Being part of a high tech industry, working with communications providers who deal daily with information, innovation and evolution, it was important that NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, their trade association, also keep pace on the technology front. To that end, we’ve been through a lot in the past few years. We upgraded our financial software and have spent the past few years working on a huge project to implement a new Association Management System (AMS). For a trade association, our database is somewhat of a holy grail and certainly the key that holds everything together. While at first blush it sounds relatively simple—like a list of our members and some of their relevant participation and billing data—it is SO much more complex than that, particularly given NTCA’s benefit plans and robust interaction with our members. I think even our software vendor has been impressed (overwhelmed?) with the complexity of our relationships and the numerous interactions we have with our membership. But now, after years of work toward this goal and after hitting a few major bumps in the road, our amazing team of folks here at NTCA are ready to launch our new system on January 1. I do believe that the only cars in our building parking lot this holiday week are from our AMS team and a few other random staffers here to show moral support!
While the system will not be everything we had hoped for by launch time, we felt it important to stick to our last “go live” date and work on augmentation of the system after the launch. Partly from a logistical perspective and certainly from an emotional perspective—the team had just been putting all of their daily work on hold long enough and we needed to get the launch done so that we could celebrate the accomplishment and not feel like we were continually moving the goal line.
So what will members see? Increased value in the delivery of new online tools, including online membership renewals, subscription management, employee and company data management, online bill payment, event registration, an exhibitor portal, online certificate course transcripts and more. These new tools will make it easier to manage NTCA membership and get real-time updates on what is happening at NTCA and in the rural telecom industry. Updates will be sent to members as we move along with the launch and much functionality will remain in place, such as the ability to access member-only content on the website, register for most NTCA events, make job center postings, etc.
But members (and staff) will need to reset your password the first time you attempt to log in to the enhanced website. I know there will be some collective sighs on this (as someone who struggles with the 90 different passwords I need to keep for things!) but it really is necessary as part of the updated security of our portal. Once you take care of that piece of housekeeping, you’ll be ready to go and will find it worth the effort.
Again, we could not enter this era without the support of virtually every member of the NTCA staff…those who have locked themselves into our James Bass conference room for days, weeks and months on end to work through the priorities and applications as well as those who have picked up the extra work from their colleagues who have been toiling away 24/7 on the AMS. My sincere thanks and appreciation goes out to our staff for realizing that “short term” pain will be a long term gain for our membership and will be worth it when our new system is up and running! Also, my appreciation to the NTCA Board of Directors who allowed us to use some of our very healthy reserves to financially support this project that was outside the scope of our annual operating budgets these past few years. Innovation and technology changes are not very easy—but they will certainly make a difference in the end.