This Digital Work Group update is by Kirsten Wyatt, ELGL’s executive director.
I’m writing this update from 35,000 feet on my way to #ICMA2017. And I’m feeling a bit misty (no, it’s not because air travel is proven to make you emotional). It’s because the current round of ELGL’s “Let’s Get Digital” project has come to an end. This has been one of my favorite experiences since we started ELGL. Here’s why:
Real Work, Real Results
I always say that ELGL has “a bias for action.” I stole this term from one of my favorite books, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.” I don’t like anything with too much process or group projects. I’d rather get work done than sit around and talk about the work that needs to be done.
When people want to form task forces or work groups, I get antsy. And so when Luke and Kevin (our amazing Proud City team) plotted out a multi-month group process for our digital upgrade, I did some dramatic signs and eye rolling.
Each week we had two calls: the first with Kevin and me to plan the week ahead, and then the second with our Digital Work Group to move through an agenda and discussions.
Kevin kept track of EVERYTHING in our Trello board for this project, and also in our Playbook (more about that later).
We had small, bite-sized tasks each week that were interesting and meaningful. The entire process was so well organized and managed and each week we were doing real work, with real results. We were going through a process, AND I LIKED IT.
“Transformative” is a bold word, but I’m going to use it to describe the ProudCity approach to project management and digital upgrades. They completely changed my mind about how to approach a site and service redesign, as well as the importance to use a deliberative, multi-step process to make major changes to a web site.
A Better, Stronger, Faster ELGL
This transformative process results in a better, stronger, faster ELGL. That’s because we looked at all of our operations as part of our digital upgrade. Here are some examples:
- Besides ELGL members, who is our audience?
- What are their personas/characteristics?
- Why do people join ELGL?
- What’s our renewal rate; if people don’t renew, why?
- Do we have an inventory of all of our social media accounts?
- Who manages those accounts?
- What are standards for social media use?
- Where are the holes in our membership sign up process?
- What messaging do we use to convey the value of membership?
- How does GovLove fit into ELGL’s content offerings?
- What’s the schedule for awards programs?
- What’s our brand?
- What do our members want/need from ELGL?
- How do we meet those wants/needs?
- How do we serve our vendor members? How could we enhance that experience?
- What content should be members-only? What content should be free?
As you can see, this is a long list. This is notable because the process wasn’t as simple as “what picture do you want on your homepage?” or “what menu items do you want to show.” (These are examples of the types of questions I’ve heard vendors ask when upgrading city web sites.)
I honestly thought we were signing up with an IT firm, but instead we got full-blown organizational and management analysis/improvement consulting and implementation.
ProudCity took a big-picture, holistic approach to the site upgrade, and that had a very important and meaningful impact on all aspects of ELGL operations as we debated and answered the above questions during our meetings and work assignments.
This is important for local governments to consider for the type of vendor they want to hire when they’re doing their own digital upgrade. It’s easy to hire someone who’s going to freshen up your homepage, rearrange your menu items, and make things look pretty in the short term.
An analogy to describe the value of a big-picture, holistic approach is dental work: it takes more time (and pain) to get braces to fix your snaggly-ass teeth than to just get caps or dentures. But it’s worth it in the long run and results in better health, happiness, and appearance. That’s what happened with our digital upgrade and the process we’ve gone through to get here.
All of that process is documented in the ELGL Playbook. It’s a comprehensive overview of everything ELGL does, both online and offline. We would never would have this level of documentation without our Digital Work Group. Each week, the team members shared their ideas and answered the above questions, which was then compiled into the Playbook.
It was invaluable to have the perspectives of newer members like Joey, and longer-term members like Bridget. We had the hands on experience of Brian (who manages membership) and the blog authoring perspective of Rebecca and Stacy. Kent, Ben, and I all have strong opinions about ELGL’s digital tools, but Kevin kept us in check and made sure that the entire team contributed to the discussions and that everyone’s opinions made it into the Playbook.
A Digital Partnership
- Implemented G-Suite for our entire organization
- Consolidated all domains and passwords into centralized locations
- Redefined “who does what” on social media and blog access
- Selected Member365 for membership management
- Using Member365 instead of MailChimp, MemberPress, and EventBrite
- Creation of our “Yelp for Local Gov” service
- Transitioning ELGL.org to ProudCity
These are huge changes to the ways ELGL does business. We’re not only going to save money (by consolidating our digital tools) but we’ll better meet the needs of our members and streamline our membership, event, and email management.
And even though ProudCity is a platform for local governments, our process allowed us to discern that it can also be used for our needs as a fully transparent, open nonprofit professional organization.
Sure, there are some differences (ELGL doesn’t have a Library Department – yet) but they’re all differences we can overcome because we’ve gone through this process of reflection and understanding of what ELGL is, what we want to become, and how we do business.
Most importantly, we’ve formed a solid partnership with ProudCity. We’ll be working together on our upgrades, as well as big-picture-thinking about how local governments procure, select, and use digital tools
So, that’s the story on why I’m a little emotional about the end of the Digital Work Group. But I shouldn’t cry too much: the next steps will keep ELGL really busy. We have to implement Member365, and transition to our ProudCity site. Both of those are projects that will completely transform ELGL.org and our member experience.