Sunday, November 3, 2013

Associations: How CEOs are clueless about technology

Using the HealthCare.gov fiasco as a starting point, Michael Wolff posted a great column in USA Today the other day ... How CEOs are nearly illiterate about technology.The piece offers great insight for associations and nonprofit organizations.


Here are some key points:

  • Then he tried to draw a distinction puzzling to anyone who has ever performed an online transaction: He said the product — these health exchanges that few could get access to — was good; it was the process that was problematic. He seemed genuinely to have no idea that for most Americans steeped in digital behavior, the product is the process. (His distinction is like an airline saying planes are remarkable feats of engineering, so pay no attention to the fact that you might be delayed for hours on the tarmac.)
  • But then again, he is likely not more boobish than most other chief executives and senior managers on this side of the digital divide:
  • An older establishment that still regards technology as a back-office function, or infrastructure issue, or buyable skill set, vs. an emerging native digital establishment that sees technology as an end in itself, serving a customer base with ever-higher technology expectations and standards.
  • At the same time, there are few CEOs who can get their heads around the notion that their main, value-added and distinguishing products are not the cars they manufacture, or credit they supply, or hotel rooms they offer, or merchandise they stock, but the process by which consumers interact with what is being sold.
  • (It is certainly a pertinent question: If the government can't run an e-commerce website, how in the world can it process all the data that they are supposedly sweeping up to spy on outlaws and citizens?)
  • Alas, Wal-Mart can't understand that the job is less about becoming better at what you do then being what you aren't.
  • It is something of an impossible, or tragic, or existential predicament, coming to grips with your own obsolescence: Technological astuteness or intuition or cool is less a skill set than a culture or language or temperament — it is also, more and more, a market expectation.
  • The more out of it you are, like the president, the more out of it your product is.
For associations, the question becomes ensuring that the positive experiences members have with online services (such as Amazon) influences their expectations of our web services. 

And, as Wolff notes, to our members (customers), their online experience with us strongly influences their opinion of our associations.

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