Tag: associations

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

New CEO Heather McNair shares what’s next for Cloud Generation

Heather McNair headshot with new CEO announcement text

Two years ago (almost to the day!), a group of close friends and colleagues took a big leap and started Cloud Generation, a new software company serving the association community. Those two years have passed in the blink of an eye, and we’ve been through big changes in that time: renovating and selling homes, three cross-country moves and a new little addition to the CG family on the way, just to name a few.  

We’ve also come to market with an incredible credential management software suite. Each day using the software, I have a moment where I marvel at what we’ve built together – I couldn’t be prouder of the work the team has done.

I’m honored the team has asked me to move into the CEO role and lead Cloud Generation into the future. Rob Wenger, our current CEO and chairman of the board, and Conor Sibley, CTO, have spent countless hours over the past two years building a strong foundation for both the company and our credentialing platform. Now ready to move on to their next challenge, they will be joining our friends at Association Analytics (A2) to lend their expertise as A2 plans for what’s next. Rob and Conor will remain on CG’s Board of Directors and serve as advisors as we launch into our next phase of growth.

Throughout my 20 years in the association space, both as an association executive and vendor, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to use cutting-edge technology to improve member experiences – from online communities back in the early aughts to automation, machine learning and AI with Higher Logic. I’m excited to bring those experiences to this new role and continue pushing the limits of what’s possible.

We’ve taken a forward-thinking, “What if…” approach at Cloud Generation, answering with the creation of a credential, badge and learning delivery management platform beyond anything we could have imagined two short years ago. Now we’re delivering curated, guided learning experiences through efficient, data-driven automation – and we’re just getting started.

Many thanks to Rob, Conor, and the rest of the incredibly hardworking team at Cloud Generation for ensuring our vision came to life. And many thanks to our amazing clients and friends in the industry for all your support and feedback. I’m humbled by your faith in me and excited to continue giving back to the association community.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.” 

Scalable learning for a modern attention span

Scalable learning for a modern attention spans [Partner Webinar Recap]

Scalable learning for a modern attention span [Partner Webinar Recap]

Scalable learning for a modern attention span

Wait, what were we talking about again?

We have enough competition for eyeballs in this age of distractions. So how do we keep learners engaged, processes simple, and non-dues revenue rolling in? We were lucky enough to partner with Association Analytics for a webinar about scalable learning strategies for a modern attention span.

Watch our own Chief Customer Officer Heather McNair and Association Analytics’ SVP of Strategy and Solutions Bill Conforti below – they shared ways you can keep automation and personalization simple without having to reinvent the wheel. Heather and Bill also unpacked whether we’re unknowingly creating obstacles that cause learners to drop out along their journey, as well as which analytics to track (with tools you may already have).

Watch the recording while following along with summary notes (look at that – we already took notes for you).

Webinar recap: where are we now, and how can we scale?

My, look how we’ve grown! (evolution of personalization)

  • Personalization maturity model: it’s about meeting members where they are in their journey
  • It’s rarely a nice, clean curve – remember the Plinko game on Price Is Right? The puck can move in any direction, so let’s expect that from our member journeys
  • Most associations are still at the beginning of this model – how can we take steps to progress?
  • Netflix and Spotify dominate on behavior-based recommendations right now – more than 75% of Netflix’s activity is driven by their personalization and similarities engine

From head to toe (bespoke experiences are the future)

  • Truly customized, personalized products can be tricky and resource draining, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aim high – it’s about looking at our programs with fresh eyes
  • Converse provides a great experience to play with “building” a pair of shoes
  • Example: it’s a challenge to track average course completion rates (usually we hover around 10-15%, but we can bump that up to 90% when we identify better engagement techniques)

Let’s take a journey (or three) together

  • Three stages of certification: identify, keep them motivated, and ensure recertification – are we leaving any of these to chance?
  • Example: delivering online exams used to be a big obstacle, but now we’re seeing folks sticking with it, per recent survey data from the Institute of Credentialing Excellence
  • You can’t effectively personalize communications and create bespoke experiences if you’re only seeing part of the picture – we need to make decisions based on multiple data sources
  • Example: we shouldn’t send a “We miss you” email to a member because they haven’t registered for events, if they’re active in the online community

Oh, sweet rewards (recognizing members)

  • Everyone loves recognition – but it’s a two-way street
  • More badges = more awareness for your certification program
  • Make it easy, make it frequent, and make it public (share those badges around)

Showing off (measuring our success)

Some up-and-coming customer/member experience and engagement metrics you should explore:

  • Renewal rates
  • Satisfaction scores
  • Lifetime value
  • Referrals
  • Course review sentiment
  • Inflection points in member journey

Designing for a new future

Designing New Future blog post

After spending over a year relatively sequestered in my house, like so many people, I’ve decided it’s time for a few renovations. As I work through what to do and how best to approach it, I’ve been a voracious consumer of blogs, articles, podcasts, and Pinterest images. A piece of advice I stumbled across in this process – and my apologies that I don’t remember who gave it – was “Don’t design for things you don’t need.” 

