development, American Technology Services (ATS), and Nikhil Subramanian, Manager of Development, ATS, recommends a responsive design when designing websites for mobile devices.

"Responsive design allows for an ideal website experience," said Hostetter. "That means it's easy to read and navigate across the device spectrum. "You want to make sure that your layout consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images, and CSS media queries so that something that looks good on a desktop also looks good on a tablet or a phone," added Subramanian.

A proper website redesign doesn’t start with the design. Designing and building a site is easy. "Content is still king; there aren’t any shortcuts, and making every last piece of content available on a smaller screen isn’t necessarily the answer either," said Hostetter. ATS provides a Content Inventory Checklist to help associations determine what is important, what needs updating, or what needs archiving or discarding. "You also want to identify pages from site that would be painful to move to a responsive design," said Subramanian.

The Content Inventory Checklist and the presentations excerpts from to the April 23 Technology Institute held at the University Club are available online.

Nicole Millman-Falk, CAE, is President of Millman-Falk Communications, LLC, a public relations and editorial services firm, specializing in association newsletters and magazines. Millman-Falk is the Managing Editor for InView and is Chair of NYSAE's Awards Committee. (wahoo...finally set up a basic website): She can be reached at www.millmanfalkcommunications.com; 201-652-1687; or nicole@millmanfalkcommunications.com.