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CIOs: Recalculate technology innovation strategy on a real-time basis

ASAE CIO Reggie Henry shares how he and his team will invest in technology innovation for improved business process management in 2014.

If CIOs are not continually recalculating their IT roadmap in 2014, chances are they're falling way behind the curve in helping their organizations benefit from technology innovation.

Reggie Henry Reggie Henry

That was one takeaway from the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) 2013 Technology Conference, where the overarching theme was how the not-for-profit's member trade associations can use innovative technology to upgrade archaic systems and improve their business processes.

Jenny Laurello, SearchCIO's senior community and outreach manager, had the chance to sit down with ASAE CIO Reggie Henry to delve into where he and his team will be using technology innovation in 2014 to help the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit ASAE. On his plate? Upgraded, best -of-breed back-end systems, a new iPad point-of-sale system and -- oh yes -- recalculating IT strategy as often as the business needs it.

What are your top focus areas in terms of IT development for 2014?

We continually asked ourselves, 'Why can't we do business where business needs to be done?' We found an answer in our mobile strategy and iPad app. The cloud and the business opportunities that it presents are huge.

Reggie Henry,

Reggie Henry: There are three main areas of focus for us in the coming year, with two really taking the top spots. The first is our Association Management Systems: These are just like or any ERP system, but specifically for associations. The model for these AMSes hasn't changed since the '80s, when the expectation was that the AMS did everything. Now, it's more of a best-of-breed approach. There are different systems for private social networking and communications management, for example.

On average, we've found that only half of the staff uses our AMS once every two weeks, with the other half not using it at all. So we had to figure out who the power users were, which was a marginally small group of people, and figure out what would help them the most. Most people are paying for systems that they really don't need. It's like a two-person family riding around in an eight-person bus.

Another priority is mobile: This is a huge area for us. My biggest fear is treating it as if it's just another thing. It's not. It's the thing. Making sure that people can do work wherever they are is so critical. A third emphasis is on managing technology: We used to manage every facet of technology individually. We had eight racks in our data center! By this time next year, our goal is to have no racks, with everything fitting under a desk. The movement to the cloud is a given.

That's a plateful. Anything else?

Henry: We are going to continually focus on identifying peoples' needs through business process analysis, as well as support the emergence of co-IT, or collaborative IT. This year, we developed an iPad-based point of sales (POS) application that can be used across all units of the business in many places: while at conferences, for our bookstore, for registration and membership purposes. And this will drive down our cost of sales significantly. At a typical conference, for audio/visual estimates, we used to be off by approximately 20% to 30%. Now, with our app, we are only off by an average of 2%, which is amazing.

We continually asked ourselves, "Why can't we do business where business needs to be done?" We found an answer to that question in our mobile strategy and iPad app. The cloud and the business opportunities that it presents are huge.

How often do you revisit your technology strategy, reexamine your goals and set new sights for the future?

Henry: We used to do a formal technology strategy review and forecast out three to five years to help achieve our mission. But we're not doing that anymore. Now, I revisit it as often as we need, updating each year or as much as is necessary. Technology is changing so fast, we have to keep up.

As far as budgeting goes, we have an investment fund specifically for what we call "game changers." This money does not get allocated to anything except what we consider to be investments in technology innovation that are critical to our business now, not later. We used this fund for the iPad PoS application.

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What are your top focus areas for IT development in 2014?