The latest technologies and digital innovations have turned the world into a global community. Regardless of location or time difference, we can easily connect with our peers online and everything we need is just a click away.
Like corporate businesses, most professional associations have been searching for various means of changing and improving their processes by adopting digital platforms for more effectively.
For the past two years, MCI Singapore has been transitioning all of its association clients to a cloud-based digital platform. With an investment of less than 10 USD per member, associations can benefit from a comprehensive and localised system in different Asian languages, with local payment methods and taxes. The system comes complete with a member app.
Ronnie Tan, President of the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architecture (SILA) shares the initial impressions, concerns and concrete benefits he has seen for his organisation.
What was your reaction when MCI Singapore invited SILA to move to a cloud-based solution?
Ronnie Tan: It was a step into the unknown, but we were willing to explore another way of going about our administrative processes that may lead to more efficiency, time and money savings in the long run. It was an opportunity to tap into digital technology to see how things can be done better.
Did you understand the immediate advantages?
Tan: Efficiency. Data analytics. Clarity of process trail. And being able to track back on processes that were carried out. But most importantly, having a single source of data depository instead of having multiple files (soft or hard copies) sitting on different people's desktops made a huge difference.
What were your concerns?
Tan: The unknown, as the organisation has been doing the process administration manually previously. There were also IT concerns such as backing up of data, privacy data protection, ownership of the data and privacy. Cost was another concern. And whether the organisation will be tethered to the system and its provider – and the implications should we want to exit the service partnership.
What are the concrete benefits for your organisation today?
Tan: There are a few. The immediate concrete benefit is less physical hardcopy paperwork. Being an NGO without a physical office of our own, storage is an issue for us. With this new cloud-based solution, storage of paperwork is almost non-existent now. I am also experiencing efficiency, almost real-time tracking of processes like payments and event registrations. This at a slightly reduced cost versus other systems available on the market. But moreover, I am able to use a single platform/software to manage and analyse membership, events, payments, and website all in one place.
Any recommendation you can share with other organisations?
Tan: Take a leap of faith. Using Singlish - "Try, if not dunno."
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And now for an inside view, Marcel Ewals, MCI’s Director of Association Relations in Asia-Pacific, describes how the concept came to mind and why a cloud-based platform can be a good starting point for your association’s digital journey.
What prompted you to offer your clients such solution?
Marcel Ewals: For many years we’ve been getting resistance from associations to automate due to the high cost involved. Especially volunteer associations of smaller size have a very limited budget, and hence we continued looking for newer solutions that are entry level and acceptable. When we finally found a solution that was less than 10USD a member per year plus many added benefits, we explained the cost savings in terms of labour, and how this time can be allocated to proactive work instead of administrative work.
From a management point of view, what difference does it make?
Ewals: It reduces the need for administrative staff and allows us to use our talents’ time to do more strategic work. It fully automates the member renewal process and related payments, develops event pages in minutes and campaigns are easy to produce. Moreover, we discovered mistakes in the manual system that were recovered resulting in a 4,400 USD revenue recovery in the first year (which paid for the system already). Our clients love the speed at which we can announce events, do onsite check-in and self-printing, send push notifications to our members and have real-time information in a manager’s app for the directors.
Are you planning to develop new features?
Ewals: Yes, we are working with the developer on new features such as CPD - Continuing Professional Development credits recording (added in Q1 2020) and improving communication tools to enhance the Community Development objectives of each association. We are also working to reduce some of the transaction costs and adding other languages such as Vietnamese and Thai. It already has Chinese (traditional and simplified), Japanese and Korean navigation.
Is the solution applicable to all association types?
Ewals: As a basic entry level, it definitely is. Especially in the multi-language/currency/payment solutions environment in which we operate. Of course, there are limitations, and it does not compare to some of the major systems out there. However, for a first step solution this is already really impressive, considering you can manage membership, events, CRM and sponsorship as well as marketing on one single platform.
Any feedback from your clients you can share?
Ewals: The first months of adaptation were challenging. Now, associations love it when their Board can see the management dashboard of revenues and event registrations live on their phone. Board meetings are now called via app notifications, supporting docs are attached into the systems and participants can network — alleviating staff from time consuming admin and paperwork. Members can register to meetings with a few clicks on their phone and, for the first time, they have a CRM that tracks member activities. Associations are realising that management by data is becoming an essential next step.
Are you an association interested in adopting a cloud-based digital platform to automate processes and step-up your digital efforts? Get in touch with our experts.