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4 Aspects of Digital Transformation Infrastructure

Digital transformation has two key aspects: the ‘what’ (setting up the proper infrastructure), and the ‘how’ (how to leverage that infrastructure to benefit members and stakeholders). Understandably, many non-profits and associations focus on the ‘how’. But your ability to engage and serve your members in the digital world (and how you go about it) is only as good as your infrastructure allows. 

Poorly conceived infrastructure that isn’t well integrated into organizational systems and processes doesn’t set you up for success. In fact, this lack of infrastructure can weaken your digital transformation efforts across the board.

In this blog, we explore four key infrastructure categories that are crucial for successful digital transformation. This is the third blog in our Digital Transformation Series. If you missed the first two articles no problem – catch up here! And if you just can’t wait to get the full scoop, download our Digital Transformation for Associations e-book NOW!

1: Organizational Strategies and Plans

Digital transformation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Your digital transformation strategy must be closely aligned with your organization’s plans to be successful. Here are a few examples. How many of these plans does your organization already have in place? 

Strategic plan: This plan should outline the organization’s overall goals, strategies, direction, and how the goals will be achieved. Strategic plans typically cover 3 to 5 years or may go as high as 10 years.

Virtual event strategy and capability: Your organization may have one or more strategies, depending on the diversity of your virtual events. Since the pandemic, the need for engaging in virtual events has become a key non-profit driver of digital transformation.

Inbound marketing and content strategy: Where outbound marketing actively reaches out to your audience with ads, inbound marketing means creating content that matters to your audience and draws them in. Think social media content, blogs, and marketing funnels that take website visitors on a journey (more about that in our blog on Journey Map).

Social media strategy: Social media has become essential to digital transformation, helping organizations to attract, build, and manage an online community. It empowers members to spread the association’s message with their networks. But its not only about details like the best time of day to post and high-impact hashtags. Your social media strategy could take a broader approach to address:

  • Advocacy
  • Media Relations
  • HR processes for employees and volunteers

Don’t forget about crisis management! When someone makes a negative comment on social media, do you have a policy on how to respond? Incorporating a social media risk management policy will help your organization get quickly into PR mode when needed and respond appropriately.

Digital governance strategy: Just as your organization’s governance model includes who is responsible for which tasks and who has decision-making authority, a digital governance strategy outlines the same information specific to digital initiatives. To learn more about different models, check out our blog on 3 Approaches to Digital Governance.

2: Technology Integrations and Capabilities

Digital transformation infrastructure is also about the programs, systems, software, apps, etc. that your organization uses. But do your various technologies work together, or separately? We see many non-profits and associations who have a patchwork of systems that don’t speak to each other, causing much frustration among staff and members alike. Here are a few examples of key systems, and how they may be integrated. How does this compare with your organization’s current setup? 

Website built on a social engine-based content management system, including:

  • Integrated blog
  • Secure Board of Directors area to access meeting minutes, shared documents, etc.
  • Secure members area containing member account access, members-only content, discussion groups, etc.
  • Secure partner portal to access co-branded marketing materials, etc.

Marketing automation system integrated with the web, including:

  • Control over who can access which resources
  • Communications control
  • Marketing campaigns to generate new leads and nurture soft leads
  • Repository for robust member data

Other key technologies to consider integrating include e-learning systems (LMS), and mobile apps.

3: Speaking the Same Language

Have you ever realized partway through a conversation that you’re not on the same page with the other person? Maybe you had a different understanding of a certain concept. This mismatch may not be apparent at the start of the conversation. But the deeper you go, the more these different understandings emerge. 

This frequently happens within organizational communications. If your staff and Board aren’t on the same page, that doesn’t bode well for your communications with external partners and other stakeholders. Here are a few examples of areas where you need to foster a shared understanding of language and concepts:

  • Brand messaging, logo, and visual identity
  • Shared vocabulary and concepts for digital initiatives
  • Awareness of digital marketing concepts such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing, i.e.: pay-per-click ads)

As for your members, if they don’t fully understand the language you use and the identity of your organization, how well will they be able to support your goals? Member Social Media Toolkits make it easy for members to share your organization’s brand, message, and goals with their online networks. 

To make all this happen, company-wide staff training must be implemented.

Pro Tip: encourage mentorship from digital savvy staff. This approach can foster social cohesion amongst staff, build capacity, identify key digital knowledge holders within the organization, and encourage cross-training.

4: Tracking and Evaluation

Any organizational initiative needs to be tracked and evaluated regularly. Otherwise, how will you know if it worked? And if you spent your money in the right place? 

For many digital initiatives, monitoring website and social media metrics will give you a good sense of how effective the initiative was. Key metrics include number of website visitors, and how many took the action you wanted them to take (such a signing up for a course). For social media, track likes, comments, shares, and saves. 

The final step is optimization: a built-in mechanism to ensure that initiatives and digital transformation infrastructure remain relevant. Some organizations may already have optimization pathways through regular reviews of their strategic or marketing plans, or as part of annual program reviews. 

Pro Tip: Use your digital initiative evaluations to assess your digital infrastructure. In other words – do the puzzle pieces fit? Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Using this article as a checklist, how many of these elements has your organization implemented?
  2. Every digital initiative needs to pull its weight. How many of these currently have achievement targets attached?
  3. How many of these were planned together as part of an overall strategy vs. piecemeal over the years?

In this blog, we have shared why non-profits and associations need a digital transformation infrastructure, and what elements are vital to success. Don’t miss our next blog, where we cover mapping out the member journey, and how digital transformation factors in. 

If you want to see the whole picture NOW, download our e-book, Digital Transformation for Associations! Divided into 10 sections for easy reading, consider it your ‘start here’ digital transformation guide.