How a digital transformation becomes a people transformation within associations

People vs technology. The real challenge in Digital Transformations for many member associations.

I give you 4 tips on making a good start with your digital transformation.

NOTE/ This is my blog that appeared on the Memberwise Blog.
The MemberWise Network is an independent professional network that provides practical help and support to over 3,900+ membership organisation and association professionals based in the UK and overseas.

Members at the heart of your process

Digital Transformation doesn’t cover the whole process. If member associations want to succeed in their transformation there is a need for a Human and Digital Transformation.
Why? People are the main element in digital transformations. In different roles, but almost equally important:

  • The member who is the intended user of “client” of the new environment.
  • The association executive who has to “operate” the new environment.
  • The director and board who are making the brave choice.

Member Associations don’t have clients. They have members! And they want engaged members.
And there lies the real challenge for each digital transformation. How can we focus on the needs of our members, how can we involve them to make the project a success.

Digital is not about technology, but about member centricity.
If you truly want to transform on a digital level, than you must involve them.

True: you can improve your processes by implementing technology.
True: you can save time by implementing technology
But associations invest in a project not only from a cost perspective, they want return: new members, engaged members, … That is the real value for an association.

Believe in your members. Use their wisdom in your digital transformation.

Use the advantages of being a member association

Why do we have loyalty cards? To detect behavior and to accumulate data.
One of the advantages of being a member association is that members give you data with a limited amount of effort. If you show the benefits and provide clear and intuitive processes supported by good communication, people will provide you with the necessary data.

Next to the human capital of your associations (your members) that data is worth the effort.

You can personalize your communication and provide added value for your members by providing the right content on the right time and for the right profile.
That is content on its best. Knowing who your members are based upon data and providing the right content for them.

Invest in the long term

“A choice for the future, it is”, would Yoda say. Look at the total cost of your project over 5 years.
Look at the possible time savings you can accomplish.
What can your executives do with that time for your (new) members.
Member centricity is one of the steps towards engaged members and stimulates member retention.

Choose wisely in the beginning. Look for a good match between yourself and your technical partner.

Search for experience in member associations or let a consultant assist you in the first phase. Much like an architect in construction.

Implement fast, test early

Using an agile methodology it’s possible to gain fast results for your project. You don’t waste time in too complex analysis that changes along the way. You implement what you know and start building / iterating on those results. But more important, you can test the advantages of the new environment in an early stage. And there is where the people element comes into play.

Test the new system with your team. And truly test in-depth. Your members will be grateful for it.

But don’t stop there. Testing early on with your members will create a better environment. Your members will be involved and engaged. They will be the best ambassadors for your project. And you will improve your system. As an association executive you know a lot about your members, but the real test lies with the members.
If you have a great system but the members fail to use it, you have a new system, but no real change.

A new system should have an effect on the association and on its stakeholders. The result of having the system or a new website is not enough.  You should strive for more.


I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, but it’s worth it.
Using these tips, you will see that the digital transformation within your association also is a fundamental choice for the future. You choose for member centricity. And isn’t that the goal of member associations?

Creating a highly engaged member community with focused and member centric association executives.

Author: Patrick De Sutter  –

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