The Importance of Standards in Digital Transformation

Tom Jelen | 05.17.19
Topics: CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity

It may sound counter to what you might imagine is true, but you have to standardize before you can innovate. If each department of your association has its own standards, you'll spend more time bogged down in unproductive discussions over color schemes and font types than you will actually transforming your organization.

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Here are four areas of your business you may want to focus on standardizing:

Platform

Many associations have a website content management system (CMS) and association management system (AMS). Some may also have a learning management system (LMS), community platform, and marketing automation platform. However, if your organization has multiple instances of any of these systems, you are probably duplicating efforts and aren't taking full advantage of what a single platform could offer.

While there is no perfect platform, it's better to make a commitment to a single one and work around any of its inadequacies. If you feel the systems you have are really no longer meeting your current or future needs, then it may be time for a change. Whatever you do, don't just implement another duplicative system and add to the problem.

Data

When you can't rely on your data, it becomes impossible to use it to make business decisions. To take your organization to the next level in its IT Maturity, you need to have single, standard system of record for core member data.

For most associations, the AMS serves as the system of record for information on the customers served by the organization, as well as the customer unique identifiers. The system of record stores information on all the critical touchpoints where the association serves its members and the members serve the association (e.g. membership, registrations, volunteer participation, speaking engagement, authorship).

When you store all of your organization’s information in a central location, reporting becomes much more efficient and actionable. Within an individual’s record information, staff members can easily see whether that person has attended an event, served as a speaker, bought a publication, or made a donation. Without data standardization, you'll never get the 360-degree insights on your customers that you need to transform your organization.

Branding

Digital product development is not intended to be an exercise in artistic creativity. If you have a personal distaste for the color red and bullseye shapes and you work for Target, I am guessing you are still going to need to use the color red and bullseye shapes when you build a new digital presence for them.

The same rule should apply to your association. Your association needs to be consistent and abide by a brand guide that dictates logo usage, font types, color schemes, and so on. You don't need to stifle all your creativity. Instead, save your creative juices for designing a new approach to member value creation.

User Experience

If some of your forms use a drop-down menu to select a State and others use a two-character text field to enter a State abbreviation, you may need to spend some time on user experience standards. By developing a common set of user experience standards, you can share them with new vendors and developers to make sure that your customer experience is more seamless across your various digital products and services.

Once you develop standards for your organization, you can use them as building blocks in your digital transformation initiatives. You'll spend less time debating the merits of Calibri versus Garamond and be able to focus on the important work of making your organization more relevant and valuable to your members and customers.

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Is your organization seeking a CIO coach or finding itself between CIOs? DelCor’s CIO Support services can provide coaching from consultants with association CIO experience and help you bridge the gap with an interim CIO adept in the business and culture of associations.

Which people, processes, tools, and talent are in your CIO's bag?

About Tom Jelen

Tom has been working in nonprofit and association technology since the era of Web 1.0. He gets energized by helping associations use digital technology to build new products, services, and business models.

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