For some time the message has been that technology is a toolset, not a magic solution. The application of technology could greatly enhance the success, but is not a substitute for an effective plan.
Now it is time to move to a next level. Lehman Associates encourages associations and other nonprofits to adopt a Technology as Strategy™ approach to maximize the return on technology investments. As a toolset, technology enhances what we currently do, adding speed and efficiencies. Technology as Strategy opens to door to having a broader impact and create greater value. And it shifts management of technology from cost center where one seeks to minimize inputs (cost) to an investment orientation where the focus is on maximizing outcomes, i.e., the return on that investment.
What are some examples of technology as strategy versus a toolset? Those electronic devices on your windshield add great efficiencies for both drivers and toll road operators. That system eliminates the need for tollbooth operators or retrieving all those quarters from the automatic systems. Faster, cheaper, better – an important use of technology as a tool set. However, electronic toll payment means that tolls are no longer fixed and transportation managers have real-time information on traffic flow and volume. The technology is now part of a strategy for managing congestion.
Membership organizations have a long history of communicating with and providing information to members. When email and the web first arrived, these were quickly embraced to make it easier, faster and cheaper to accomplish this. And as a result, members now had better access to association information. Technology as a tool to improve upon these existing programs. Today that digital channel is now bi-directional and media rich; it is as much about the conversation and interactions around content as the content itself. It enables the organization to have a level of relationship with large portions of its members than was ever possible before. It has become so much more than a delivery channel for communications and content. Now referred to as engagement, it represents the use of Technology as Strategy to advance organization mission and goals.