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Leadership forums extend WSTA's offerings

West Sound Technology Association (WSTA) is celebrating its tenth year. There are a lot of things to be happy about — great members, hardworking leaders, support from the community, outstanding educational programs, and fun networking events. Initially formed to help local technology professionals provide awareness of local resources and networking opportunities, our mission expanded quickly because of the vital role technology plays in supporting our economy. Technology provides high-wage; environmentally friendly jobs and by promoting efficiency helps all sectors of the economy. As a 501c3, we created numerous partnerships with peer organizations and have hosted or attended hundreds of events to bring together, local, regional and national leaders regarding the importance of technology, education, networking — and to promote our members and the region.

But times are changing, so we took a long, hard look at our processes and programs. Why? Like every business, trade group and service organization, we’ve been hit hard by the rough economy. A few years ago, it was easy to sign new members, find corporate sponsors, and attract people to our programs and events. Now, increasing economic challenges have impacted our association.

During an assessment of our value proposition, we approached Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), a long-standing sponsor/supporter, to partner in inviting groups of CEOs and senior IT managers to participate in a 90 minute leadership forum at KEDA. Ken Sethney, then VP for WSTA, facilitated the forums. We asked a series of questions about the importance of information technology to their companies and the problems they were facing. We ended up hosting two forums, and here is what the participants told us.

Information technology makes a significant contribution to each organization’s competitive advantage or ability to deliver excellent customer service. Some of the comments were:

  • “We’re able to compete with multi-billion dollar companies”
  • “We’re more of a speed boat, thanks to technology”
  • “We have invested in technology that shows how our products will work in the real world”
  • “We use back-end virtualization to ramp up processing power without replacing desktop computers so often”
  • “Technology helps us meet customer expectations”

Resistance to change keeps employees and managers from using new technologies to their full advantage. This can undermine the investment and delay anticipated results. WSTA plans to host facilitated meetings with senior managers to overcome this resistant to change.

Using technology to enhance competitive advantage and making customer-facing technologies user friendly is a big issue for CEOs, but was barely mentioned by IT managers. Part of our outreach will be to help IT managers understand the importance of this to their organizations, and promote this within their organizations.

Security is a huge concern for IT managers, but way down the list for CEOs. WSTA has held regular meetings on security topics every year and had a Security SIG (special interest group), but with expanding threats this is an increasing concern. We will expand our security offerings and gauge interest for reforming the SIG.

Peer group contact between IT managers is important to them and CEOs. The forums suggested the benefits of moving meetings around the area, and we have already begun to do so.

Most forum participants look to the Eastside when they need quality IT resources, because they aren’t aware of top quality local providers. Fortunately, some make a special effort to look locally when there is a longer-term need. WSTA has long planned to compile a complete directory of West Sound IT service providers once budget allows. It would be a value-added benefit for members and available for a donation to non-members.

Education, training and employee development are priorities for IT managers and CEOs. Many WSTA members already serve on business management and computer science advisory boards for Olympic College and the School Districts. We will continue to work closely with our educational partners locally and virtually to determine specific training needs and promote training opportunities.

Disruptive innovation gives smaller companies an opportunity to compete with or sell to larger competitors. We will explore this in future Leadership Forums. There may be opportunities to expand into new markets they have yet to consider.

CEOs and IT managers need to know how they can work with WSTA, but they have different needs. As part of our ongoing outreach we will target the groups differently with ongoing leadership forums opportunities to form peer group meetings, because while we all learn many great things on the internet, we still learn best from each other.

To participate in future leadership forums, related SIGs, or to learn more about WSTA, visit www.westsoundtechnology.org. Reach WSTA at info [at] westsoundtechnology [dot] org or (206) 338-6554. WSTA is also seeking qualified individuals to serve on the board. As it celebrate 10 years, we sincerely appreciate all support, past and present. You’ve helped shape something valuable and in many ways unique for our region!

(Editors note: Charles Keating is president of West Sound Technology Association (WSTA). He is also president of Keating Consulting Service (www.kcsco.com), an IT consulting practice which has been in business for nearly 30 years. He is also a principal in K2 Strategic Solutions (www.k2strategic.com), a partnership between Professional Options and Keating Consulting Service which has a combined 50 year history of providing technology, policy and management consulting.)

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