In other words, one of the first steps of your project should be evaluating what you own and how you use it –   and ruthlessly purging things you don’t use. Does it make sense to invest thousands of dollars designing a solution to house Grandma’s china set when you have no intention of ever using it? 

Balancing tradition and innovation

Associations are often at a crossroads when it comes to innovation. Many are steeped in tradition and serve as the bedrock for the field they serve. But as industries grow and evolve, members also rely on their associations to keep pace. (Arguably, the association should be – and keep members – at the forefront.) It’s a tricky spot to be in, right? How do we honor Grandma’s china, while still allowing ourselves the space and flexibility to meet today’s (and tomorrow’s) needs?

The recent pandemic provided a unique opportunity to move forward exponentially, rather than the incremental change associations tend toward, so as not to rock the boat of tradition. Dad’s hand-me-down 15-volume set of encyclopedias? In the past, we likely would have moved them to the basement to see if anyone noticed they were gone. They would have languished there, gathering dust for a few years before a brave soul would be so bold as to donate them; but most of us would leave them there and continue to pile up more relics around them.

Adapt, test, repeat

With the challenges COVID-19 presented, we didn’t have time to worry about hurt feelings. Our focus was getting staff up and running remotely and continuing to deliver the programs and services for which our members counted on us in new, virtual environments. Adaptation became de rigeur. We experimented. We iterated. We evolved at a record pace. Members accepted that there might be hiccups; they appreciated we were trying new things to best meet their needs.

The Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) recently conducted a survey regarding the impact that COVID-19 had on certifying organizations and their programs. The lessons learned in shifting to more remote solutions is clear: flexible tech will help us and help our members.  

Survey respondent takeaways included: 

  • Frequent and clear communication with a focus on empathy, flexibility and value 
  •  Embracing new technology tools and providing training to support their use 
  • Collaborative relationships and information sharing 

It is important to remember this was a forced entry into change and flexibility – we often adapt quickest when it’s our only option. However, certifying organizations still had positive outcomes from this shift and plan to stay agile for the long run. About one third of surveyed organizations added live remote proctoring as a test administration method, and over half of respondents plan to keep remote services. This is groundbreaking in a field that has largely upheld the sanctity of in-person exams.

56% of surveyed organizations plan to continue the use of virtual/remote meetings, and 43% plan to continue the use of remote proctoring.

As the world starts to return to “normal,” not everything has to go back to how it was before. Associations are experimenting with hybrid events – incorporating the best of their virtual offerings developed over the last year+ with the in-person interactions we all miss.  

Many certification bodies increased their communications during the pandemic, which can only serve members better. Ramping up communications, promotions, and outreach will provide a steady flow of info for members, as well as collect valuable data on their feedback and evolving needs. The ICE survey found over one third of respondents increased the amount of marketing and communications related to promoting certification and/or recertification. In turn, 20% of respondents increased customer service capacity to address applicant/certificant needs.  

“In the long term, organizations will benefit from the adoption of new technology, increases in automation and improved communication channels. These rapid reactions to the pandemic provide increased flexibility for responding to future crisis events.” – COVID-19 Impact Credentialing Survey

Flexing your flexibility

The last couple of decades, as we’ve converted our processes and data from piles of paper to digital solutions, we’ve built complex, large-scale databases and integrations meant to keep our organization running like a well-oiled machine. We set out with the best intentions but have ended up with behemoth builds that hamstring us with less flexibility, less accessibility, and less time to experiment lest something break or disappear. 

We’ve ended up with a basement full of old encyclopedias, Grandma’s china, and other relics of bygone days, when once we had dreamed of a rec room that would make the whole neighborhood jealous.

Today, we’re presented with an opportunity to start fresh. Look at things in a new light. Get rid of programs and processes that have outlived their relevancy to make room for new and exciting things. A “return to normal” doesn’t mean we can’t continue to experiment. Iterate. Advance.

Members are far more accepting – and expecting – of progress than we might have given them credit. Staff is more resilient and capable of change. And sometimes it’s ok to let time-honored traditions go with gratitude (kudos to Marie Kondo!) so that we can focus on what is really important.

Heather McNair
Heather McNair

Heather McNair has centered her career around developing loyal customers for over 20 years, with experience across the association, software and publishing industries. She is passionate about using technology to increase customer and member engagement and retention.

