Digital Automation In Associations: Why It’s Hard To See The Lowest Hanging Fruit

Science fiction has been preparing us for robots for years, and robots, no longer bolted to the factory floor, are now truly among us. However, science fiction didn’t clearly imagine the online world that shadows today’s physical world. We had vague notions of HAL-9000 supercomputers, but nothing like IoT wearables performing thousands of simple actions, all strung together in a great global database called the “world-wide-web.”

As a result, ready or not, we all have a conception of physical automation, because the “Robbie the Robot” meme has been patrolling our collective subconscious for decades. But we’re less prepared for the digital automation that is streamlining our virtual workflows. That makes visualizing how digital automation is improving our jobs, our homes and our lives a little bit more abstract. We can’t as easily grasp it like the outstretched claws of the virtual agents’ more tangible robotic cousins.

This abstraction is unfortunate because digital automation is easier and cheaper than physical automation. For a fraction of the cost of a robot, online scripts can streamline all kinds of processes, freeing up time, resources and payroll for the harder stuff that only humans can do. Think about how many manual processes are completed at your association. Any time a message must be repeated or a form must be completed is an opportunity for automation. From a productivity standpoint, the lowest hanging fruit is more easily reached, but, somehow, it’s harder to see.


Fortunately, that’s not stopping some forward-thinking associations from reaching out anyway. Scott Douglas, senior director of membership and business development at the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recently automated their membership feedback using PropFuel so that their members no longer have to answer (or ignore) long, cumbersome surveys, and NSCA no longer has to “pull teeth” to get them completed.

Instead, NSCA just sends an occasional check-in email with a single, easily answered question. Sure, the answers to one question don’t mean a lot by themselves, any more than a single tweet, but—just like with a social platform—the PropFuel database on the backend organizes all the disparate answers into actionable information, much faster than humans ever could perform what used to be a largely thankless task.

Meanwhile, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)’s CMO Robb Lee has seen his newsletter engagement skyrocket since implementing, which uses artificial intelligence to create individualized newsletters — not just segmented, put personalized to each subscriber with no more interest checkboxes to complete.

Next, ASAE has started to personalize its website content with the Sitecore® Experience Platform and improve online member service with Relationship Martech’s chat engine that will provide new resources through a new channel.

Digital automation never forgets a thing and never misses a beat. It’s freeing up valuable resources across associations and across the Internet by tying disparate bits of information together and streamlining processes, all without menacing robot arms.