Digital Transformation Series, Part Two

Reading your monthly membership report can be like getting a bad diagnosis—over and over again.  The meeting registration is no bowl of cherries either. But there is a bright spot. The board has agreed that it’s time for action. That tired, old AMS that’s been limping through its paces is going to be replaced with some sleek new systems. A digital transformation is on the horizon. What can you do to prepare for a transition that will get those dismal numbers moving back in the right direction?

Digital transformation is a business term that has become ubiquitous, and consequently more complicated to define. In my last post, I emphasized the idea that the human side of this process is as important, if not more so, than the technology. Digital transformation isn’t using fancy systems to complete your task list a little more quickly. It involves harnessing computing power to solve problems and to deliver new and more meaningful member experiences.

HFMA’s goal was to become the Netflix of associations.

Garth Jordan’s presentation on the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s transformation at .orgCommunity’s 2019 Innovation Summit is a great example of what organizations strive to achieve. Jordan, who is senior vice president, corporate strategy, explained that HFMA began their journey with a goal of nothing less than to become the Netflix of associations. Like the entertainment giant, HFMA wanted to make it easy for members to access all the content they need for success, in the formats they enjoy, for a competitive price. They wanted to give their members effective tools to address the tough professional challenges the future may bring.

Embracing this consumer-centric approach requires shifts in attitude and behavior that will impact the entire organization. Job descriptions may be rewritten. Priorities may be shuffled. The culture will begin to look very different.

Assess Your Status

These changes are designed to purposely upend business as usual. The goal is to begin working differently. Although it sounds unsettling and a little chaotic, careful preparation ensures a smooth transition to a new and more innovative future. .orgSource has identified seven domains that are significant in the transformation process. By exploring strengths and gaps in these areas, you can evaluate your organization’s readiness for change.

  • Strategy—Is technology strategy integrated into your strategic plan? Do the board and staff understand and value the need to keep pace with digital change?
  • Decision-Making—Do you have the ability to make organizational and budgetary decisions in a timely manner using data as a guide?
  • Innovation/Trends—How up to date are you with technology trends? Are you able to deliver personalized messaging and content?
  • People/Skills/Culture—Does the work environment encourage change and collaboration? Are staff roles and responsibilities for digital initiatives clearly defined?
  • Processes/Operations—Do you have the project management and digital tools in place to support change? How integrated are your technology systems and platforms?
  • Technology Systems—Do you have systems that are functioning well for data management, education, marketing and communications? Are they integrated?
  • Metrics/Analytics—Is your data a reliable guide to understanding customers and driving business strategy? Do you have metrics to measure success and the ROI on digital investments?

This is an overview of the .orgSource Readiness Assessment. The instrument explores competence in detail across a wide range of activities. A clear picture of where you stand on this continuum forms the basis of the planning, timeline and budget that will provide a blueprint for moving forward. The goal is to align people, processes and systems in order to create a comprehensive digital strategy and to weave technology into the fabric of how business is conducted.

Communicate with Clarity

Share information across teams.

Digital transformation extends far beyond tools and cuts deeply into culture. That’s why communication is, arguably, the most important ingredient for success. To implement change this extensive every leader and employee must champion the process. A clear understanding of the big picture will ensure that digital transformation is welcomed as a solution rather than perceived as a disruption. The leadership team should be fluent in answering these questions and expanding on the related talking points:

  • What does digital transformation mean? Clarify myths and misconceptions and create an exciting vision that’s tailored to your organization’s culture and needs.
  • What will we accomplish by making these significant changes? Bring staff on board by helping them to see how their work can become more efficient and meaningful. Describe the opportunities for using talent more effectively. Engage the board by demonstrating how membership will be enhanced and products and services will be upgraded. Share planning documents broadly as they become available.
  • How will the process impact the staff and the members? Be transparent and honest about whether staffing changes are needed and how they will be managed. If restructuring will occur explain the logic and the benefits. Share the experiences of other organizations and discuss how new business models have benefited members and staff. Emphasize that innovation and improvement are the drivers.
  • Will new technology be introduced? Get the team excited about new systems and platforms that are on the horizon. Discuss how the various functions will integrate and how this will change business and operational systems and procedures. Share plans to ensure the safe and accurate conversion of data and to demonstrate thoughtful revisions of policies and procedures.
  • How will staff be prepared and trained for success? Review the timelines and options for training. If possible, show training demos and engage vendor representatives in facilitating those discussions.
  • What is the timeline? Ensure that everyone is aware of the timeline, milestones and benchmarks. Describe the system for reporting progress.
  • How will budgets and other resources be impacted? Explain any budgetary impacts on departments or individuals. Provide a clear rationale for the changes.

These questions should be addressed both at the macro level and in detail with department heads and their teams. Although the answers may evolve over time, it’s important to start off on the right foot by presenting this information with enthusiasm, clarity and honesty. Consider enlisting the help of communications professionals to craft a consistent message and develop effective and engaging strategies to keep the information flowing. A communication’s plan will help to eliminate employees’ fear or uncertainty about the future and ensure that all stakeholders feel included in this significant turning point in the association’s history.