When I saw the recent post about Healthcare.gov on the Tagoras blog, I braced myself for an overly political article. I was pleasantly surprised though when instead I read a practical piece on the increasingly strong tie between service delivery, specifically for education, and technology.

For many associations, successful delivery of continuing education is dependent upon reliable online resources. (Just like the success of the Affordable Healthcare Act is largely dependent on Healthcare.gov.) Since executive directors and CEOs are rightfully engaged in continuing education programs, they now also need to be engaged in the relevant technology decisions and conversations. Gone are the days of tossing those projects over the fence to IT to manage in a silo. Leaders now need to be asking questions about the end user experience, long-term management, reliability, resources and more.

Now for your reading pleasure, without further ado, here is the post.

Software or Mission Maker? The Tightening Connection Between Technology and Education

I’m not a Sunday morning talk show pundit or a basher of Obamacare, so I didn’t really expect to weigh in on the recent online insurance exchange Web site debacle.

Then I came across a recent by Michael Wolff in USA Today titled “How CEOs are clueless about technology.”

Wolff takes aim at the CEO in Chief in making the main point of his article, but the point is one that applies broadly: most leaders still view technology as something separate from the real value that their organization offers.

As an enhancement. As an upgrade. But surely not as the real heart of the matter.

In short: as “software.”

But that’s a mistake. As Wolff, borrowing a page from Marshall McLuhan puts it – the “product is the process” – and “process” is inherently dependent upon – indeed, increasingly indistinguishable from – technology.

To put it another way, you can’t really separate Obamacare from the experience of accessing the care that the legislation promises. And that access, in the world we now live in, is entirely dependent upon technology.

As you might guess, I see parallels in the world of continuing education and professional development. It is still all too common for association leaders to view learning management platforms and other types of learning technology as merely “software.”

As an enhancement. As an upgrade. But surely not as the real heart of the matter.

But that’s a mistake. With the direction that education has taken – over the past decade, and at a dramatically accelerated rate in just the past year or two – technology is now inherent to the process.

You can’t separate technology, in most instances, from how members and customers experience the education you provide and the learning you (hopefully) facilitate.

Given the fundamental role of education and learning in the mission of most associations, this means you cannot separate technology from how the organization is experienced and valued.

In my experience, there are still far too few executives – particularly C-level executives – sitting at the table when learning technology decisions are made. As Wolff suggests, “it’s not they they are uninterested in technology, nor unmindful of its uses and importance” it’s just that they think “understanding its nuances is somebody else’s job, a supply chain process.”

I’m not saying that CEOs need to be running RFP processes or designing online courses, but getting more deeply involved and understanding how the “process” (technology) and the “product” (learning and education) are connected is no longer optional for organizations that want to thrive in the exploding market for lifelong education.

Leaders who don’t make this shift will find, as Wolff puts it, that “The more out of it you are, like the president, the more out of it your product is.”