Technology: a new way of thinking for Trade Associations

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The only thing constant in an ever-expanding universe is change.
Technology is notorious for changing at a speed which even hardened technologists struggle to keep pace with.  However until recently it was still possible for Trade Associations to ignore these developments, as while rapid digital evolution may have been blowing the minds of IT workers in darkened computer labs, the effect on everyday life was less seismic.

In more recent years IT has ventured out of the IT department and now resides as much in your pocket as it does in high security server farms.  Most trade association executives carry a mobile telephone more powerful and responsive than the servers their businesses ran on 2 years ago. 

As Trade Associations we need to look at the technology usage in the world around us.
While notions such as the Internet of Things may conjure up domestic notions of controlling temperature and lighting throughout the home – in reality far more impressive results are already being realised.

Bridges in China are built with ‘Smart Cement’ containing sensors that create alerts when cracks or faults appear; football pitches in Rio are floodlit through the movement of people running over the turf; and the healthcare possibilities of the Internet of Things is driving a market set to hit $117 billion by 2020.

Japan’s Earthquake Early Warning System contains a network of more than 4000 seismographic sensors that detect low-level tremors and instantly alerts danger to millions of people via their phone / watch / even implants – a perfect example of how the IoT has made a life-saving transition into everyday reality.

Of course, when you have devices you also have data and on top of allowing connected devices to fulfil their function of making life easier and safer for users – the data collected as a by-product provides astonishing opportunities of its own.  

Supermarket apps now not only know what you buy in store but are 99% accurate on what you buy elsewhere. Through knowing the layout of the store, preferences and purchase patterns, the season and time of day – the app can alert shoppers to highly tailored offers; fostering a deeper loyalty to the brand.

The rise of technology is screamed from any newspaper (or e-reader) on a daily basis.  We know it is a technology world without restriction however when it comes to technology for our business use, too many organisations gain comfort and assurance in compartmentalised thinking.

Instead of limitless opportunity we see Member Databases; “Content Management Systems; Online Payments and endless cost – approaching technology in a way we would never apply to any other project.

Driven by fear of getting it wrong and the need to fulfil stakeholder expectation we isolate the problem into a simple packaged solution that we understand and then engage a selection of IT providers to build this at a price our P&L or Balance Sheet can afford.
The main problem is that our perception has not evolved with the market capability; IT is a major business tool that needs to be utilised as a strategic function.

Instead of deciding what is required to fix a problem or exploit an opportunity, associations should challenge the IT professional: “I need these outcomes for my association; these are the tools I have today; I need value return in 18 months; I am willing to pay but I demand return!”

Associations fear IT because it is a cost – IT fears associations because it wants the beanstalk for the price of the magic bean.  It is time to accept a new world and change your relationship to technology at a fundamental level: Make technology work to the aims of the business, adopt an integrated approach to specification engaging technologists at inception then drive forward using a lean production method with regular user validations along the road.

By welcoming technology to the business consultation table as well as using it as a strategic tool, you will open up a whole new range of options allowing for change that is fast, lean and enables tangible, measurable results.