Making Your PSA Membership Experience Better – Implementing Project ‘Bob’

29th April 2024 | By PSA Team


At the PSA, we’re committed to providing outstanding value and support to you, our members.

This includes your membership experience as well as the events you attend to discover ways to speak more, speak better and grow your speaking business.

Project Bob is the ‘Digital Levelling Up’ project. Our current technology is based on linking many different and sometimes incompatible software tools. Whist it currently works, it needs a lot of maintenance and care and it does not scale and it does not provide a modern member experience. Our strategy needs a better solution.

In this article, we’re outlining the process the Board has gone through to date, because transparency and due diligence are important to us as is alignment with our strategic goals.

We published our new strategy in 2023 and it was approved by the membership at the AGM. Part of the strategy covers improving member services.

Knowing that the systems and processes that we currently have are not fit for purpose, to really improve the membership experience, we realised that we needed an integrated software system – one that will bring together elements such as improved membership management, event ticketing, an up to date membership database and better financial reporting.

We also wanted to make the administration of the Association better, to reduce costs and facilitate the growth of our regions, regional events and membership, all of which are constrained by our existing systems.

Last summer, we set about selecting a comprehensive software solution. Our work in selecting a suitable supplier demonstrated the scope and significance of this project. The Board decided that the appointment of a Programme Director was essential for overseeing its successful implementation.

Selecting the Software Supplier
Evaluation and Selection Criteria
Our selection process began with an extensive evaluation of potential software suppliers. We focused on functionalities that address our current challenges and future needs. We wanted a user-friendly, cost-effective, scalable solution and able to bring together several back-office functions.

Decision-Making Process
After a detailed review, three companies were shortlisted: Sheep, Eudonet and Sport:80. Through technical assessments, consultations with the providers and feedback from some of their clients, we chose Sport:80 as our preferred supplier.

To make this decision, we set up demonstrations with each potential supplier. This showed us that Sheep did not meet our needs well enough and they were removed from the evaluation. We saw that both Eudonet and Sport:80 were capable of meeting our requirements. We looked at the costs and cash flow implications of both suppliers. Sport:80 works based on a partnership and charges a licence fee only when the solution is implemented, with monthly payments. Eudonet works more as a supplier, expecting payment of licence fees and development costs in advance.

Eudonet is a French-owned business, and most of its development is designed for the French market. The UK division is well-established and mature and has some UK-only adaptations of the core code. Sport:80 is based in Sheffield, and while its software is used worldwide, it has a strong UK customer base.

The Board judged that Eudonet’s risk profile was much higher than Sport:80’s. With Eudonet, there would be less opportunity for customisation and adaptation to meet our needs.

Sport:80 currently mostly works with sports associations, which was initially a concern. However, on closer examination, we could see that the digital needs of a sports association are very closely aligned with those of the PSA. Both have regional elements with local leadership, differing membership levels, events and communication needs based on those levels and geography.

We spoke to several clients of both possible suppliers. Those discussions confirmed that both providers would be able to deliver to our needs, with some differences in approach. They also confirmed our assessments of the type of relationship that each organisation develops with its clients.

A copy of the discussion with one of Sport:80’s clients is available if you want to read it. It shows the details of our formal enquiries and the responses received for our chosen solution. If you would like to know any more details, please get in touch with either Joanne Lockwood or William Buist.

In the final analysis, the Board was unanimous in selecting Sport:80 based on its proven track record with comparable associations, its understanding of our structure and needs, and its favourable payment model that aligns with our financial planning.

Appointing the Programme Director
Recognising the critical nature of this role, the Board looked for a candidate with a deep understanding of the PSA’s operations, technical knowledge and project management skills. We knew we would need someone to be available every working day and, during the first phase of the project, committing 20-25 hours per week. Even though most of your Board members are unpaid volunteers, we decided it would be unfair to expect a volunteer to undertake this level of work.

We explored the idea of bringing in an external project manager. This would require a period before they would understand our strategy and get up to speed with the association’s day-to-day operations well enough to deliver a project of this complexity. This would mean adding more time to this project, delaying the implementation even more, when what we really want to do is focus on growing the membership and the value each member gets.

Internally, our IT supplier, Tall Projects, was considered for the role. They provide similar services to other clients, but their consultancy rate is close to £200/hour. While we could negotiate a package, the costs of this option were considered unaffordable.

The PSA’s current Finance Director, William Buist, has a comprehensive background in the necessary areas. He’s been on the Board for several years and has significant past experience delivering large technical digital projects.

William was involved in the project from the start, he’s been involved with discussions with suppliers, analysing their approach, investigating each supplier. He also has experience with working with our external IT suppliers to mine the data that we need from all our inherited chosen services – including financial and membership data.

It made sense that William be the Programme Director, because of his knowledge and avoiding a timely onboarding period and getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

William will initially give 20-25 hours a week, for a fee of £3,000 per month, which the Board felt was reasonable. This appointment will be reviewed after the Speaking Business Summit in October 2024 and after first phase implementation of the system.

A new Finance Director will be appointed as soon as possible to maintain the integrity of the project’s financial oversight and so that William can concentrate on implementing the new project.

Communicating all this
At the PSA, we are committed to keeping our members informed and involved throughout this project. We’ll send you updates by email and through dedicated sessions at regional and national events. We’ll also encourage member feedback and participation in testing phases—we need to hear from you!

Engaging with our Members
Throughout the project, your involvement will be crucial, to make sure that the delivered system meets your needs and those of the Association. We will be looking for volunteers to help with testing the system. We will also be working closely with groups of members, such as Regional Presidents, who will be using the system more regularly.

If you would like to be involved, please contact William Buist via email at [email protected].

In Conclusion …
The selection of Sport:80 as our software supplier and the appointment of our Programme Director are essential steps toward helping the PSA to grow, while providing you with the services you expect.

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