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Technology continues transforming associations.

With war, economic woes, and worldwide turmoil, association executives have their share of hot-button issues to contend with. Technology issues may not be exactly top-of-mind. But at the same time, it's technology that is quietly making steady strides in transforming association practices and processes. New levels of sophisticated electronic solutions allow for everything from personalized member service to rich online communities. Associations that are beginning to master customer relationship management are realizing the benefits of automation while delivering to members customized information, kudos for continuing loyalty, and new products that reflect responses to members stated needs. For example, Barbara Kachelski, CAE, senior vice president of membership and CIO, Credit Union Executives Society, Madison, Wisconsin, reports that new data warehouse technology has pulled together CUES disparate data bases in such a way that the organization can now conduct analyses on purchasing trends that help in new pr oduct development.

At a time when many associations are struggling, CUES has recently increased its annual budget from $8 million in 2002 to $10 million in 2003. "It's a testimony," says Kachelski, "to our ability to add value to our members' experience." Clearly, technology is the trump card in such a winning scenario. (For more on customer relationship management, read the full story, "Customize, Don't Dehumanize," in the May issue of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT.)

Creating online communities is another technology-facilitated trend that has caught on in a big way. If your organization hasn't moved in that direction yet, Michele Newhouse's article "Launching a Lively Listserver" should be your First stop in ASAE's Technology Solutions Directory 2003. Newhouse explains how to sell the concept of online communities to your board--if they are reluctant--and the steps to launching a member benefit that even back in 2001, more than 50 percent of survey participants in ASAE's The State of Association E-Business rated as "important" or "very important." Jim Vrac, executive director, Southern Conference of Optometrists, Inc., Atlanta, underscores this view with comments in Newhouse's article. His conclusion: "Without a doubt, listservers have come to typify a whole new dynamic for associations looking to foster communication among their memberships, especially given the cost effectiveness of the lists."

This year's directory once again recognizes the importance of deliberation and negotiation prior to taking on any significant technology project. While we've covered some of this ground before in terms of legal aspects, Joseph Greif, a legal expert in technology acquisition, points out some atypical techniques that his clients have found quite effective. For one, in his article "Technology Acquisition Planning--Ten Guidelines to a Better Way," Greif recommends preparing requests for information rather than requests for proposal. "This is an important distinction," he explains, "since proposals are sales documents, while RFIs solicit answers to key questions and request key documents." In this article you'll also find out why Greif believes it is important to select at least two finalists, perhaps even more, prior to coming to closure on what vendor you'll ultimately select to implement your technology project.

Amazed at all the talk--and ink--devoted to the rollout of Microsoft's .NET framework? Wondering what it means for your association technology strategy? ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT went straight to the source, talking with not only Microsoft's Jeff Jones, developer evangelist (yes, that's his actual title), but also with a number of technology vendors and association executives who are working on incorporating this new tool into association technology solutions.

Along with the technology insights and guidelines contained in the three articles cited here, the directory captures a rich list of technology companies that specialize in association technology solutions. Companies are listed alphabetically on a grid that indicates the specific products and services that each company provides. Contact information for each company puts you in touch with experts in the field who can answer your questions. An online version of the directory will be available in mid-June, featuring hyperlinks to many of the companies listed here. Go to ASAE's home page at www.asaenet.org, click on "find associations, people, business," and select "Technology Solutions Companies" in the pull-down menu.

As you read about trends, resources, and tools, think of this year's Technology Solutions Directory as your users' guide to technologies that will transform your association to mirror members' needs.
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Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:702
Previous Article:Special rates for ASAE members. (Services).
Next Article:Launching a lively listserver: selling the concept, setting it up, and securing participants.


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