The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is more than a century old, but that doesn’t mean it relies on old technology. Their member engagement and technology strategies are cutting edge, which makes sense—they have a global member base, with over 1,600 organizations comprised of 40,000 individuals spanning 100 countries/territories. Managing and providing value to such a wide-ranging membership is no small task, especially given AACSB’s relatively small staff—time and efficiency are precious commodities.
AACSB has been committed to the concept of community since they launched their own, The Exchange, in 2009 on the Higher Logic platform. Originally, AACSB members connected through email listservs organized by affinity groups—networking groups based on industry topics or shared job responsibilities. Eventually, these groups outgrew the listserv environment, and members wanted greater interaction and engagement. The natural next step was to create a secure online community to streamline communication, build new engagement, and increase participation within affinity groups.
After a few years, AACSB saw how well the affinity groups used the community platform and decided to open the community to all members, without filtering by affinity group. AACSB launched their all-member forum in 2014, giving their entire membership the ability to communicate with one another for the first time in the association’s history. It was a move well received by members and, as the concept took off, AACSB came to another great realization: their members were generating a lot of valuable data through the platform. How could they leverage this information to get the most out of it? The answer was Higher Logic’s Activity Sync module.
Before Activity Sync, AACSB’s community team used standard reporting to track basic metrics like discussions, private replies, commenting, and message forwarding. While valuable, there was more to gain from the data. The data gathering process was also time consuming, especially if they wanted to spot check particular members or organizations. That’s when AACSB started looking for solutions that would connect their community to their AMS, so data from all sources would be accessible in one place.
“We had all this data and we knew we could tie it back to specific members, but that required a lot of manual work,” said Jena Coffie, Senior Manager for Membership at AACSB. “Unless it was really needed, that data point simply wasn’t being tracked.”
In 2016, AACSB started using Activity Sync, a tool that brought new depth to their member analytics and added huge value to each member interaction on the platform.
How does it work? Activity Sync enhances the connection between the Higher Logic community and an AMS, automatically and seamlessly synchronizing data between the two, ensuring both platforms have accurate and up-to-date information. Instead of running reports and manually sifting through data, Activity Sync allows AACSB to see community data in the AMS, including large trends and how individual members or organizations have been interacting on the platform.
“Everything we see on the AMS that Activity Sync adds about our community helps us with the strategy for the community site,” said Jena. “It shows us what might be happening or what might not be happening. It’s the best way for us to strategize—using grassroots feedback we find in the data.”
Now AACSB can easily find important details about specific questions, such as how many individuals in an organization posted a discussion within a certain time frame. It’s now much easier to access this type of data by looking at a member organization’s AMS profile. AACSB uses that information to quickly understand their organizations’ engagement profiles and make informed decisions.
Activity Sync helps AACSB tie community activity to an individual or an organization’s larger profile to make the information more useful and plan future strategies accordingly. A big piece in knowing what’s going on in the community has to do with an Activity Score, or an ‘A-Score’.
AACSB uses a module in their AMS, Abila netFORUM Enterprise™, to create an engagement index, or A-Score. This index assigns points to every action members and organizations can take in the community. Those points add up to create an organization’s or an individual’s A-Score. Similar to a Net Promoter Score, the A-Score is a good indicator for how engaged and happy a member or organization is. Jena and her team set up composite scales and assigned points to activities so they could easily search for answers to their most important questions, like why certain people didn’t renew their memberships or how different members used the community.
The results have been important for AACSB to understand the type of value their community brings to their members.
“We confirmed a lot of information we thought we would see,” said Jena. “But we also uncovered things we didn’t know.”
For example, Activity Sync revealed AACSB is serving more faculty than they originally thought. This demographic accounts for 32 percent of engagement in the community. They also discovered they have higher engagement from the business segment of their membership. In the first few months of 2017, Corporate Official Representative engagement almost exceeded their 2016 engagement numbers.
“The fact that there’s been more activity in the community with particular member segments than we expected has been helpful to find, and helps inform plans to leverage the platform to communicate and engage those audiences,” said Jena. “Overall, the insights we gain from the data help us make better decisions.”
In addition to learning and confirming information about their members, Activity Sync has made AACSB a more efficient organization by cutting down on manual work. This paves the way for AACSB to start working on larger projects, which were difficult to start without the data Activity Sync provides. Going forward, AACSB hopes to dive deeper into the data to better understand the trends they’ve uncovered.
“There’s a number of faculty we’re reaching through the platform that we didn’t think were engaging with us before,” said Jena. Analyzing how those people engage within the community can inform future decisions for AACSB. “For instance, is it repeated engagement or is it a one-off? We should probably be innovating new programs, products, and services for these members, because they’re asking certain types of questions.”
Beyond that, Jena hopes to use data gathered from Activity Sync to help AACSB develop their larger business intelligence strategy.
“To really be able to look at it full picture, and see the value of the site and what we can do for our members, has been incredibly helpful,” she said.
Founded in 1916, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an international professional organization based in the United States. AACSB has a global member base, with over 1,600 organizations comprised of 40,000 individuals spanning 100 countries/territories.