I was recently asked by the Canadian Society of Association Executives to write a summary of technology trends for association leaders to watch for in 2017, published in their Annual Source Guide. The future of technology and software is all about the cloud, mobile, and thinking small. Read on for more on these trends.

1. Embracing the Cloud

More and more, organizations are moving their IT infrastructure out of their closet and into the cloud. With the advent of cloud-based storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box.com, now more than ever organizations have options for where to place their files. Beyond file storage, cloud-based software solutions are now the norm. Using Microsoft Office? Subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, pay a monthly fee per user, and Microsoft will automatically handle updates to the software for you instead of outsourcing this to IT service providers.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • Do you have legacy IT infrastructure in your closet that is exposing you to risk?
  • Have you considered switching to cloud-based software licenses instead of traditional licensing?

2. Mobile Workforce

Illustration of worker at multiple locations

Not only are your members on the go and using smartphones, tablets, and laptops, so too are your staff. Today’s employee is looking not only for work/life balance, but also for flexibility in their work environment, specifically with the ability to work from home, or the coffee shop around the corner. The trend in 2017 continues to be towards empowering staff to be mobile, primarily by shifting to laptop-based workstations and away from traditional desktop computers. Whether your staff prefer Macbooks or Microsoft Surface’s, removing the chains from their desk will give them the flexibility they need to be an effective employee both in and out of the office.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • How many of your staff use desktop computers instead of laptops?
  • Does your IT budget take into consideration the desire of staff to have flexibility in both their workstations and software?

3. Smaller is Better – Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Illustration of nesting dolls

In 2017, smaller is better when it comes to software. A concept known as microservices has taken hold, and the shift is on for organizations to embrace software that is focused on solving specific business needs. Historically, monolithic software systems (such as AMS or CRM systems) have been the popular choice for associations. As organizations continue to experience the shortcomings of such systems, more often we see organizations adopting cloud-based software such as MailChimp, Eventbrite, SurveyMonkey, Shopify, and Adobe Connect to meet their business needs. The key to success? Ensuring these applications can integrate with your membership data in order to effectively measure engagement.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • Is your software footprint small and nimble, or are you stuck in a monolithic system that touches every part of your business?
  • Does your membership database support integration with modern, SaaS-based software solutions?

4. Understand Your Audience

Illustration of users

Understanding your users is more important than ever, especially with the technical savviness of millennials and Gen-Xers. Technology investments should be driven by user need, not by the availability of interesting new software. Associations must seek to understand their audience first: do they use your digital toolset at the office and/or at home; are they urban or rural; are they tech-savvy or traditional. There are many technologies available today that can provide opportunities for associations to make connections, facilitate collaboration, and streamline processes. Know your audience first, make investments second.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • Do you or your staff review your website analytics on a regular basis to learn about the habits and demographics of your users?
  • How well do you know the context of your users? Do you store this information in your membership database to help make informed decisions?

5. Mobile-First for Your Digital Properties

Illustration of various mobile devices

Smartphones, tablets, wearables… mobile technology is all around us and must be considered by associations in their technology decisions. In 2017, your website has to be designed using responsive design techniques (that is, designed to change its display based on the size of the screen used to view it). Not only does it provide a better user experience, it also will increase your ranking with Google in search results. Being able to reach your members on their mobile devices is becoming more and more important, and forward-thinking organizations are using a mobile-first lens to view their organization through.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • Has your website been setup using responsive design techniques?
  • Do you have statistics on the mobile usage habits of your members and other stakeholders?