3 Steps to Building an AI-ready Culture at Your Association

Is your association ready for AI?

By Evan Hendershot – Digital Marketing Specialist   

Artificial intelligence is no longer a pipe dream for associations. Many of you are already using practical forms of AI, be it via complex workflows in your membership database, automated emails with tailored content based on member type or predictive analytics via your business intelligence platform. But, as Gallup so aptly puts it, “AI is not magic.” 

These days, at least for most of us, our definitions of artificial intelligence are rooted in reality. When we think of AI, we’re no longer picturing androids walking among us, or sentient computers controlling our spacecrafts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Artificial intelligence programs, as we know them, are not science fiction. AI programs have trickled their way into ordinary life. 

With a realistic vision of what AI can be, experts have realized it’s not the actual artificial intelligence implementation that’s often the problem for most organizations. What is? The data that powers those AI projects. 

“While building an AI program may not be a significant barrier, companies need a lot of high-quality data to train that algorithm,” wrote Saheli Roy Choudhury for CNBC. 

Just like AI isn’t magic, high-quality data doesn’t come out of thin air. It requires hard work, a skilled database administrator and an overall team effort to break down any data silos. So, even if your organization isn’t ready to adopt artificial intelligence today, it’s time to take major cultural change at your association to become AI-ready. 

In this blog post, we’ll outline three strategies to building an AI-ready culture so that you are ready to adopt practical artificial intelligence at your association.  

3 Steps to Becoming AI-Ready 

1 – Break Down Data Silos 

According to the Harvard Business Review, most AI transformations take 18 to 36 months to complete. So, let’s imagine it’s month #1, where do you start? Data cleanup and consolidation. That’s where your association management software (AMS) comes in. 

The ability, or lack thereof, to access all of your association’s data is critical in your path to AI-readiness. Without quality data, predictive analytics won’t predict accurately. Complex workflows won’t work. And automated email campaigns based on a specific set of scenarios won’t automate. 

The easiest way to ensure that your association’s data is accurate across departments is to store that data in one place: your AMS. By breaking down those data silos regardless of who “owns” the data at your association or where it lives – you’re giving more staff access to your entire data estate to make sure all data is up-to-date. 

With your data in top shape, you’re ready to proceed to the next step. 

2 – Empower Your Employees 

Your data is accurate and housed in one database. Now what?  

Unfortunately, AI isn’t the kind of thing where you can just click a button and expect to add a full range of features to your database. It requires some serious thought – why do you need this, and how will you implement it?  

To answer the question of, “Why?” you’ll want to communicate with the people who know your members best: the staff.  

Cross-functional teamwork is vital in the AI-readiness process, according to Microsoft, so you’ll want to ask everyone across the organization to contribute ideas and ask questions. Most critically, how do staff members think your organization can harness AI for improved member engagement? 

Looking for alternative ways to empower employees to create an AI-ready culture? Create forums and group events where your team can come together and collaborate. Also, be sure to recommend continuous learning and education to all employees, not just those with technical skills, who are closest to members and will have an eye for new business opportunities. 

3 – Establish Responsibility and Accountability 

AI brings with it new insight, but your organization will need to make sure someone is managing the use of artificial intelligence, tracking results and making data-driven decisions based on the information gleaned. As is the key with any successful project, you’ll need to be able to measure results.  

Equally as important is accountability. To make best use of AI, you’ll want to answer the following questions suggested by Microsoft: 

“How do we design, build, and use AI systems to create a positive impact on individuals and society? How can we ensure that AI systems treat everyone fairly? How can we best prepare the workforce for the new AI era?” 

You’re AI-ready – What’s Next? 

Once you’re comfortable with your AI-readiness, where do you go from there? 

Some organizations, like ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, have adopted AI to create tailored newsletters for members. Others are deploying business intelligence platforms to help their association predict the future of member engagement and event attendance. With an AI-ready culture established, the power is in your hands to make your AI dreams a reality. 

But, as we know, AI isn’t magic. It starts and ends with clean data. And clean data comes after breaking down data silos. 

To learn more about artificial intelligence, download our free, on-demand webinar: Technology Trends for 2020: Lessons Learned at ASAE TEC. Or, to learn how you can break down data silos, read more about Protech AMS.