The Future of Membership in a World Driven by Technology

Membership is about people; people sharing ideas to improve their personal and professional lives, opining on the latest issues, building personal and company brands, and yes, utilizing technology.

My goal here is to listen to the "world" on where membership fits in these fast changing times, and deliver the services needed to get people to "buy" into membership organizations.

Membership is deeper than community. Membership is more personal and takes more effort. It is built on trust.

Stop by often and find out what's happening in the world of Membership... Thank you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some People Just Get IT!

I love to learn, and my favorite way of learning is to share ideas and information with like minded individuals. Today I learned a boat load of great information and knowledge from a social media master, Chris Dancy of ServiceSphere. He is a humble man and will tell you he is learning all the time as well, but when you compare where he is in the social media space, he is light years ahead of many; especially me!! I wanted to thank him for his time and eye opening discussion around the many perspectives and current uses of social media. If you don’t know him you will find him in the twittershere under the ServiceShere moniker.

I have also been reviewing the nearly 200 applications for the Strategic Advisory Board for our Software Testing Professional (STP) Collaborative. I am always honored but never surprised by the willingness of people to get involved in their profession. There will only be a handful of people that will be chosen due to the logistics of managing such a group, but I will find a way to harness the passion of the people that want to offer their time to help others in the software testing community.

The beauty of membership is it is about people. And people are what it is all about. Today was a really good day in my world of people.

Thank you Chris and thanks to the 200 applicants that have offered their knowledge to help the STP community!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Introduction to the STP Collaborative...

Dear IT Software Professional:

I consider it an honor and privilege to serve the membership organization for STP Collaborative as your new membership director. It is an exciting and challenging endeavor for me to join this new organization after spending the last seven years building and managing a very “mature” membership organization focused on help desk and IT service and support professionals. When I joined that organization, we were determined to lead the industry to a more respected position within IT, and I believe with the help of the membership, we did that with great success.

Membership organizations thrive on participation from professionals that believe they can make a difference in the future of an industry. The most rewarding part of working within a membership organization is working with professionals who want to make a difference. Through traditional and online communications and new social channels, live local events and industry conferences, we have the opportunity to have a positive impact and influence on our industry. Many great ideas have changed entire industries, and often are the result of small groups of individuals working together and sharing common practices.

It is this idea of individual collaboration, working together to improve organizational and personal efficiency, and the willingness to share, that I hope to foster here. Content is everywhere, but the implementation, validation, and continuous improvements through the collaboration of people, is the key differentiator in a membership organization.

With the advent of social media platforms that enable people to work together virtually, many have questioned the viability of membership organizations as a whole. I believe that there has never been a greater need for human collaboration than we face today. Technology provides a great introduction to common interests, and allows us to extend that all-important experience of looking someone in the eye, shaking hands, and building a relationship.

Technology will be a key approach of this membership model, but it will be driven by advisory boards made up of human beings. As membership director, I plan to focus on managing a strong strategic advisory board and conference planning board. This year we will also introduce a new executive roundtable level of membership that will bring professionals together at forum meetings, including admission to our annual conference, STPCon. We are working to enhance our partnership with other organizations to support a local roundtable series throughout the country so that professionals in common geographic areas can learn and network together. We’ve introduced a robust professional development offering consisting of quarterly public training events, and plan on increasing our webinar offerings, and will be looking to practitioners to host and highlight the great things they are achieving in their organizations through case study style presentations and articles in the STP magazine.

Software applications are produced by developers based on the business requirements, and include testing and quality professionals, business analysts, project managers, and ultimately result in a product or service that supports the overall business objective. It is a complex maze of individuals, communicating and working together, and is most effective when the team has a common vision and goal. It is an international effort at many organizations, including many teams of professionals working together virtually. If we think about how difficult it is to work with someone two cubicles down, we start to appreciate the issues when we are separated from team member’s two time zones away.

It is our vision and goal to get the members of software teams to effectively communicate and collaborate to improve the reputation of all of the IT units responsible for business success.

We invite you to join us and share your ideas and goals for STP Collaborative. Ultimately you will be the testers of our success. We will do our best to deliver valuable news and information, education and training, and opportunities for professional networking and knowledge sharing to serve this community.

