We established in a previous blog, What is membership?, that a membership organisation’s primary objective is to serve the interests of its nominated community. So in this blog we look more closely at what types of systems are used achieve this goal.

The three interlocking cogs of any membership organisation are 1) people, 2) knowledge and 3) systems. Whilst this trio is nothing new since it is often used to describe various businesses, it serves as a useful platform to understand our goal.

Systems are generally in place to support the two remaining cogs. Hence if you pick a particular system it is generally used in conjunction with either a) a people aspect of an organisation e.g. a payroll system, or b) to manage an aspect of knowledge, e.g. a business process workflow tool.

Listed below are 6 core function areas typical of any membership organisation:

Function Cog Sample System
member records people CRM
direct communication people email
indirect communication knowledge website
financial records knowledge ERP
document management knowledge SharePoint
employee records people payroll

There are, of course, many other types of system or technology employed by organisations to run their business. However, this list covers 80% of the fundamentals. Without any one of these pillars the membership organisation is going to struggle in its objective of serving its nominated community.

In reality, these systems do exist – even if it’s in a manual form. However the responsibility of the membership organisation is to continually review its use of systems to ensure it is serving the interests of its nominated community.

Four main factors influence the renewal of systems:

a) Member expectations. We live in an increasingly interconnected, high demand world. The use of technology is all around us and it fuels our expectations about what we can and should be able to gain from organisations.

b) Technology improvements. Since technology is a constantly and rapidly changing phenomena there is a need for the membership organisation to constantly monitor, review and upgrade their systems. Systems have increased in sophistication, so that nowadays it is expected that a system will share data and integrate with other systems in the organisation.

c) Internal factors, such as growth or efficiency. Membership ranks may swell or the organisation may expand. Systems that may have been sufficient five years previously may no longer meet the organisation’s needs.

d) External factors. Many membership organisations exist to support its members in the face of regulation or compliance dictated by government or industry. Either way, changes to the external bodies may necessitate a system renewal within the membership organisation.

Whatever the factor may be, one thing is certain. To serve the interests of their nominated community, membership organisations need to put in place and review the use of various systems and stay ahead of the curve.

Blog written by Chris Pennington, Consultant to PA. The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Professional Advantage Pty Ltd.

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