Agile and Associations

Agile and Associations

Many key differences exist between organizations which fall under the category of a “Non-Profit” or Association, and a For-Profit corporation.

Many of these Associations exist to unite a key group of members or employees in a specific industrial or government sector. For instance, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) unites Realtors across the nation. One of the main purposes of NAR is to encourage and advance education on Real Estate for both Association Members (Realtors) and non-members alike. Like many associations, NAR exists to further the cause of a specific industrial group, Realtors, and benefit home owners through educational pieces. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is another example of an association or non-profit, furthering the education and promoting Health IT.

With this in mind, it is not possible to approach an association the same way to approaching a For-Profit corporation. They possess an absolutely different business model and often times contain a very different culture from corporations. If consulting with a Non-Profit or Association and implementing agile methodologies, it is important to take the following into consideration:

  1. Meet the IT Department: Many Associations use Information Technology (IT) in more of a support role and purchase many COTS products. IT”s job at times is to simply keep the lights on. It is important to meet with the IT Department and work closely with them. As an Agile Consultant, you are a teacher, and take the time to teach and introduce Agile to the group.
  2. Gauge the Acceptance of Change: Determine how accepting the IT Department, and the business line is accepting of change. Many associations may be slow to accept change. If an organization is not ready for Agile, but is willing to accept slow changes, it may be important to start with a waterfall process and slowly introduce new ideas. Iterative Waterfall, Iterative, to finally Agile.
  3.  Be a “Teacher” and Listen to Your Client: Associations are academic in nature, proposing new ideas in their line of work or certifications. When working with your client, be a teacher but also be a good listener. You need to understand their model and culture (which once again may be different from a typical corporate or Federal customer), and how to approach a problem.
  4. Take time to Work with the Business as Well: IT in many associations may be in more of a support or research role. Take time to also work with the business (those producing reports, content, marketing, or articles for the association). Determine what their pain points are in regards to technology and make note of them. Track your correspondence and information in a centralized tracker, matrix, or repository. This will help when speaking to IT and beginning to plan out changes to a widely used Corporate system

Developing this repertoire with both IT and the Business will increase your visibility in the association. While you are there to implement an “Agile” process, you will also begin bridging potential gaps between IT and Business, acting as an intermediary between the Technology and the Business needs. IT is about enabling and supporting Business goals, agile helps do it faster and better.

Be the Agile PM, but also be a teacher, leader, and intermediary and you can successfully establish an Agile Methodology in your association.

Is your association agile? What changes or technology pain points do you see which could be alleviated? 

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