By Andrew Oliveira
Not every association needs to live on the cutting edge of technology in order to be successful, but ignoring trends can result in missed opportunities. Technology changes, adapts, and improves every year. There are times when a new technology dissolves before it ever catches on, but there are also technologies that become necessities.
As technology continues to evolve at rapid pace, it is important for association leaders to understand trends in order to make better and more informed long-term decisions.
The following list contains 18 technology, business and social trends that are influenced by our evolving technological landscape.
Cord-cutting is the trend where households replace traditional media and communication (such as phone lines, cable, fax, etc.) with internet-based content. This change means that service providers are now delivering more on-demand and pay-per-service content. This is because member wants are changing the way business is done in many different industries. To adapt, many associations have moved to offering individualized services for members and customers, providing everyone with flexible and personalized pay-per-service memberships
Lean Association Management Systems (AMS)
A lean AMS is more than a simple AMS; it’s about efficiency and effectiveness. A lean AMS features a clean and organized interface that is intuitive and boasts a lightweight presentation layer. This ensures that users of all experience levels are comfortable and capable of utilizing the AMS to its full potential. Behind the scenes, the system has the ability to track members in ways that help associations group and categorize their users based on their activity and engagement levels.
A powerful yet lean AMS also has the power to leverage data analytics to enhance the user’s and the association’s experience. Over time, members develop patterns in how they interact with the association. This data and these patterns help associations understand members better and can even be used to generate predictor models for the future. Associations can get a glimpse of what members may do and how initiatives may perform long before it happens.
Analytics have been utilized for a while, but now smaller associations have gained easy access to the benefits of this technology. Member data and behavior is tracked and analyzed, allowing associations to better understand and gain insight into members’ actions. Similarly, analytics allow associations to gain insights into business activity, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses that might not be visible to the naked eye. All this information can be used to improve how the association approaches new initiatives, its communications and more.
Cloud-based technology is already here, but more and more associations are picking up on its usefulness for storage and scaling. With a database hosted in the cloud, associations can scale out when needed without requiring additional servers, staff or resources. Furthermore, the cloud accommodates this growth instantly, making only as much space as is needed.
A chatbot is a program that converses with users by text or audio. An example is Apple’s “Siri” or Amazon’s “Alexa.” While some people may still have issues with dealing with chatbots, they are here and they are only getting more prevalent. With the advance in natural language processing, chatbots will soon be the standard for associations that wish to provide quick and helpful information to members and website visitors. New-age chatbots are able to gather data and learn, which means the more they are deployed and interacted with the better they become.
Voice User Interfaces
A voice user interface is a technology that can understand and respond to spoken commands and queries. The advancements in voice interface technology have come quickly. The reason why the latest surge has been so much larger than ever before is because of the recent advancements in the built-in learning capabilities of the current technology. While Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana are the names that everyone knows, many more companies are finding ways of incorporating voice user interfaces into their business practices.
Transparency is one of the most important concepts in business today. The access to information has led to increased consumer skepticism, so many associations are looking to be an objective industry voice. Radical transparency simply describes the different approaches to delivering accurate and fact-based information while presenting the association as open and honest as possible.
New-Age Customer Service
Customer service has always been important, but social media and instant communication have made quality customer service more important than ever before. Modern associations are expected to converse with their members in a timely manner, and, while a bad customer service experience will result in the loss of a customer, a publicized bad customer experience will result in loss of a group of customers. Thankfully, this works both ways, as high-quality experiences are publicly advertised as well.
The importance of engagement between associations and members may seem obvious, but the way we engage online is changing. Micro-moments of engagement create a bond between association and member without being overbearing. Most importantly, the technology and information available ensure that associations connect with members when the members want and need to be engaged with and in the most effective way.
Social Media Advertising
Social media marketing was one of the best-kept secrets out there, but, now that more people are doing it, the landscape is changing a little. As big social media networks continue increasing advertising costs, the effectiveness is expected to improve for advertisers. The reason for this is that increased costs will scare off or dissuade casual advertisers from using it, ensuring that the associations who dedicate more funds to social media advertising are set up to benefit from less advertising traffic.
Security and Privacy
Security and privacy in technology is one of the most pressing concerns for organizations who provide digital services. Associations need a protection plan to defend against theft, digital damage, breaches, and data retention. These plans include action and response measures that are needed in case of a breach. In addition, associations need to be prepared to respond to online discord and those who cause it (i.e. trolls).
Addressing the Skills Gap
For the last several decades, there has been an increasing societal and educational push to have everyone get a college degree, which has led to an ever-decreasing supply of skilled trades people. Organizations in these fields need to find new ways of reaching and engaging with younger people, attracting them to the trades and advocating for careers in these fields. One such tool to respond to this trend is to incorporate flexible and effective e-learning training methods for aspiring tradespeople.
Tutorials, instructions, and lessons of all kinds are moving or have already moved to video format. Users and learners wish to see rather than be told instructions as it eliminates the risk of misinterpretation. When it comes to E-learning content, users also need access to video content that is mobile, available anytime and anywhere and can be streamed easily.
New mediums for learning have led to new methods of learning, and one of the fastest-growing styles is microlearning. Microlearning is a way of breaking down information into small chunks of learning content for quick and easy consumption. These digestible packages are great for learners who use mobile devices as they can be completed in short periods of time.
Providers of e-learning are discovering new ways of delivering content in the most effective ways. While many still see virtual reality and augmented reality as futuristic and far off, these technologies are already here. As the technology becomes more accessible, more associations will adopt mixed reality to create immersive and near-distraction-free learning mediums for members.
The strength of crowd-learning is more than strength in numbers. Crowds are able to quickly and effectively scrutinize quality, ensuring only best and most accurate information rises to the top. Through crowd-learning sources have been quite visible for a while, such as in sites like Wikipedia and Health Data.gov, associations have recently begun to reap the benefits of the crowds. By drawing information from members, associations have access to insider information, learning what is needed and wanted from the industry and stay ahead of the curve.
In the digital world, information protection is often taken for granted. Many organizations don’t give a thought to properly protecting or archiving its information. However, information can be removed and/or lost from the web easily, making the archival process incredibly important. Furthermore, associations are finding new ways of keeping information that should be accessible to members available at all times under all circumstances.
Andrew Oliveira is the Operations Department Lead at Vocalmeet, an organization that helps connect professional associations, subject matter experts, non-profits and businesses with online education tools and advanced member management systems.