“I'm really excited when people in my office don't talk to me,” laughs Cos Manner. “That’s because generally when they come to see me they're not happy, they're frustrated.”
Cos Manner is Director of IT for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), which represents and advocates for all those beloved beer trucks you see delivering the good stuff to bars, restaurants and convenience stores. While her role as IT director doesn’t give her the power to redirect those trucks to her friends’ backyard barbecues, it does give her the power to bring change within the organization to make it more efficient and effective.
Sometimes change is welcomed with open arms, sometimes not so much. “I’m the person who is constantly introducing new things and I think some folks kind of wish I would stop thinking about it because change is hard for a lot of people.”
People get stuck in their ways and “muscle memory takes over,” as Manner describes it. But just because you know how to navigate a complicated system because you’ve done it a million times doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for the business.
NBWA’s previous AMS system had its issues—no mobile option, problems with online registration, and confusing navigation, to name a few. Then the association learned that their current database was being phased out and eventually would cease to exist. The association had no option - change had to come.
So how did Manner approach the introduction of this new platform to her coworkers at the NBWA? Patience. “Sometimes it's training, sometimes it's just me sitting down with somebody and walking them through the new process,” she explains. “We're a group of about 25 people, it's not that hard for me to sit down with somebody and show them their different options and that tends to work very well for people.”
In fact, Manner herself got plenty of help in the initial days and months of utilizing Impexium, their new AMS. Having a resource to guide the implementation process and aid in change management was critical to success. “That’s a real key point to a successful changeover, I think—having a someone that you can talk to when you know you're not explaining the problems well and you need to get things done on a faster timeline,” she explains.
Once Manner became more comfortable understanding the new system, she implemented a weekly meeting of in-house “power users” to discuss any issues and effective solutions. From there, they’ve expanded to other staff members, who, Manner says, have been impressed with the intuitive nature of the AMS. “It just made far more sense to them to use it than the old software did.” She notes that feedback from the members of the association has been just as positive. Thanks to Manner’s drive for change, NBWA has benefitted from higher efficiency and productivity, while simultaneously driving member engagement and new revenue opportunities.
Manner takes great pride and gets tremendous satisfaction from spearheading successful change that has improved her organization from the business and user side simultaneously. “I hate saying this because it's like a jinx,” she says like a true IT professional, “but things are going great. When I'm walking by and nobody yells my name to fix something, I'm really happy.”
Change may be the only constant in business — but that doesn’t make organizational transformation any easier. Association leaders are balancing competing priorities and increasing demands, enough to make even the most driven executive fall victim to the inertia of the status-quo.
But not every association stays still while the world seems to change around them. For her willingness to upset the association technology status-quo, Impexium is proud to recognize Cos Manner as one of 2018’s Association Technology Disruptors!
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