IT Directors, It is Time to Think Like a CIO

The role of IT directors is changing. Is It Time to Start Thinking LIke A CIO?

Their old foray – maintenance and management of association technology systems and network infrastructure – is increasingly being outsourced to SaaS and cloud hosting providers. What’s an IT director to do? Instead of being technology custodians only, IT directors now serve as in-house technology advisors, ambassadors, and strategic planners.

However, to earn a seat at the strategic planning table, first you must change your own perception about your role and the value you deliver – a topic I covered in my last post – before you can change the perceptions of others. Then, you must begin delivering that strategic value to fellow staff members and to your organization and its members.

Make a technology plan.

An understanding of association goals and member needs will help you develop a technology plan that will support your organization’s progress toward meeting those goals and needs. That knowledge can be acquired in discussions with senior management staff and department heads about:

  • Your organization’s mission, goals, and plans for achieving those goals.
  • Departmental goals, problems, processes, needs, and wants.
  • Member needs and aspirations.
  • The collection and use of member data.

After these discussions, it’s time to analyze what you’ve heard. 

  • How are your existing technology and data being used to provide value to members?
  • How is it helping your organization achieve its goals?
  • How is it hindering your organization? Is it being underutilized?
  • What can you and the IT department do in the coming year (or 2 or 3) to help the organization achieve its goals?


A technology plan that’s aligned with your organization’s strategic plan will strengthen your value as a strategic partner and solution provider for senior staff, volunteer leaders, and department heads. 

Keep learning.

Being strategic requires future-oriented thinking. Think creatively! How could technology be used to support the staff, organization, and members in achieving their goals? 

For that answer, you may have to go beyond your office walls. A technology leader must keep aware of current trends and how they could help your association advance its business goals and objectives. One way to do that is to compare notes with a peer network of association technology staff. What issues are they dealing with? How are they using technology to solve problems? What’s on their radar? 

Keep up with technology developments in the for-profit sector. While many associations are notoriously late adopters, there are many lessons that can be learned from tech successes and failures in the commercial world that you can apply in your association work.

Make connections and stay informed about association technology issues by joining ASAE or your state SAE. Even better, get involved with ASAE’s or your state SAE’s technology council. 

Familiarize yourself with the technology and vendors in the association market. The expo floors at ASAE conferences, especially at the ASAE Technology Conference, provide a one-stop experience for learning about vendors and their products and services. 

The most effective association technology leaders didn’t get to where they are merely by minding the servers or creating reports. It takes hard work, perseverance, and attention to the big picture to successfully climb the ladder and become a meaningful contributor to the senior management team. Make sure you do your homework so that when you do get a seat at the table, you’re ready.


IT Maturity Model for Associations and Nonprofits  Learn how to effectively connect technology, people, and processes to your  mission Download IT Maturity Model

Flickr photo by Nate