When not at her laptop, you can usually find Heather looking like a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with a new recipe or craft cocktail, or in her garden nurturing her “plant babies.” 

The missing piece in association tech

Missing Piece Association Tech blog post

We are stoked to be here right now! Maybe I should back up a bit – Cloud Generation was born from decades of experience across tech and associations. Our team is small, mighty, and close-knit. We shouldn’t brag but we will for a moment: we know our stuff, and we love this space. We also know it’s filled with smart friends and partners who we’ve relied on at past gigs and projects. We’ve gathered those great minds again for ideas on leveraging new technology to work even better for associations.

How? That’s a great follow-up question, glad you asked. As a close-knit group of overachievers, we really like puzzles. But the puzzle has to have a missing a piece or two – that’s what gets us super jazzed. A missing piece means an opportunity to dig deep into what can fill that spot and finish the job. It means we’re on the lookout for an ideal solution to a specific problem. 

The elusive ultimate solution

Some modern tech tools are revolutionary – I’m thinking large-scale across any industry – management systems, marketing automation, community (can’t miss that one!). Others fly under the radar but still serve an integral purpose – a killer integration or better way to analyze large swaths of data.

We are neither of these, which is a great thing. While seemingly oxymoronic, we aim to be both expansive and granular. We’re building solutions to help every corner of your association thrive, in simpler ways and at a fraction of the cost. It sounds bombastic because it kind of is – that’s part of the fun.

To certifications and beyond

We mentioned our smart friends earlier – they’ve been integral to our growth and planning towards bringing these solutions to market. Rather than assume which puzzle pieces were missing without opening the box first, they’ve helped us sort through the pile.

So, what are we building here? Another excellent question, you’re on a roll!

What we’re starting with: 

  • Learning and education – we’ll help you streamline and manage your program from start to finish, with three standalone applications (ie puzzle pieces) for better achievements tracking (think certifications, certificates, badges), marketing campaigns and workflows, and content delivery. Use one, two, or all three applications – they work even better together.

What we’re planning for:

  • Additional pieces include improving other functional areas in marketing, events, member management and retention, and beyond. The key is you can add any of these to improve your systems without breaking the bank (or your existing stack!)

Puzzle metaphors aside, let’s dig into some tenets of what will make these new applications really tick. 

Buy it, use it, come back to it later

Any association should be able to improve a program or process without reconfiguring its entire tech stack, right? The key is staying flexible and adaptable, so the focus always remains on the success of that program. Even if it’s a very specific goal – increasing members in your certification renewal pipeline, for example – that also can be highly effective for non-dues revenue or decreased churn. It should be easy and efficient to streamline this. Currently, it’s not.

We’ll help you quickly set up a solution (we’re talking buy, integrate and go here!) that consolidates this certification program into one place for easy member participation, tracking, and completion. Once it’s in motion, the benefits compound: staff efficiency, cleaner data, a smoother process for members, better results. If budgets or priorities change, it should be equally quick and easy to pause or cancel.

Who has time for blank slates?

No matter how much we talk up easy setups, there is still uncertainty and a fear of breaking things. Especially when we consider the intricacies of say, an automated marketing campaign or workflow. What if something breaks, or it doesn’t work?

We hear you – time to template!

If you’re armed with a series of templated emails, messages and workflows already built out and ready for inboxes, then time savings are exponential. The campaign is running well, which leaves you and your team more time for testing, tweaking, and adding more campaigns.

Stay in your lane

What’s often interpreted as negative, combative, or even lazy, we see the old adage, “stay in your lane” as a great strength in keeping focused and productive on the task (or program) at hand. Looking for an LMS to support a large-scale e-learning program? Great, you should definitely invest in an LMS. Is your education department (or credentialing team, or volunteer program…you get it) looking to host continuing education courses online in an easy format for both managing and delivering, that integrates with your existing core systems? That’s where a simple application for learning delivery is key. That’s where we drop another delightful puzzle piece right into your lap.

Keep it simple

Simple solves a lot – for us, it includes affordable, flexible, and easy to use. It doesn’t mean small-scale or trapped in the minutiae. Often the most effective solutions are straightforward, still detail-oriented where it counts, and scalable.

We’ll be releasing our first set of solutions in the coming months and want to continue expanding our field of smart friends who can help associations with some truly cool tools. Stay tuned, and join us for the ride.

Rob Wenger
Rob Wenger

Rob is a successful entrepreneur and business executive with an outstanding 25+ year track record in building, growing and leading high-tech companies. Across businesses, associations and nonprofits, he works to positively impact each client’s success using smart, collaborative technology.

When not inventing the next great collaboration tool, Rob is hanging out with his kids and planning their next great skiing adventure.