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  • Writer's pictureESAE

Digital First is About Shifting Your Mindset

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

An excellent piece written by our member Guido Lobrano and published by our partners at Boardroom magazine.

For ESAE, Guido Lobrano, Senior Vice President and Director General for Europe at ITI - The Information Technology Industry Council, explains that it is only by changing the way they think about and operate in the digital realm that associations will be successful.

For many organizations, becoming a digital- first organization was a forced action brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, employees and employers had to shift all operations online. For associations, this meant translating member service, often conducted through in-person meetings and engagements, to a virtual space in a seamless manner.

Like many other organizations, my association ITI, the Information Technology Industry Council, worked tirelessly to complete the transition as quickly and smoothly as possible.


Fortunately, we had a strong foundation to build upon. As a global trade association, much of our work is already conducted virtually. Before the pandemic, our Brussels-based team regularly held remote meetings with members and stakeholders located across Europe and in other regions globally to advance policy recommendations for the technology industry.

This major transition in business strategy and employee engagement aims to strengthen connectivity while enhancing organizational performance. Associations who embrace this mindset and culture can solve challenges quicker and better serve their members in a more streamlined fashion.

We found that the growth for digital transformation lives in digital-first mindset. When delivering services, the focus should be on creating an unparalleled experience that meets members where they are no matter their location and helps them quickly solve their problems.

One way we’re able to meet this objective is by continuing to offer hybrid meetings and events for members. During the pandemic, we found that ITI can serve our members just as effectively in a digital conference room as we did in a room with four walls. As more and more people have returned to in-person engagements, we made it a priority to ensure that everyone continues to have an inclusive and valuable experience – whether they are in our office in Brussels or elsewhere. To help ITI employees navigate this new hybrid environment, ITI leadership has provided staff with extensive training with events and meeting experts to ensure we are being effective and that members are getting the most out of their time with us. Further, ITI has invested in technical support for public events to help members leverage in-person networking opportunities while providing livestreaming capabilities for those not able to join in person.


Additionally, ITI has continued to invest and regularly upgrade software to collaborate online with and track member engagement. Working with top performing tools is critical to ensuring our members get the information and benefits they expect without being hampered by a glitch or outdated product.

Ensuring ITI employees are included in the digital-first mindset is equally important. Our President and CEO Jason Oxman spearheaded several efforts to support a hybrid workforce. Beyond structural considerations, ITI introduced new employee benefits to support a thriving working culture at ITI. While ITI converted to remote work at the outset of the pandemic, we have since adopted a schedule that incorporates ample ad hoc telework, flexible hours, and no internal meetings on Fridays. Just as up-to-date software and equipment helps our members, it also helps staff. ITI consistently offers resources, training and products to assist staff with staying up to date on the latest technology to do their jobs effectively no matter where we are located.

Today, it is crucial for successful association leaders to be dedicated to a digital-first transformation to ensure access and productivity for their member companies and staff. The pandemic demonstrated that remote work is not a barrier to service or quality. It also proved that those associations that do not adapt a more flexible, digital first approach would fall behind.

At the same time, we should always think about digitalization as a means to enhance our association’s resources and efforts to achieve these goals, and not as a goal in itself. Further, leaders must ensure we adapt the various elements of the digital transition to the specific needs of our members and the unique context in which our organization operates. This digital-first transition is here to stay. It’s up to association leaders to make sure their organizations recognize this reality so that they are not left behind.


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