As SHARE’s director of information systems, I have been tasked to review the technology stack we use, and recommend a solution that improves its usability and brings value to the SHARE community. The use of newer technology can greatly improve the experience of visiting share.org and using its associated tools, such as creating your own agenda for SHARE events. For those of you who volunteer and are indispensable to this organization, the experience of scheduling the conference itself can be simplified through upgraded technology.
As with all modernization projects, there is an impetus to start. In our case, Socius, the Association Management System (AMS), was being somewhat stabilized, although still supported. This platform powers the share.org website and supports many of its functions, from registration to the forums, to behind the scenes processing like venue management, billing, and logistics.
Our first step was to perform a technology audit, to see what tools we were using and paying for, and where we could improve across the portfolio. Through this audit, we found a lack of true integration between the current AMS and the event scheduling tool, Confex. Some of the simplest integrations were missing, like single sign on. In addition, we found the mobile app and the IBM Request for Enhancement (RFE) process through the website also needed their own custom integrations built.
After the audit, we formed a committee of SHARE volunteers to build a list of requirements, ensuring all intricacies were covered while looking at different software offerings to meet our needs. A shout out to Ray Mullins, Ed Petka, Rosalind Radcliffe, Jim Willet, Holden O’Neal and Meredith Halperin for giving their time and energy to make sure we had a complete set of requirements.
This team watched multiple demos and validated that the software would fit our needs, with minimal custom code required. At this point we have made recommendations and hope to move forward with a new set of tools soon.
SHARE’s tenets are Educate, Network and Influence. To strengthen our ability to perform these functions, we need tools to improve online usability and enhance the community experience. Here are a few ways I see new technology helping each pillar of SHARE.
Educate: Webinars, recorded sessions, articles and conference content must have a common repository with easy access. Having a recorded session provides the ability to watch many times, but what if you have a question? With modern technology, we could connect the presentation to the forums to post a question and get an answer from the speaker or others in the community. If one person has a question, many more are likely to have a similar question and would benefit from getting an answer. As we move forward, it will be much easier to find session information that you saw on-site or in a webinar, and get the answers you need.
Network: One of the best things about SHARE is the ability to network with peers in the industry and product developers from software companies. If it wasn’t for these connections, I probably would not have made it this far in my career. Online forums should help keep the discussion going after events. With the proper tools, more individuals can join the conversation and create a larger voice, which leads nicely to the next tenet…
Influence: The most common way SHARE influences the industry is through SHARE Requirements submitted to IBM. These requirements have the force of the SHARE membership behind them instead of merely a single company. Having access to modern APIs will help ensure these requirements continue to be submitted via the website properly. Another area of influence is the Technical Steering Committees, made up of volunteers who come up with a consensus position on a technology and publish a set of requirements and/or a paper about the technology. These committees can help drive best practices, the adoption of a new technology, or a set of clear requirements needed to make a technology viable. The SHARE website should be able to help create these materials, as well as be a repository for the deliverables from these committees.
To continue our mission as a user group, we must modernize, and we need volunteers to help us as we move forward. We need volunteers to help make the website better and more usable. We need volunteers to help make the forums the best they can be, and we can always use help with the requirements process. Anyone who wishes to volunteer for a committee, please reach out to me at email@example.com.