When you can’t get to a conference, there’s always Twitter. It doesn’t replace the conference experience, but thanks to the generous folks who share their notes as tweets, Twitter can give you a taste of conference conversations.

At last week’s ASAE Technology Conference (#tech12), some of the hot topics were:

  • Disruption and innovation
  • Making data actionable
  • Mobile and responsive design

Disruption and Innovation

Technology, with its disruptive effects, is changing faster than our ability to adapt, but we have to keep up with technical evolution if our organizations are to survive and thrive. Brian Solis, the opening keynote speaker, called this “Digital Darwinism” or in Twitter parlance, #InnovateOrDie.

You have to keep up so you can determine how new technology (and other disruptions) will impact your members (and their clients), market and roadmap. By the time associations figure that out, they’re usually in catch-up mode again.

Solis said, “Become a change agent, a revolutionary. You probably won’t have a job in its current form for long anyway.” Maddie Grant added via a tweet: “Being revolutionary needs to be part of your day job.” Generation Flux knows and lives this already.

In tweets I saw many rallying cries for the IT department to shift from being a service provider to a business “game changer.” IT shouldn’t just support operations, it should have a seat at the leadership table so it can help move the association forward.

Empowering non-IT staff with traditional IT skills is one way to help associations keep up with the pace of change. Mark Athitakis at Associations Now said the discussions at the conference “seemed to coalesce around one theme: Control.” What to do about staff using personal mobile devices for work and relying on personal Clouds?

Actionable Data

The amount of information we grapple with now is just a trickle compared to what it will be in 2-3 years, according to Dion Hinchcliffe, the closing keynote speaker. Associations must lay the foundations now for managing and governing ten to perhaps a hundred times more data in the future. 

Data, particularly, big data, was discussed at the CIO Summit and many other sessions. Elizabeth Engel from Spark Consulting said, “It’s premature for associations to talk about “big data,” though. I don’t think we’ve conquered small data yet.” She’s right. Too many associations still rely on leadership and staff assumptions to make decisions. Instead, they should use technology to listen more intentionally, and collect and use data and market research to understand how their members and their needs are changing.

Data management consultant Wes Trochlil said most organizations don’t implement business intelligence because of fear — fear of doing it wrong; fear the data will contradict conventional wisdom; and fear they will need to change their behavior.

Mobile, Apps, and Responsive Design

Members and other audiences cherished by associations, like prospects, policy-makers and the press, expect a user-friendly experience when they pull up an association’s website on their phone, but they don’t always get it. Everyone who spoke on this topic, and many on Twitter, said the time is now to make websites mobile-friendly or risk losing your audience and reputation.

Throughout the conference there was a discussion about mobile apps versus mobile Web. A speaker said, “Comparing apps to mobile sites is like comparing forks to spoons – it depends on what you are trying to eat.” Apps do fill specific needs and can’t be ruled out completely.

However, the consensus, according to Twitter, leaned toward mobile-friendly websites. Non-members aren’t going to download an app to learn about your association; instead they’ll visit your website. One speaker said, “When sending someone info, I don’t send people the link to an app, I send them a link to a website.”

We’re talking about mobile-friendly websites, not separate mobile websites. Mobile websites require additional resources to manage, and their duplicate links can wreak havoc on your SEO.

Responsive design websites – “one website, delivered differently for different media” – were the preferred mobile-friendly approach for the Twitter crowd. One speaker said future users (aka the next generation of members) expect their Web experience to be tailor-made for them. I believe many existing users have the same expectation.

Solis started out the conference talking about a new generation to keep in mind when planning communication, content and services – Generation C, the connected consumer. Generation C isn’t an age group, it’s a lifestyle. They’re used to change, and they’re not worried about privacy as long as they get something in return – personalization and value.

Stay tuned. We’ve got more good nuggets coming for you from #tech12.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who is discovering she belongs to many different generations.