On the list of inevitable things after death and taxes, change ranks right at the top. Any association or chamber of commerce seeking to maintain their relevance, grow their organization and drive success for their members are going to have to change something.
But knowing what to change can certainly be a challenge for associations seeking to become a key partner in their members' success.
Launching a significant software change for association or member management, a new website, or content management system can be one of the most daunting tasks for any organization.
One of the big questions that arise is, "Do we change our processes or do we change the software." Usually there's a strong sense of "we've always done it that way," from staff or board members who may be reluctant to change. And, sometimes staff may not know that other options are available.
No change, no gain
Your staff, the software company, and potentially the board must be involved when it comes to the choice to change association management software or change procedures. In some cases, it may make perfect sense to match procedures to fit the software. On the other hand, the association management software may be flexible enough to accommodate some customization. It's often easy to add additional database fields to log member interests, track member benefits or drive member intelligence.
It's helpful to understand whether the software can be configured easily with settings for maximum flexibility. These options can go a long way toward meeting your unique requirements with out much fuss – or additional cost.
However, be aware if the modifications require changes to the source code, the underlying computer language that makes the software run. Alterations to the source code can cost more and take longer than changes to software with configuration options. But changing the source code may allow for maximum customization. You will need to decide if it is worth the extra expense to have a unique solution.
Changing entrenched processes is hard work; some people just don't like change. Some people feel threatened because they feel their job security comes from being the keeper of the arcane knowledge of how it's always been done. Remember to stay focused on your end goal of generating more revenue, serving your members more effectively or creating more growth opportunities for your members. Continually ask yourselves the question, "Will this option help us get to our goal?" By always pointing back to your objective, you can help overcome the reluctance to change.
All too often, the project starts with the intention of changing the process to match the software. But before long, inertia takes over and the team decides to make unplanned changes to the software rather learn how to do things a new (or better) way. Changing tactics mid-stream will delay the success of your organization and create additional frustration for your staff.
Sometimes, there are so many changes needed to your existing system that changing your association management software becomes a better option. Carefully weigh the expense of customizations and time needed to make the changes against the anticipated benefits of improved staff efficiencies and increased revenue from member sales or retention.
Plan to succeed
Whether you're changing software or changing procedures, start by painting a picture for the staff and board of where you want to go with the project. Document existing processes and look for ways to streamline them or adapt them to the proposed new association management software or new procedures.
Training staff on existing or new systems can also be a factor in their success. Particularly if a staff member has been promoted internally, they may have picked up the basics of their duties by osmosis, without any real training. A seminar or online tutorial may open the door to new capabilities, greater effectiveness, and a more engaged employee.
The cost of poor change management is cost overruns, delays, dissatisfied staff and members, and lots of stress you don't need. Approach any major change with a project plan and a team that considers the ramifications of major choices. It may seem slow to start with, but the project will end up more effective in the long run.
The leadership of the association must create the culture that this change is for the better and the organization will realize the benefits of change. Dissension among the staff will create more problems and delay your organization's plans. If the entire team understands the challenges and is on-board to drive results with the recommended changes, your staff can drive great results for your association - and your members.
The question of changing procedures or changing software is one facing many associations and chambers of commerce today. A change of some type will be needed for your association to continue to serve your members and grow your business. How has your association managed change?