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Digital Transformation: It’s All About Culture

women at a meeting

This guest blog post is by Maddie Grant, Digital Strategist, PROPEL and Elizbeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, Chief Strategist, Spark Consulting.

Organizations of ALL types – for-profit and tax-exempt – have been talking about digital transformation for many years, yet association efforts continue to lag.

Why is that?

In The No BS Guide to Digital Transformation: How Intentional Culture Change Can Propel Associations Forward, we posit that it’s all about culture.

The main challenge associations face in our digital transformation initiatives is that digital transformation is an iterative process that includes both technologies and culture. Associations focus on creating more value for our members and for the professions and industries we serve, which means we need to continuously change the way we work, which means we need to be on the lookout for the tools and technologies that will allow us to do that.

Which sounds, if not easy, then at least simple.

So why aren’t we doing it?

Our research revealed that, while there is still work to be done on the technology front, it’s not technology that’s holding our industry back; it’s culture, and more specifically, culture change.

We tend to think of culture in lofty terms, like we’re collaborative, or we’re forward-thinking, or we’re member-centric. But when it comes to digital transformation, you need to identify the specific parts of your culture that could derail your digital transformation efforts.

Such as?

Maybe your collaboration is a little awkward—your departments are siloed and don’t generally share what they’re working on—so how will they now suddenly start sharing data openly on new platform? Perhaps your commitment to innovation is a little more talk than walk—you say you’re forward-thinking, but people get punished for taking a risk, at least if it doesn’t pan out—so how are you going to get comfortable experimenting? You need to get your culture ready for this work if you want it to succeed.

This is why a lot of the copious digital transformation advice that exists don’t quite hit the mark for associations: For-profit culture is fundamentally different than association culture. And, as Maddie is fond of remarking, digital transformation comes down to culture change + vendor selection.

From the technology perspective, that means you don’t want a mobile strategy, or a data analytics strategy, or a social strategy – you need well-thought-out organizational strategy that includes these things. The tech is not the end – it’s the means to the end of accomplishing your larger organizational goals in a member-centric way.

But it’s the culture part that gets really tricky. In order to be successful, you’ll need strong, consistent support from your C-suite and your board, actively providing direction and the resources for that change to happen, and that involves identifying and, as necessary, adjusting your culture patterns.

Where do you start?

Maddie and I have you covered:

  1. Assess where you are now.
  2. Secure leadership support and a funding commitment.
  3. Identify strategic areas where digital tech could make a difference.
  4. Review your legacy systems and processes.
  5. Recruit your team.
  6. Get comfortable with experimenting.
  7. Improve your culture management.

THEN AND ONLY THEN, choose your tech investments and make it happen.

For more on how to do all that, download the full whitepaper for free here.

 

Photo Credit: Pexels.com

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