​Digital Transformation For Professional Bodies Pt. 3

Digital as code for culture change


How do we capture the energy in this room with our digital space?

Just as the fresco tells a story of the people, institution and the profession using a medium of the day, so too must the digital presence of today’s organisation contribute to the story of the human endeavour that is being undertaken.

The challenge lies in telling a story that reflects the rate of change driven by technology and the ‘digital first’ culture effectively being forced upon us, as incumbent organisations with considerable organizational inertia. The next generation is not at all as captured by context as we are; they are effectively a blank canvas who see the world in a different way. The anecdote of a daughter who believes she will not ever need to drive a car is followed by another of a son who believes there will be no need for roads (as everything will be hovering).

What does cultural shift mean and how to use digital to help us?

Membership has largely relied on the institution as the custodian of knowledge (see the walls of the library covered in books). However, the requirement has changed; today’s institution needs to be the curator, the filter, the matchmaker of need and knowledge.

Take an old website, throw money at it and you get a new website that’s shinier but still fails to deliver what’s needed. Often we do this because we have failed to understand & adjust the existing culture of the business, and the gap towards a digitally enabled business, focusing instead on outward ‘stuff’.

Similar was the race to get a presence on social media. Now that most of us are here and amassing a following, how much are we riding on the coattail of the meteoric rise of social media rather than stopping to understand the culture and communication paradigm first? What does the expectation of near instant response mean for an institution that is geared for ‘slow’ information like white-papers, journals, textbooks, accreditation, and committee? The challenge is in moving to a position of improved communication without first having a better understanding of digital. Too often we are in a hurry to do the ‘stuff’ without understanding the human reasoning behind it.

What’s in a website?

Lifelong learning, thought leadership, stewarding and enabling the profession to develop well into the future; too often an organization’s website is geared towards giving members what they want and not what they need. With an imbalanced outward focus, many websites will be providing what we think we need, and not what our customers need. Sometimes an apt description of a corporate website is ‘a shed full of stuff’. It is an understandable position that many of us have gotten to with our website as part of our digital presence within an emerging digital strategy.

We draw focus to the behaviour that embodies the concept of ‘digital as code for culture change.’

We have to do some stuff – we need to make some mistakes to learn

It’s critical to not be thrown by the word digital. The goal is not to automate/synchronise/digitise/futurize/insertbuzzword everything. Technology is not the panacea. The goal is to leverage the capabilities that come with new technology to better connect with an audience who are already living in, with, on and through this new space. By doing this we are demonstrating digital behaviors. If we are to remain relevant, we can’t afford to rely on trustees and committees to debate and debate and debate, although that is not to say that this function has lost it’s merit, far from it. At the pace of digital, it’s ok to try something and to learn from the experience. Digital is absolutely part of the cultural change story.

Digital will save us!

Are we guilty of using ‘digital’ to form the business case to start some activity? More of the aforementioned ‘stuff’? Digital behaviour is not about doing things digitally, it’s about shifting mindset and workplace culture to see the opportunity. Leveraging the ability to segment by psychology and continue to evolve the user experience. For example, with an ageing membership, what’s the point of creating and imposing a digital model for a bunch of people who genuinely love books?! Cultural change programs have been passed to HR, incorrectly in our view given the need for a more holistic approach. It gets truly exciting when the skills of HR are empowered with the capabilities of technology (IS&T) in a decided strategic shift (strategy director) in the organization's chosen ways of working.

Challenging our assumptions and our current behaviour

A wonderful point was raised to reframe all that is new and ‘digital’. When the phone was invented, did we phone our members constantly? Why do we treat them like this now with email communications? With email the mainstay of most CRM programs, the core is increasingly intrusive and tiring often with diminishing returns. Barely two days goes by for many of our members without some form of outbound communications.

Members simply don’t want to receive copious amounts of information on their smartphone, rather they want to know that it is both there and retrievable. As consumers we all live in this (digital) world with our networking, news, customer support, even our grocery shopping is largely facilitated through digital channels. But the offer from my professional body is… less than ideal. How does the digital presence make us feel? How does it compare to the impact of walking into the library? Into the great hall?

How do we control the experience? Is an email from Sainsbury’s that different to an email from Gucci? Walk into the ICE library or into a Gucci store and the intangible value is high. Not quite there in our email communications. Here a reference was made to Polanyi’s Paradox – we know more than we can tell. We own so much knowledge and so much information, the wealth of experience in the trustees and committees, let alone the combined knowledge of the membership.

People want information when they need it, not should they ever need it

First, understand the need, understand how to deliver against that; both in content and context. Whatever process that already exists can be digitised, but it also has to be humanized. This represents an additional challenge:

Google is getting better faster than we are

As AI increases and the sheer volume of archived content gets released, the role of curation will need to deliver greater value in selection and presentation of content, and less connected to the act of finding the content. Just providing the information does not equate to value or caring for the membership. Balance is required. Is it dangerous to assume that our members want such an in-depth relationship with our digital assets? It returns again to customized experience; at times, a member will want to get in, find what they need, get out and get on with their day.

What is the most human interaction a member can have with their professional body? Many membership organizations have a library, where some of the most helpful, wonderful and professional people who understand both the collection and the right combination of resources to respond to a member’s request for information can be found. While not necessarily subject matter experts, they are often experts in the subject of the subject matter itself! ('Yes we have that volume, but I suggest you also read this which was published last year, and I’ll pull together some notes from the latest trade journals for you by this afternoon.') As the caring face of the institution, an anecdote was shared that, such was their trust, their remit occasionally extended to that of marriage counsellor for the membership. Again, the digital presence fails to capture that same expression of caring for the membership. Yes, we can customise our emails, but once the member clicks through it’s often 'who are you, where do you work, what do you want?'

Getting a proposition digitally enabled for self-service (if that is what the member wants) allows digital to truly get out of the way. Meanwhile, how well do we signpost people in our organization who can help people? Allowing our best talent and most human aspect to expand their reach is another problem that will be solved by leveraging digital behaviour. While perhaps the vast majority of the membership are ok with just knowing that the institution is there, change to scale the human connection further demonstrates the relevancy of the organization for the future of the profession. When done correctly, digital is the key to creating the sense of belonging; in one case a professional body had such a global membership they had sold their HQ.

Digital as code for culture change

  • Digital as an enabler first
  • There is no 1 answer to communication
  • Start simple, don’t be distracted by feature creep, digital should make things simpler
  • Shift to knowledge share and away from knowledge holder
  • Digital culture allows us to demonstrate our value
  • Digital tools are working best when they get ‘out of the way’ to facilitate a more human and tailored experience wherever possible

With knowledge, the more you share it, the more power it has.

So too as with digital, the more it is out of the way, the more human it can be.


This article originally appears at http://www.weareatmosphere.com/digital-as-code-for-culture-change

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