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Emily ShineJul 3, 2022 12:00:00 AM8 min read

What Do High-Performing Associations Look Like?

You may have heard the brutal 70% failure rate—that 7/10 change initiatives go sideways. A recent study of high-performing organizations sheds light on the prerequisite for enduring innovation in face of enduring digital disruption.

Data gleaned from 2,387 senior technology executives reveals how associations, for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies alike can stay at least a year ahead of the competition. The high-performing mindset, practices, and tools is coined “business composability” in the 2022 Gartner CIO Agenda.

Rooted in the principle of modularity, composability is the future of high-performing associations. Today, we’re spilling how you, too, can become a high-performing association by investing in a "composable enterprise."

Do you want high levels of organizational performance? I mean, do you REALLY want to turn your association into a high-performing organization? Then let’s dive in.

agile composable high performing associations


The Risk of Accelerating Change 

Given the dynamic nature of digital business today, associations must deliver rapid decisive action to keep members satisfied. Growth, competition, and innovation in a disruptive business environment requires easy access to data and quick reaction times.

Yet, many associations still have "interwoven" best-of-breed software systems that are imperfect and not well integrated. Today, we’re still selecting specialty applications around our legacy AMS, and then bolting them on top of our core AMS “hub." To force these disjointed systems to play nicely, we've traditionally relied on one-to-one integrations and the coupling of specific enterprise data with specific systems.

These tight, point-to-point data couplings quickly multiply and morph into a complex web of dependencies. This cripples the flow of data, often leaving associations chained to outdated systems and endless technical debt. Processes aren’t smoothed out and data isn’t always readily available.

If we don't fix these issues with speed and presently accessible information, keeping up with the data economy and distributed cloud technologies will be a pipe dream.

This is precisely why Gartner underscores composability as the leading CIO trend in the shift toward more agile and responsive organizations. It helps to eliminate friction and power association digital transformation.

What is Composability? 

The composable mindset guides you through times of uncertainty and opportunity. It’s about becoming opportunistic and infusing modularity into the organization to respond to change with speed and agility.

Composability basically means modular.

Organizations that pivot to a modular (composable) process are able to rearrange and reorient to external and internal factors.

As the Principal Analyst at Gartner puts it, “Being composable means being able to extend the reuse of capabilities and continuously adapt to change." For associations, it means tapping into shifting member needs and meeting regulatory, legislative, and public expectations more readily and easily. 


The 3 Domains of High-Performing Associations

There are three basic building blocks of a composable enterprise:

  1. Composable thinking
  2. Composable architecture
  3. Composable technology

These three overarching domains work together to enable modular IT capabilities throughout the people-processes-technology layers of an intelligent organizational system.

principles of composability

The Core Principles 

There are four core principles in which composable, high-performing associations operate: modularity, autonomy, orchestration, and discovery. 

  1. More speed through discovery 
  2. Greater agility through modularity 
  3. Better leadership through orchestration 
  4. Resilience through autonomy 

High-Trust Culture


High-trust culture is a huge part of building an intelligent, composable, high-performing association. Digital trust, ownership, and transparency are necessary to expand data governance and democratization (aka, data sharing and open flow of information) across the association while protecting data privacy and giving members more control over their digital experience.

Making moves toward an intelligent, high-trust composable association involves:

  • Embracing a high-trust culture with digital accountability for distributed and remote staff.
  • Breaking down the barriers between IT and the organization through transparency and high-bandwidth stakeholder management, coordination, and collaboration.
  • Sharing information assets across systems and people.
  • Building out tight systems-level integrations for data and analytics.
  • Forming greater interdepartmental, multifunctional connections to iterate on more defined innovation and target new market opportunities.

high trust composable culture 

High-Performing Associations Are Agile & Modular 


A high-performing association is one that can adjust to current circumstances. Instead of just skating by, we must learn from for-profit businesses and begin promoting modularity throughout the organization.

Adopting more composable value assets and flexible IT infrastructure is the only sustainable way to capitalize on necessary continuous improvement and accelerate digital innovation inside and out. Being able to rapidly respond to how members want to be served requires the mindset, tools, and practices of a smart composable organization.

Make no mistake. This isn’t just some recommendation; rather, it’s an all-out warning siren to put a plan into action. The composable IT train has already left the station. The time is now to make a game plan while there’s still time. Associations have already begun pulling back the culture curtain to expose potential outdated areas.

