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Are Your Legacy Systems Holding You Back?

by MYB, on December 18, 2019


It’s practically a cliché that the success of any organization depends on communication. What’s less appreciated is that communication is just as important for technology as it is with people.

As we’ve discussed earlier at this blog, data consolidation is a critical part of improving your membership and meeting attendance. Working with multiple databases, you can assemble a clearer picture of what’s working for members, attendees, and customers, and what’s not. But that understanding only happens if you’re not held back by your technology.

Earlier this year, the AMS firm Advanced Solutions International issued a report stating that one of the biggest challenges associations face are legacy systems that don’t integrate well with newer ones. All of these databases become silos of information that are not designed to work together,” the authors wrote “This causes ongoing complexity, which leads to more problems. Supporting different technologies and complex integrations becomes a stumbling block to upgrades.”

And, of course, it can be expensive to create short-term kludges to fix immediate problems. JP Guilbault, President and CEO of Community Brands, points out that the average association spends more than $74,000 annually on software, “a significant expense for tools that create a siloed approach to running an organization and roadblocks efficiency.”

The solution? It’s time to get strategic about what kinds of data you’re gathering, where you’re keeping it, and what your ultimate goals are for it. ASI recommends a system that brings your data under one silo, but also a mindset that emphasizes regular upgrades. That may force a conversation about sizable up-front expenses for a more robust system. But in the long run, it may be a more affordable option than long tech-support conversations and imperfect patches.

And think about the costs of not upgrading. One 2018 Harvard Business School Analytic Services report found that outdated technology makes it harder to hire and retain top talent. “Among those with low connectivity, 72 percent strongly agree that having outdated technology is making it harder to retain employees with high-value skills and experience, versus only 33 percent of those with high connectivity,” the report said.

Beyond the drain of talent in your office, there’s also the alarming loss of opportunity to serve your association’s stakeholders that comes with clinging to legacy systems. You lose the ability to better personalize experiences for members and attendees. You lose the ability to better understand where growth opportunities and trouble spots are. You lose the ability to develop KPIs that can help your association better meet your mission.

Tech is not something that’s going to happen on its own,” Matrix Group International’s CTO Maki Kato recently said about the “technical debt” that associations often find themselves in thanks to their legacy systems. With closer attention to how technology connects to your mission, you can create processes that provide the best possible experiences for the people your association serves.