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Feb 01, 2022 BY Nate Brown Marketing, Web Development

The Power of Integration: Creating a Technological Ecosystem

Note: This is a guest post from Naylor.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we have accelerated beyond online communication platforms being a mere convenience. They have become a necessity, more than ever before, for conducting day-to-day business. For many organizations that have implemented and managed their own technological ecosystem, it has afforded them greater engagement and higher revenue. For others, even just the idea of a technological ecosystem can seem like an overwhelming, disjointed, and frustrating endeavor. But, there’s hope for those left behind in this digital revolution.

So what exactly is a “technological ecosystem?”

A technological ecosystem is an interdependent and interconnected network of multiple digital entities that communicate with one another. That’s a mouthful of techno-jargon, but for you, it simply means that it’s everything that you have for your organization related to technology connected together to form a larger, all-encompassing system. Every organization is different, but it could be a conglomeration of all or some of the following:

  • Membership, donor, or constituent database

  • Website

  • Email communications (like Mailchimp or Hubspot)

  • Event registration

  • Online job boards

  • Online learning or certification

By using integrations to connect these separate software services into a single ecosystem, the user experience is streamlined and reporting is consolidated for your staff. To illustrate, let’s see what it looks like to not use integrations to connect your technology.

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Without a digital ecosystem in place, you have one of two options.

Either:

You have everything under one software umbrella. This usually means you have all-in-one software like a constituent relationship management (CRM) system, an association management system (AMS), or a donor database. The terminology is different across industries but the basic functions are the same: they often house your constituent database, website, email, event registration tool, and more. However, in this case, you’re limited to whatever your chosen software has. For example, if you have an AMS that has all the functionality you’re looking for in most areas, but you don’t like the way the events module works, you’re out of luck. If you want to get rid of the events module, you’d have to get rid of the whole AMS system, too.

Or:

You have multiple systems. On the other end of the spectrum, this means you are running multiple platforms to run your digital operation. In this case, without integrations in place to connect the platforms, your communications and user experience are disjointed. For example, from a user’s perspective, if they want to sign up for an event, they have to remember their login for the event software, which may be separate from their membership login or job board login. With no integration between them, the valuable user data in each system is completely separate, making a simple task like updating an email address utterly cumbersome for your users. Then, for you, there are multiple places from which you have to pull reports.

On one hand, you’re stuck with having the all-in-one system that you can’t customize at all and you take it as-is, and on the other hand, you can highly customize everything with best-in-class tools but it is also a lot of clerical work on the staff side.

Without the integration of a technological ecosystem, your organization is, essentially, stuck with two bad choices.

Simplify with powerful integration

Integrations are what bridge the gap — they provide the best of both worlds. By allowing data to pass from one software system to another, integrations act as a powerful tool that simplifies communication and interactions between you and your users. And, it all starts with your constituent database because that is your centerpiece for beginning the integration transformation.

The way to have a successful ecosystem is by connecting other software with that database, which is typically your CRM, AMS, or donor database. An example could be making sure your AMS and job board have a single-sign-on (SSO) so that a user can log in once and be recognized as a current user in each. It could include taking credits that are earned in your online Learning Management System and making them automatically viewable on a user’s profile on the website. There are many forms integrations can take, but the idea is always the same – have a single, connected source for your user data that can then extend out to any software platforms you utilize.

This thereby creates a system in which you only have one login and one dashboard. Your staff can see everything about all of your users all in one place. Users, likewise, only have to go to one website to get everything they need to know related to your organization.

Make it as easy as possible for your users

Making sure your user experience is positive is crucial. Most people’s experience with your organization is now virtual and through a website. Your users’ online experience with your organization comprises most of their interaction with you. If they don’t have a positive online experience, it can adversely affect your relationship, no matter how good your staff is or how much experience you have. Taking care of your users with an integrated approach, especially in the pandemic age, as they are trying to figure out where their dollars are going and deciding if they want to continue to support you, is paramount to your organization’s future success.

Enable your users to be able to do all the things you want them to do, so they can enjoy interactions with your organization.

How do I get started?

Often, and usually out of convenience, organizations tend to create multiple communications platforms but don’t understand that they need to be connected. That’s where integrating and creating an ecosystem can help. There are two crucial steps that you need to take to integrate a technological ecosystem.

  1. Make sure your user data is correct, first and foremost. This is your source of truth for all your data. Figure out whether you’d like that to reside in a small database or Excel sheet, or something more powerful like a CRM; this is where your digital ecosystem will start. Your database is your gateway to your users – if one data point is incorrect, it can disrupt the rest of the processes.

  2. Make sure you examine every component of your future communications. Do you need a newsletter? Do you need a job board? Are your existing tools helping you service your users more effectively, or would you benefit from the use of specialized industry software tools? From here, you tie everything back into your database.

The process of integrating all of your software can be daunting. If you realize that all of this is important and you are overwhelmed or not sure what to do, then you need to talk to someone who can help like our friends at Naylor.

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Bio

Nate Brown is the director of business development for membership management solutions at Naylor Association Solutions with more than eight years of experience helping associations find the right AMS for their needs.


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