1. In order to possibly promote increased attendance, would you be supportive of a more affordable Annual Meeting registration fee scheme for the members?
Being an Annual Meeting attendee myself for the past four years, I feel the prices are appropriate considering the high quality of the technical content delivered over the typical four day format at the Annual Meeting. An affordable price is a subjective issue. If a member is completely sponsored by their employer including all expenses paid to attend the Annual Meeting, then all of a sudden the Annual Meeting becomes an exciting experience for the members. If a member is partially sponsored by their employer by covering expenses, and or the meeting registration, then the meeting attendance become very much affordable. If a member is not sponsored by their employer, then the meeting attendance cost plus all other costs associated with the meting attendance including travel, boarding, and lodging could become expensive for some members. So, I think it is important for AACE to consider these three categories under different groups when setting the registration prices. Depending upon member’s level of support from their employer, a structured multi-tiered pricing model could be adopted to facilitate non-sponsored members to attend the annual meeting without feeling the pinch of expenses and registration fee for the attendance. We need follow an honour system to implement such a tiered pricing system. AACE can reach out more actively to the corporate community and promote the benefits of attending the Annual Meeting for their employees and request that support be offered to their employees to attend the Annual Meeting. If corporations are informed more and more about AACE Annual Meeting’s importance, value, and quality of technical knowledge shared, it will help our members to have an easier conversation with their employers to request for support to attend the Annual Meeting.
On a second note, currently the pricing is uniform across all countries. Not all countries under AACE umbrella are economically on the same level playing field as the Americas or the European countries. Annual Meeting cost may be completely unaffordable for members from some of our international sections that have a huge exchange rate and currency value disparity. It is very important for AACE to consider this into Annual Meeting pricing, and offer a structured pricing matching the country’s affordability index. It is important for the leadership to understand that US $1,000 is lot of money in some of the developing and underdeveloped countries and being an international association, we need to address this pricing issue for Annual Meeting. I believe that the pricing structure should be tied to parameters such as country of citizenship, country of employment, nature of employment, and country’s economic disparity. As our association is growing into a strong international association, this strategy will help promote more international member participation and support our diversity strategy of “Exclusive, yet Inclusive”
2. How would you propose membership be increased in North America and internationally?
In the past few years, our association have already started numerous initiatives to attract new members, retain existing members, and bring back our alumni. Some of the interesting initiatives include more structured sectional events, ground-breaking regional events, out of the box national events such as the leadership conference, international exclusive technical events such as our upcoming 2012 Dubai Total Cost Management Conference, innovative international wide programs such as Women in Project Controls Committee (WPC), Young professionals Committee (YPC), Diversity Task Force (DTF), Mentoring Committee, etc to promote diversity and offer mentorship for new and existing members, and various education, certification, and technical offerings to promote active member participation. If we can promote and showcase all these offerings and reiterate the value of AACE through a strong marketing campaign targeted at our potential members (by industry and sector), we sure can increase our membership numbers by: one adding new members to our fraternity; and two, increase members by curtailing attrition of our current members.
We need to reach out to our corporate sponsors and existing members through our new improved website, section newsletters, regional, national, and international events to showcase the strengths and offering of AACE to promote new member growth. Growing international and growing organically is important for long term sustained growth. Also, promote our member-bring-a-member program by incentivising annual membership dues, annual meeting registration fees, and other AACE offerings.
3. What do you see as the two most significant challenges facing your position and how would you address these two challenges
Amongst many other typical challenges that every AACE Region faces, as a Regional Director of Region 4, my two most significant challenges are Geographic diversity of Region 4, and Lack of Regional event.
Geographic Diversity: Region 4 with about 700 members spread over a total of 12 sections (Chicago-Midwest, Indiana Hoosier, Kansas City, Tri-States, New Orleans, Great Lakes, St. Louis, Northeast Ohio, Southwest Ohio, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Northwest Virginia, Iowa, and Minnesota) constitutes to about one tenth of our Association membership base. From my understanding, amongst these 12 sections, about nine sections are active and remaining three are struggling. One of my biggest challenges as the Regional Director is to support the active sections to grow further, help the struggling sections to come out of the slump and strive for sustained growth, and promote new section formation in the vastly diverse (geographically) Region 4. I plan to use technology to connect with section leadership of such a geographically diverse region to promote my personal involvement to help support section leadership for a sustained growth.
Lack of Regional Event: Before moving to Chicago in fall 2011, I lived in Southern California and was actively involved in Region 6 sections such as the Southern California Section and Northern California Section. There were numerous regional events in Region 6 that brought regional members together for more than once year. This helped foster more interaction amongst regional members that lead to increased activity across sections, both technically and socially. Events like Western Winter Workshop and Spring Symposium brought Region 6 sections such as Northern California, Southern California, South Central California, Nevada, Seattle sections together, and fostered more interaction and knowledge exchange amongst members and section leaders. This lead to increased networking, collaboration, and growth. I would like to establish an annual regional event for Region 4 that will help bring sections, section officers, and members of Region 4 much closer and serve as a platform for cross-sectional interaction and mentorship. Upon taking the office, I will be working with my section officers to plan and conduct an Annual Regional event for Region 4 starting 2013.
