Jack McGrath: Hi, welcome to another in our series Ask the Experts. My name is Jack McGrath. And today I’m going to be talking with Adrienne Bryant, who is the success architect for the Association of Florida Colleges. Welcome Adrienne.

Adrienne Bryant: Thank you.

McGrath: Quick question first, the Florida Society of Association Executives launched a certificate program for professionals working in the association space. I know you were one of the content contributors for the curricula related to technology and data management. Now, how vital a role do you believe technology will play in associations in the years to come?

Bryant: It’s going to play an extremely vital role. You’re looking at there’s a lot of game changers out there as far as AMS. People flipping the script on that. You’ve got Teri Carden with ReviewMyAMS out there asking for reviews from industry leaders on, you know, what their AMS is doing. And we’re going to be challenging the AMS companies to really take a good look at what they’re doing and they can provide to us as associations. One of the things that I talked about in the technology module is understanding the different parts of choosing an AMS, choosing an LMS, and what you need to understand. And so, that’s going to be very important. You don’t have to be an IT professional but you need to understand the basics of, you know, how do you select, what do you need to do, you forming a team, doing your due diligence, doing your research.

McGrath: Wow, that’s really good stuff to know. And we see data playing a huge role in associations, I’m sure you do too. How do you think associations can better utilize data to its full potential?

Bryant: First thing, and one of the things that I preach and that I’ll be talking about in my session on Tuesday, is cleaning up your data. I mean, and just going through and doing a good scrubbing and deciding what’s clean for your organization and then taking that data and figuring out, “Okay, this is what we have. What do we need?” Aligning that with your strategic plan and saying, “Okay, well we’re looking for this.” One of the great examples I have is when I talk to my executive directors and ask them the hard questions of, “Okay, this is what we have, this is what we’re doing. Now what are the next steps? What would you want me to do next?” And there’s like, “Okay, well let’s look at gender and race.” And I’m like, “Okay, well we don’t collect those items.” Big eye opener. So, asking the questions to find out what’s on their mind and what’s the vision, and then realizing are you collecting that or are you not collecting that and then start collecting and figuring out how you’re going to do that and then use that information to help you to profile your ideal member, to drive engagement, and even to gain that competitive advantage.

McGrath: Right, it sounds again like planning is big, big, big. Very important. In your tenure as the membership information and database management manager at the Association of Florida Colleges I’d imagine you’ve seen a lot of changes take place within academia, I know we share that, together.

Bryant: Yup.

McGrath: How has technology really changed the way we learn, as compared to maybe ten years ago? A million years ago?

Bryant: Ten years ago? Let’s go even seventeen years ago. I was thinking about this and I remember in 1997 taking my first online course. It was, actually it was tax. I was learning how to do IRS, doing income tax via an online course at a community college, of all places, and just thinking, “Wow, this is really weird” and “I miss that contact of being in and being able to engage with other people and hear them ask questions.” And it was just really weird, coming from my generation at any rate. And now that’s all it is. I mean, you can take courses online, anywhere, anytime. One of our members actually did a session at our last annual convention on mLearning, learning from your mobile phone. I mean, seventeen, ten years [ago] who would have thought that you could do that? So, I think that associations can take a lesson from what the colleges are doing, what you’re seeing online with things like the Khan Academy and Coursera and using that in their association and staying ahead of the curve of what’s coming, because this is what it is. This is where we’re going. This is what we’re doing. This is what our members want, to have that on access anytime, anywhere.

McGrath: Yeah, I think it’s a great point about being able to learn from what academia has had to go through and I think associations are in a great place to be able to leverage that and move forward. That’s excellent. Also, what do you think associations can learn from colleges, other than that, related to technology-enabled learning?

Bryant: Good question. Again, they are really- colleges are really becoming, be on the forefront. I see a lot of business intelligence being used in how they track, and interact, and engage with students. And I think that coming, at least for me, coming from the corporate side and being in hospitality- I mean, this is what I did data analytics, and now analyzing, booking patterns in hotels and I think that associations really need to really understand and believe that they need, just like the colleges, they need to be on that track of thinking like a business and using that data and using what they’re finding to really get in touch with their members and what their members’ needs are.

McGrath: Great. Yeah, I think the takeaway really is data and planning for making sure you’re capturing the information you need. Adrienne, thanks so much and thank you all and please look for others in the series Ask the Experts.