SmartTech Conference 2019: Defrosted

Dave Coriale, CAE | 02.15.19
Topics: Events

Battling -30-degree temperatures, roughly 60 brave souls found their way to learn from and share insights with their community. That’s right, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night could keep the association community from meeting for SmartTech19.


They don't just talk the talk

"The SmartTech Conference is custom-built for association professionals looking to use technology and data more efficiently to increase revenue, drive membership, and adapt to today’s changing business environment.” – Association Forum

First, I want to thank everyone who worked to put on this event. DelCor was already proud to be the title sponsor of SmartTech19, and even more so when we saw how the event team used technology to adapt to our changing environment.

The Association Forum and our host, the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) put on a seamless conference for attendees onsite and worked quickly to webcast sessions for all those who couldn’t be there in person. Despite the freezing weather, we had 60 attendees onsite and 50 livestreaming; that speaks volumes about the value of this conference to the association community.

Dave Coriale speaking on SmartTech panel

key takeaways (A.K.A. intellectual swag)

On the way home from SmartTech19, I reflected on the key takeaways. This year, three themes came up in the sessions and discussions: how to get the most out of your data, the changing role of IT, and the importance of your organization’s culture with respect to aligning IT and your business objectives.


Data can be overwhelming. You know you need it, but how do you get it? Once you get it, what do you do with it? After all that work, how do you know that you’re drawing the right conclusions?

When associations don’t trust their data, it can be impossible to use it to make business decisions.

At SmartTech19, we came up with some tips for associations struggling with their data:

  • Start small: Make a list of the minimum data that each business unit needs to do its job. Once you understand what everyone in your organization needs, compare that to the data you’re currently gathering. From there, you will be able to determine what data you need to be successful as an organization and create a roadmap for the future. You can also take a sample of the core critical data and see how accurate it is. Extrapolate from that how much data needs attention and how long it will take to clean your data so your business units have clean, accurate data they can trust.
  • Invest in data: When used correctly, data is a game-changer for associations, but few organizations invest in a data-specific position or partner resources. When you invest in your data, it will pay dividends.
  • Strategize: Before your data can help you strategize for the future, you have to strategize for the future of your data. Shape your data strategy to gather the information that you need to make business decisions.

Dave Coriale speaking at SmartTech 2019


The IT department used to be what I call an “order-taker” department. You told IT what system you wanted, what you wanted it to do, and when you needed it—IT would make it happen. As long as the system was operational, IT was doing its job. However, association IT leaders made it clear at SmartTech19, it’s not good enough just to keep the lights on and the trains running anymore. Today’s IT departments have to drive innovation, which is impossible if they aren’t included in business strategy discussions.

IT needs to understand the business of the organization. IT needs the business requirements. If an organization doesn’t have clear and communicated business requirements, their IT department is operating without a full understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. When IT isn’t included in the strategy discussions, it is as if they are trying to put together a puzzle without the top of the box to guide them. They have all the pieces, but aren’t sure what it should look like when it’s done.  


Industry-leading IT organizations use their culture to accelerate their digital strategy. They collaborate with their Human Resources (HR) department to improve the adoption and acceptance of technology.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when leveraging your culture to accelerate your digital strategy:

  • Use culture as a critical success factor.
  • Start planning for cultural alignment during the first phase of a digital initiative.
  • Embed culture change into your digital strategy.
  • Encourage team diversity and inclusiveness.
  • Include the chief HR officer in technology decisions to increase alignment with the desired culture.

ready for smarttech 2020?

Us too. Learn more about the Association Forum and their events.


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