I know it’s cliché at this point, but the fact is there’s never been a better time to leverage technology as a service to help keep everyone connected and safe. There are a lot to choose from these days. Some more well-known than others. Due to the recent pandemic and ensuing chaos across the country there has been a cataclysmic shift and acceleration in innovation. For associations it is even more important as your members tend to rely on you for resources and support in the specific industry you represent. While there has been a lot of focus on collaboration services there may be other useful technologies with less visibility, but could be useful as part of your technology suite.
Collaboration and Events
There are so many ways to stay connected with a shift towards cloud infrastructure from traditional on premise solutions. Unified Communications solutions have become highly sought after and many new players have jumped into the industry creating a plethora of options to choose from. There truly is no one-size-fits-all approach to implementing a service like this because the features, interoperability, your current environment, and of course pricing should all the considered. These tend to include collaboration such as conferencing (audio, web, video) and messaging along with other ways to connect your audience. The features are similar, yet depending on the interface can be more or less intuitive. How you plan to use the service is the key factor here. If it’s just for general collaboration you tend to need less control, but if you plan to use this tool for conducting events of any scale having easy to use meeting management features becomes extremely important.
Speaking of shifts we’re of course seeing more of what used to be our in-person meetings become virtual. Because of the collaborative and informal nature of most committee meetings they can likely be handled suing the aforementioned collaboration technologies. However, for Board Meetings, tradeshows, auctions, annual meetings, and business meetings among others you might need something more robust for the sake of formality. These would generally be referred to as Event Technologies. You’d probably start with your technical requirements to initially determine the best fit. If you only need audio then an operator assisted conference call would work well. If you need something more dynamic with a presentation and\or video using a webcasting software would make sense. If you’re attempting to duplicate an in-person event with audience interaction, simultaneous presentations, sponsors, games, etc.… then something more robust like a Virtual Environment would be best to consider. Once you determine the delivery platform you can evaluate the options that are out there.
I’ve eluded to the “cloud” previously, but it is important to dive a little deeper. As collaboration has shifted to a more cloud-based approach so has enterprise phone systems that are used to place and receive phone calls. Because they are in the cloud and hosted off site they can be expanded and deployed more rapidly. This also allows them to include more features that are geared toward a remote workforce with tools for collaboration, dial tone, easy access cross-platform, extension identification, and personalization to name a few.
Staying connected can mean proactively as well. Sometimes you just need to communicate a quick message, not necessarily meet about it. Having a tool to reach members via phone, text, email, social media, desktop pop-up, or website posting for reminders or to keep them engaged can be very beneficial. These tend to be very customizable applications because of all the considerations around how you want to deliver the message, to whom, the length of the message, and several other factors. Think of the calls you get from your pharmacy or from the school. These calls need to be delivered rapidly and securely so these platforms must be robust in their feature set to ensure that’s the case. There are many applications for notification solutions, especially during these chaotic times.
In case of Emergency
Because emergencies never have good timing it’s important to always know you can get immediate assistance from first responders no matter where you are. In fact there has been new legislation enacted in February 2020 (Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act) that mandates certain E911 regulations into some existing, and all new, phone systems. The goal is to ensure a more exact location of the caller when 911 is dialed. For example at a specific desk on a specific floor of an office building instead of the building street address. Additionally notification must go out to others that an incident occurred. Having an emergency system that integrates with remote work environments such as Microsoft Teams for example is an important consideration here as well.
The Technology Blueprint
The first step in the process of identifying your association’s specific technology requirements is to analyze your business needs by conducting a categorical inventory of the technology you have in place. This includes the environment you’re operating in such as hardware, network providers, devices, and software such as an LMS, among others. Then, work to identify solutions that will grow and scale with your business as it evolves which is much easier in a cloud-based environment. Understand the various considerations of each technology that make it unique to your exact needs. Having support available becomes extremely important as you go through the adoption process and start to use specific features. Some technologies are just easier to learn than others and needs can vary by individual user so be sure to make those resources available internally. Contact Us for assistance with any aspect of this process.