What Does Digital Transformation Mean for an Association or Non-Profit?

What does digital transformation mean for an association or non-profit? What does this transformation look like?

These were two of the questions posed by Teri Carden, Founder of ReviewMyAMS and organizer of AMS Fest 2017, held a couple of weeks ago in Chicago. AMS Fest is a conference devoted to bringing together Association Management Software (AMS) companies and association executives looking for a new system to power their organizations.

I saw lots of scribbled answers about using data to make better decisions, paying attention to data, having advanced analytics, next generation data maturity, etc.

To be honest, these answers leave me cold. If an organization has great analytics and uses it to make better decisions, has it been digitally transformed?

Webster defines transformation as “an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed.” The verb transform has multiple meanings:

  1. to change in composition or structure
  2. to change the outward form or appearance of
  3. to change in character or condition

To transform something, therefore, is to make it new or completely different. If organizations do something different or differently, it has not necessarily been transformed.

In my mind, an organization has been transformed when it no longer recognizes itself. When it engages in activities and behaviors that would have been unthinkable five years ago. When its decision-making and governance have been upended. When it attracts and retains a different class of members and staff. When members say “I don’t recognize my association.”

And while a transformation is not necessarily positive, I think the only type of transformation we should concern ourselves with is the kind that is positive – the kind that results in growth, and ushers in a period of self-renewal.

Data and data analytics no doubt play a huge role in any digital transformation, and even paying attention to data may represent a big change in some organizations. But analytics is only a means to the transformation that many organizations seek and desire today.