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  • Renata Lerch

Leadership in Times of Ever-Evolving Member and Customer Value

This article was published by The BoardRoom, November 2020

Along with all the negative impact, COVID-19 brought to associations an opportunity to rethink value and reevaluate member needs. Professionals from all fields, levels, geographies and industries have been highly affected. More than ever, members need support from their associations to expand their professional network, find new solutions for their career development, and reinvent their roles.

Associations’ traditional model to deliver membership services has been dramatically shaken. Competitors, for-profit or not, are offering innovative digital solutions to networking, education, conferences and career progression since demand is booming! New companies are popping up from garages everywhere and can transform the market overnight with novel technologies and innovative products. Associations need to become a lot more focused on rebuilding their capabilities. The consequences of not acting are dire.

As an association leader, you’re now facing a new world that requires an ever-evolving thinking. Leaders have a pivotal role in steering the pursuit for value creation and digital innovation.

Value Chain Fragmentation

In the past, people would take pictures with a Kodak camera, develop them through Kodak franchises and store and distribute them in Kodak albums. These days, people take pictures through cell phones from Apple, digitally store them at Amazon cloud and share them through social media platforms like Instagram.

This value chain fragmentation has forced organizations to rethink their business models in order to deliver the most value to their members and customers.

The level of partnerships and cooperation we’ve seen for many years in the manufacturing supply chain has now been vastly extended to the services sector, intensively reshaping associations’ competition and member experience expectations.

While the bar has been raised, it has also opened a world of new opportunities for associations to develop new services, co-branded products and membership benefits!

Successful not-for-profit organizations are pivoting, and tapping into SaaS companies to provide digital networking services powered with AI, like Lunchclub. Others, like Brightline, are tapping into MOOC platforms like Coursera to distribute their courses globally, and thought leadership summits like The Global Peter Drucker Forum, to advance their cause and increase outreach. Many are leveraging digital partners to provide seamless conference experience

s. We’ve even seen acquisitions such as PMI, a not-for-profit association, acquiring Discipline Agile Enterprise to expand their body of knowledge and product portfolio to offer their members and certificants proven Agile frameworks.

Leaders need to innovate beyond the status quo to respond to the challenge.

The use of AI and Machine Learning to Differentiate

Digital transformation timelines have been accelerated by COVID-19, resulting in associations facing machine learning and AI-powered competition. It’s no longer enough to just digitize the channels your organization serves members. Competitors are leveraging automation, data and algorithms to unleash entirely new product lines and member segments, and to completely redesign seamless user experiences through the entire value chain, including service fragments served by partners.

Playbooks are outdated, pre-COVID member data alone can’t deliver future trends. Associations need to combine surge, member data and AI to build products and services from predictive trends. Surge analytics allows organizations to track real time demand fluctuation, revealing new behaviors and multiple new opportunities.

These different angles of on-demand data enable teams to understand what customers and members ultimately need and are trying to accomplish in real time, independently of current solutions available in the market.

Innovation and differentiation that go beyond just product and service upgrades always stem from member needs, not current solutions.

Even though technology enablement is pivotal to associations’ survival, it’s still the role of the leader to orchestrate how their organizations are empowered. The most successful associations I’ve seen are run by leaders with an agile mindset, supported by corroborating operations. A leadership that provides clear vision, frame member-centric objectives and guide staff to interpret and use technology to enable innovation will always be the differentiator to design the future.


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