We are here to help you achieve the recognition you deserve by delivering your IT software and applications with the highest possible level of quality, on time and within budget.

Let the journey begin…

Rich Hand
Director of Membership

Friday, January 8, 2010

People are the new IT…

I was in a very engaging conversation with one of my favorite people, a social media guru, ITSM expert, and overall great guy, Chris Dancy, and he made the statement, “people are the new IT” and followed up with “Membership is the new CMDB.” Now I admit we were both drinking (only kidding) when we went off discussing this “revelation” but as I thought more about it, this is a concept worth vetting (It’s Friday after all).

Years ago man controlled machine, and the promise of new technology was a more leisurely world for man at the expense of technology. But if we look at the world today, technology is running the world, and man is being run by technology. Technology is rampant, and it offers endless, new, and different opportunities to do business, connect with people, pay your bills, watch your movies, get your news, and it seems that there is very little we do in life that doesn’t involve technology. It can seem overwhelming, and it is. It seems we are constantly being distracted and driven by technology.

So how does this relate to membership? Membership is the new CMDB. For those of you that are not in technology, CMDB is the acronym for Configuration Management Data Base. It is a way for technology professionals to manage all of the technology in their organization. It is the “connective tissue” that provides the infrastructure needed for technology to work. Your PC is connected to a router, which connects to a server, which hosts the software you need to interface with your database, which connects to the web, which allows your customers to connect to your website and buy your product or service. In a nutshell it is every technology component needed to produce the outcome you or your business is engaged in and important for you to “succeed.”

Membership organizations have become the people CMDB that bring together the service management professional, software tester, developer, knitter, or any other group of people that have a common purpose, into connected “components.” The “components” that make up a successful software tester for example is; access to content that is relevant and validated, trainers that provide relevant training on skills needed to be a successful tester, conferences that provide sessions and speakers, and meetings that bring people together in local groups to discuss important topics to the testers. Membership provides and connects the “components” (people) with the technology, training, and people they need to be successful in their profession.

As I argued in a previous post, membership is where the cutting edge professionals gather to move an industry forward. Membership is disruptive to an industry and is where cutting edge ideas are developed, vetted, and implemented throughout the organizations of the membership. It is where all of the components of a successful industry are “housed.” Just like a CMDB, except today configuration items (CI’s) are people in one place working to provide a service by connecting people, ideas, and excellence.

A bit of a stretch? Maybe but I had an entire 6 pack to get through (just kidding)…

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Role of Membership in a Disruptive World…

“Disruptive” is a term we use often in the social media world and simply means; outside the current wisdom and norms. It seems to me that membership can be as “disruptive” as any technology or new platform similar to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc…

Membership organizations disrupt current norms because when people gather around a common interest things change. People drive norms, and technology supports people’s ability to change process and business practices that over time become the norms. Technology is the platform that enables disruptive behavior but we don’t want to disrupt just to disrupt. The things that should be disrupted are things that need to be changed. For example, customer service practices for service organizations.

Customer service needed to be disrupted because too many organizations were hunkered down in their barracks insulated from customers through phone trees that frustrated people off the phone, self service technology that placed the burden back on the customer, and large marketing budgets that flooded the market with one sided messages designed to replace reality with perception. Companies that had embraced the practices of keeping customer complaints at bay have now had to deal with the disruption that social media enables. In my opinion this is an example of positive disruption.

So let me try to bring this back to the traditional “membership model.” Membership organizations if they are doing it right, are simply trying to drive industry disruption by bringing together the “players” (members) that are the leaders in an industry. Most people that join membership organizations have leadership qualities and are tuned into what is important and relevant in a particular industry. They decide together what is needed in an industry and go about trying to make the changes needed to improve that industry.

It seems on first glance that a practice with such traditional roots could be so cutting edge, but membership is where cutting edge ideas gain credibility and validation. Great ideas and intentions are all over the web today in many different places including LinkedIn groups, Face Book groups, Google Groups, Yahoo Groups, Fan Pages, and advanced through Tweets, but are these ideas making a difference? I would argue absolutely! But imagine if all of the people in an industry came together through membership in one organization willing to promote, fine tune, and through a collaborative effort validate those ideas, what an impact that would have on an industry! That is what membership does when done right.

Talk about being disruptive…