4. What are your thoughts on the AACE International membership category of “Emeritus”?
I like the AACE International membership category of “Emeritus” and I think AACE should continue offering this premier status to our members who have contributed significantly to the profession and our association over many years through their experience, commitment, and dedication. The criteria for offering such Emeritus status should definitely include leadership and mentorship that the member has contributed to the association, region, section, and the profession over years before earning the “Emeritus” status.
5. What do you see is working right with the association today; in general or specifically?
In general, there is huge amount of positive energy with the association leadership and a renewed interest to promote diversity and organic international growth. Our strength in offering unmatched technical knowledge base to the cost engineering community is only growing over time making us the international standard for cost engineering professional practice.
In specific, our association has started embracing the use technology to increase our member service offerings through electronic media including but not limited to a comprehensive online member profile management system, electronic payment systems, digital newsletters, online and on-demand training programs such as the seminar-in-a-box, online elections, and the newly proposed (a possible reality) electronic exam-on-demand pro-metric system for our certification exams. Though some of these changes may seem trivial, it is appropriately positioning the association for a sustained long term growth to cater to the digital needs of the growing next generation cost engineering professionals.
6. What do you see as needing improvement with the association today; in general or specifically?
In general, one of the biggest areas that need improvement is the level to which our association reaching out to the global corporate world to enlighten the corporations about the benefits and offerings of AACE. For example, I consult for a Fortune 50 major oil and gas energy client. With over 22,000 employees nationwide, many of whom are engineers managing multi-billion dollar engineering projects, their participation in AACE activities is close to zero. I think our Association could be doing a better job to reach out much more effectively to such major engineering corporations to promote our offerings. A strong marketing campaign can help us convey our strengths to such major companies and thereby increase our membership base, and promote use of our cost engineering standards and knowledgebase more appropriately to make our standards the global standard for project based organizations.
7. For the areas where you see the association needs improvement, how should they be addressed?
A strong, well thought out marketing campaign that can showcase our strengths to the cost engineering, project controls, project management, and construction management community.
A more improved and renewed corporate partners program to foster sustained reach to the professional community about our technical offering and our deep cost engineering knowledgebase. Help companies establish cost engineering benchmarks and best practices based on our education, certification, and technical standards.
8. What value to the association does the Approved Education Provider (AEP) program provide?
I think the AEP program is a strong complement to our association. My only worry is the quality of services offered by AEP. Our association need to establish a strict approval guideline to approve any AEP, and a strong performance audit program to review services offered by AEPs such that it meets the highest of the standards set forth by the Association. If our AEPs are representing our association in the international community, they need to be the best-in-class and should follow certain best practice standards. I think currently we lack such a strong audit program to keep our AEPs in check. Once we have such a system to increase performance standards of our AEPs, I think they will be a great asset to promote growth of our association and our offerings to our members and professional community.
9. How would you propose the value of the AEP program to AACE members be increased?
Again, having an AEP program is one, but promoting it right is a major task. Since I have been a member of this association, I haven’t seen any campaign that told me the existence of AEPs and their offerings. I think if we can better promote our AEP offerings, courses, calendars of the events, etc, members will benefit from such training programs offered by our AEPs. There are many members out there who want to expand their knowledge through training and get re-certification credits. I think a strong marketing campaign to inform members about AEP offerings will be a huge value addition.
10. What are your thoughts relative to the association expanding internationally, including into China?
My opinion is, if we are not growing internationally, we are not growing, period. Internet changed the entire global landscape. The world is a very small place now and to be a truly international association we need to grow out of North America into various parts of the world. But, we need to do this with caution. We cannot grow everywhere at once. We should grow to the levels that our infrastructure would permit us, but keep growing internationally. Growing international has its own challenges including geographic divide, cultural divide, linguistic divide, technical standards divide amongst many others. We should develop a strategic plan to grow globally but very organically such that we do not overwhelm ourselves without building the needed infrastructure to support such a global growth.
Our association that is predominantly a major North American association, headquartered in United States, with majority of leadership from North America, should devise a strong strategic international growth plan before embarking on a rapid international growth strategy. One step-at-a-time is a good strategy. I strongly believe that our association and our leadership are already marching on these lines. If we continue to do so slowly and steadily, a sustained successful international growth is inevitable. Our upcoming 2012 International Total Cost Management Conference in Dubai is classical example for such a strategic international growth vision. I think we should pursue this path and achieve a sustained global international growth of our membership base and make our association truly an “international association”.