Association Executive Services recently distributed a survey to Australian associations seeking information on the technology they are using, including the costs of this technology, the challenges they have encountered, and any solutions they have found. The survey also focused on how they are thinking about technology into the future, and which platforms or software they are prioritising.
We received over 100 responses to the survey, and Nick Koerbin was joined by Gillian Morgan and Vincent Pang to discuss the results in an online forum.
Gillian Morgan is from MorGo Online. She has been working with Association Executive Services for six months and is an expert on the many platforms and software options that can be used to great effect by associations.
Vincent Pang is the Director and Co-founder of IT Connection. He shared his views as a vendor of IT products and his expertise into
cyber-security in 2021 and beyond.
The survey results revealed that associations are relying more heavily on Cloud applications, which have many benefits in terms of providing a better service to members. However, as noted by Vincent, the risk of cyber criminals hacking into these systems is significant.
Cyber criminals continue to find new ways to steal financial assets from organisations of all sizes. In the last few years, a significant threat was posed by ransomware, in which a computer or device can be infected and files can be encrypted without the owners knowledge. Today, cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated. They are finding new weaknesses in the technology of associations and other organisations. A new common approach is to hack into systems and steal confidential data, which can then be sold.
Additionally, the rise of platforms that require passwords presents a risk in the re-use of passwords by users. Re-used passwords allow hackers to breach more systems. This threat can be mitigated by the use of multi-factor authentication systems.
Cyber criminals also use email systems to intercept payments and divert funds to their own accounts. Employees can be tricked into making payments into the wrong accounts by receiving falsified emails claiming to be from managers and others in the association.
Gillian suggests that associations check the security levels of software providers and vendors to ensure that they can protect databases. Providers can have systems in place to alert them of a hacking attack and protect data quickly, before the association is made aware of an issue.
Both Vincent and Gillian stressed the important of education awareness programs within the association, so employees and volunteers are made aware of risks and become responsible in their use of platforms, software and data.
As noted by Gillian, associations have recognised the importance of IT in recent years. Technology needs to be included as part of the strategic plan and budgeted for accordingly. Technology budgets can be used to train new people in a system, to implement a new system, and to purchase software.
Long term planning is important to prepare and to future-proof operations moving into the next few years. Associations need to be considering the ways that they want technology to benefit their members, improve operations, and increase productivity.
As noted by Gillian, when it comes to databases and other types of software, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Many survey respondents commented on how they were not completely satisfied with their technology offerings.
Associations need to decide on the priority areas that they really care about working well and choose a platform based on these requirements. In other areas, there may be things that are not ideal. No provider is going to be able to deliver on everything.
It’s also important to note that specific requirements can add costs to the project. It’s vital to have reasonable expectations around the budget, requirements and capabilities of the platform or technology that an association is investing in.
There are countless numbers of providers and databases available. Gillian suggests working with a provider that has a base in Australia. This is because a local base ensures that data laws and rules are going to be applicable to Australia. Companies that run gateways through other countries can pose problems for security, especially when associations are dealing with personal or very sensitive information. Additionally, providers based overseas may offer platforms that do not meet Australian government legislation standards.
Many associations noted the need for systems to seamlessly integrated with each other. However, as noted by Gillian, some integrations that are designed to cut down on manual work can actually increase work for some segments of operations. She notes that associations need to ask questions of providers and check what outcomes are guaranteed, and how these will be beneficial to the association and the employees or volunteers.
Both Gillian and Vincent agreed that this kind of survey presents a lot of value to associations. They said it was pleasing to see that
associations are adopting new technology to better service their members, and to see the higher budgets being given to IT. It’s also
important that associations are aware of risks around cyber security and have mitigation strategies in place.
The AES survey is independent and not affiliated with any specific company, making it a transparent insight into the views of Australians associations today.
With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.
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