Example of Composable Architecture

Industry organizations have begun plans to remove barriers in today's suite of association applications and empower faster, smarter results along with the high-trust culture necessary for high-performing associations.

For instance, MemberJunction is a new built-to-integrate platform for the association tech stack that epitomizes modern composable architecture. The free, future-proof solution is like the “software glue” between all third-party vendors.

With a single source of truth, administration tasks and reporting across your software ecosystem become no-brainers. You don't have to do a bunch of mental gymnastics to get your data to work together. All your information is stored and managed in one place, ready to go.

And the best part is that you own all your data. You're not locked into an AMS nor is your data tied up in one system, preventing you from making a switch. You have complete autonomy over your digital information so you can swap LMS software, community platforms, and other best-of-breed association applications in and out as you please.

Through flexible, open-source, serverless data integration, the goal of this new free composable architecture is to:

  • Reclaim ownership of data from lagging legacy systems.
  • House all member data in one centralized location.
  • Plug and unplug best-in-class applications and tools.
  • Bridge information silos that hamstring growth and innovation.
  • Remove barriers to real-time intelligence.
  • Empower the tech-savvy and non-tech-minded end-users to make decisions on a dime.

How to Become a High-Performance Association


Below I’ve outlined key steps to improve composable thinking, processes, and technologies in high-performing associations. This isn’t meant to be a step-by-step recipe for organizational performance.

Rather, use it as guidelines to decide what to focus on to enhance the strength and sustainability of your organization. While it’s been conceptually and scientifically proven, by no means is it a blueprint to follow blindly.

  1. Define what a composable enterprise means to your organization.
  2. Rank your organization, including each function area and department, on the four core principles: modularity, autonomy, orchestration, and discovery.
  3. Establish a clear vision of a composable mindset, practices, and tools.
  4. Plan individual, functional, and departmental goals.
  5. Discuss, evaluate, and clarify cross-departmental and cross-functional goals and value strategy as a team.
  6. Clarify shared governance practices.
  7. Map the skills you need to excel in business composability.
  8. Gain consensus and begin to align and build a progress roadmap toward the “gold standard” (aka your organization’s current working definition, which will shift and improve over time).
  9. Set targets and KPI metrics for performance measurement.
  10. Document an action plan including:
    1. Immediate quick wins.
    2. Long-term strategic roadmap.
    3. Systems of management with automated tracking and regular dialogue.
    4. Opportunities to learn, iterate, and continuously improve.
    5. Iterate relentlessly during strategic planning and IT budgeting.

In your action plan, be sure to incorporate a progress review toward identified composability goals. Schedule regular brainstorming and more structured annual meetings. Use these interactions to iterate and evolve your organizational vision, strategies, goals, and action plan to improve your composability score.

Regular iteration and continuous improvement are crucial to support and accelerate capabilities, tech, processes, and, above all else, high trust. An organizational culture of transparency, trust, learning, and commitment to performance and agility drives outcomes towards a future-ready, high-performing association.

Making The Business Case

Accelerating change is no longer a risk but rather a key driver of new business value for operations running on a more composable IT backbone.

Making a business case for packaged plug-and-play capabilities gives IT the footing it needs to move forward with much-needed technology initiatives and IT funding. It’s hard to ignore the spotlight that business composability shines on the value of enterprise IT in building a high-performing association.

Critical, data-driven investments in composability mean you don’t have to keep your eyes peeled in two separate directions: one eye on evolving member expectations and the other on tech development. Leadership, organizational, and technology priorities all begin to align. So much so that they start to inform and reinforce each other.

Stakeholders and end-users see how (and how much) technology results impact business outcomes (and vice versa). Visibility into the high-impact IT-business synergy puts a whole new emphasis on transformation and revenue. It can light a fire across your organization beyond the confines of IT.

Start Building a Composable, High-Performing Association

All organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, must be prepared to operate in the volatile conditions of the modern digital business. Embracing a high-trust culture and advancing composable thinking, architecture, and technology defines the future of high-performing associations.

Investing in IT composability aligns strategic, technological, and management priorities to create reliable and sustainable solutions for all stakeholders. Through packaged composability, associations can gain a competitive advantage and endless opportunities for growth.

Are you ready to retake the reins of your data and digital transformation? Need help turning composability into your competitive advantage?

Brightfind enables professional associations, non-profits, member-driven organizations, and industry groups in the age of digital disruption. Get in touch with us to rethink and redesign processes to build a high-performing association.