Part 1 – What is Digital Transformation?

CRM for Associations Super Blog Series

Take Aways

  • Rather than waiting for digital transformation to be forced on you, it’s wise to be informed about market forces and how these impact your organisation.
  • Don’t be afraid of digital. It can provide huge opportunities and association members are hungry for the kinds of improvements it can bring.
  • Your CRM plays a crucial role in this process but read our new definition in order to get a clearer picture of where to begin so it truly benefits you.


Is there a bigger workplace buzz phrase than ‘digital transformation’ right now? From global corporates to government, public services to small businesses – everyone is under pressure to join the digital age.
‘Digital transformation’ is an umbrella term for modernising aspects of your business or association. This includes everything from having a website to becoming a paperless organisation, managing every part of your workday via digital channels.
There is such an array of things to do to digitally transform, planning your transformation can be a daunting task.

That’s why we’ve created this series.

We’re going to take you step by step through how to digitally transform your business or association thanks to CRMs.
First up, we’re going to run through some background about why ‘digital transformation’ is so important. Then, in our next article we’ll start to break the process of transformation down into bite size chunks.

The pressure to transform

Let’s start with the second part of the buzz phrase: transformation. This has been, and always will be, part of running any kind of organisation.
Transformation is happening all the time.

A simple definition of this term is ‘a change to the foundational components of an organisation that will touch all aspects of that organisation.’

Why do we need to transform?

The three key drivers in organisational transformation are:

  • Consumer demand
  • Changing technology
  • Changing competition

Staying relevant across each of these areas is what pushes organisations forward. It’s a case of: change or get left behind.
There is a distinction to be made between evolution and transformation. Smart businesses try to stay on top of changing market forces by evolving with the times. However it is difficult to keep pace – especially in times like these when there is so much change on so many different fronts. This is when transformation becomes essential. And in many cases, it may be forced on organisations that have kept their head in the sand too long.
If it feels like change is bearing down on you and you’re not fully in control, it’s worth spending some time getting up to speed with various organisational transformation models (such as Porter’s 5 Forces, The McKinsey 7S Framework and the Boston Matrix). This will enable you to better understand market forces and how they play into the particulars of your situation.
To draw from Porter, the key forces identified in that model are: industry rivalry at the centre, surrounded by the power of the buyer, the power of the supplier, the potential of substitutes and the potential of new entrants.
For Associations, the force to consider is the power of buyers (or, in your case, members). Competition and new entrants to the space also play a role. So, it’s these aspects you need to think seriously about when considering the goals and priorities of your ‘digital transformation’.

Why Associations need to grasp digital opportunities

Onto the other part of the buzz term: digital.

Again, a brief definition:-
‘Digital’ can be defined as any technology that is connecting people and machines with each other and with information.

Note the prime place in that sentence of ‘people’. If you want to get a handle on digital transformation, the best way to do it is to always put people first. Who are the people your organisation is serving (external and internal)? What do they need? How do they want to connect with machines, each other and information?
Digital is a dominant market force right now and many Associations are falling behind. It’s mostly because they are uninformed and this leads to inaction. This can result in the ‘forced’ transformations mentioned above.
Associations are a really interesting case study for digital transformation because of the immense power that members wield. In our experience, members are getting increasingly demanding about:

  • Ease of use
  • Access to information
  • Improvements to technology

Some associations have been slow to keep up with member demand and this is detrimental. It risks people leaking away to other associations that are already driving forward with digital experiences.

Seize the ten ways digital can improve your offering

When we are looking at digital transformations within associations and in particular, their CRMs, we note these top ten improvements that come up again and again:

  • Improved member experience
  • Improved service innovation
  • Improved marketing channels
  • Benefits of digital fulfilment (for example: e-books, e-learning)
  • Ability to optimise risk
  • Ability to enhance controls
  • Improved decision making
  • Improved connectivity with stakeholders
  • Streamlining via automation
  • Getting ahead via innovation

Why we’re redefining CRM

These days we don’t find the businesses and associations we work with resist the idea of a CRM. Every organisation knows they need one. The problem is deciding which one to choose. And it’s a significant problem because there is so much choice and not always a lot of detailed information about what is useful.
A step we’ve taken to help organisations start their research, evaluation and implementation process, is to redefine the term: CRM. Traditionally the acronym stands for Customer Relationship Management. But the truth is, a good CRM is not just about customers.

So, our third definition for this article is this:
It’s much more useful to think of CRM as a Centralised Relationship Management system.

This gives a visual of what a CRM does. It’s a way to bring your whole business together. It’s how you get 360 visibility of your stakeholders and member base. It’s how you can see where you are and where you want to head.

We’ll leave you with a short example of how this new way of defining CRMs can be truly transformational for associations.

One of our key team members worked on a huge project some years ago for Football Australia (then Soccer Australia). The organisation knew it had to leverage digital trends in order to stay relevant and provide better technology for players, fans and other stakeholders. Absolutely key to that transformation was a new CRM.
Why? Because a CRM isn’t just about managing customers. It’s about helping people connect with what’s important to them and with what’s essential for them to engage with their work. In this instance, a CRM transformed how player information was entered and shared, the registration process for members, what kind of information they could access – all of which created a dynamic and member-focussed culture that has kept evolving to this day.

Our next article in this series is Identifying CRM Essentials..

Ready to transform now and want help scoping out what you need from a CRM?

Realising a trusted partner will help you digitally transform that much faster?
Talk to us today.

Other articles you may like…

Are you ready to take your association into the future?

I'm ready to talk

I want to see CAMS in action

Share This