Association and professional society leadership understand and experience the value outsourcing delivers.Organizations turn to outsourcing for a variety of reasons, which may be driven by cost, the need for expertise or time constraints. We’re seeing some trends in terms of what organizations are outsourcing and how organization leaders select their outsourcing partner.
The What, Why and How of Outsourcing
While we continue to see organizations outsource for legal and financial services, PR and marketing, board development and other “bread and butter” areas, we’re also seeing some new trends in the type of services organizations seek. It’s clear that the “noise” of our digital world – and the increasing demands on an individual’s time — are helping to drive these trends. For example, we’re approaching the point where organization leaders want to know more than when an email was sent, who clicked on what – and for how long. Association leaders want to know specifically when a recipient opened an email, where s/he clicked, what other actions s/he took and the cost the association incurred. Technology, digitization and Big Data are making it possible to generate and monitor highly customizable communications. Association leaders, meet Data Analytics. Call it integrated marketing 2.0, because these days, automated marketing is (the would be) king.
In addition to communications and marketing, increasingly, association leaders seek agile, short-term business modeling instead of a multi-year strategic planning process. With Bostrom’s agile association management approach™, we’re helping associations and professional societies anticipate and respond to member needs in this fast-paced world. Regardless of what an organization outsources, there are multiple benefits, with these three benefits ranking high on the list:
1. Reduced Cost: Some functions are labor- or capital-intensive (or both) and outsourcing can provide economies of scale. Be sure to factor in the total costs of outsourcing in your analysis. For example, there are costs to keep a project in-house (rent, benefits, opportunity costs, direct labor and capital costs) as well as outsource it (will a staff person be assigned to manage the outsourced work? Is there travel involved in managing that work?)
2. Expertise: You may need specialized services in any number of areas such as automated marketing, financial management, legal, digital media, etc.
3. Time: Perhaps you have an event every three years that you outsource because that’s more economical than hiring staff. Or maybe you have a staff member on leave for six months and you need to tap into the knowledge of an experienced association executive. Organizations also look to outsourcing when they need to re-fresh a program or service to identify a new direction or approach.
If the Culture and Approach Fits…
How organizations outsource varies according to the specific needs of the organization as well as its size and resources. The most extensive form of outsourcing is “all but the CEO,” which involves contracting for all services except for that of a CEO and Board. While the leadership may determine the strategic vision and oversight, an association management company manages the day-today work.
Whether your outsourcing is driven by cost, a particular project (a website re-design, branding, publications or an event) or an ongoing service (IT support, legal counsel, accounting or marketing) association leaders tap into the expertise that only a full-service association management firm can provide.
And another trend we’re seeing is greater attention to the type of outsourcing partner that would provide those services. Increasingly, organizations are assessing the culture and fit of their outsourcing partner, in addition to capabilities – to find a great match. While some associations are in the midst of 2017 strategic planning, others may have yet to start and perhaps others have cycled through the process. Regardless of where you are in the planning process, consider this three-point checklist when considering working with an AMC:
1. While this might be obvious, understand the reason why your organization seeks an AMC. Does your leadership need to focus on its mission – and leave the day-to-day operations to a trusted partner? Or is there a project or campaign that your organization seeks to pursue, but doesn’t have the capabilities (or the budget) to hire full-time staff?
2. Beyond capabilities in specific services or industries, what are the important intangibles you seek from
a partner? For example, is there a good “culture” fit? Does the potential partner have the agility – in approach and execution – to respond to – and more importantly anticipate — your needs? Does it have the ease to scale up – or down – based on a new strategic priority or changing marketplace/membership needs?
3. Are your organizations a good cultural “fit” in terms of teamwork, accountability and service? Do your teams complement and align? And if not, how will you achieve alignment?
The benefits of working with an AMC partner are clear: help your organization achieve greater focus, improve its financials, grow membership and help your association remain relevant and continue to attract (and retain) members. For information on how the Bostrom team can help your organization meet its goals with agile association management, contact Jeanne Sheehy at jsheehy@ bostrom.com or visit www.bostrom.com to read what clients say about our work.