1. How would you specifically propose to expand the value and influence of AACE to the corporations and organizations that employ our members?
There are two separate questions here, one about value and one on influence, but both require the same approach. In order to best serve corporations and organizations and encourage their continued and increased participation, we must understand them as stakeholders and think in terms of return on investment.
Entities that value knowledge and continuing education will be attracted to training opportunities and professional development, such as basic training, specialty training, leadership training, certifications, and virtual library access. We can expand the value of AACE in these areas, specifically where companies have needed to cut back on in-house training and mentoring, by providing these services through AACE Sections, virtual events, and Approved Education Providers (AEP).
Entities that seek to adopt established standards as their own or improve existing procedures will be interested in AACE’s Recommended Practices and Professional Practice Guides, along with the TCM Framework. A number of these technical products are already available free of charge, and the remainder are available to members. This is a prime example of AACE influencing the marketplace.
Entities wishing to increase sales will see value in networking at AACE events and cooperative events with other professional associations which help to expand reach. Marketing of these events should focus not just on individual members but also on companies and agencies.
Where entities have a group of employees who are members of AACE, the newly redesigned COMP discount program will apply and generate cost savings.
Other areas of interest include job advertisements in the reasonably priced online AACE career center, data from the annual salary survey, cost models, and more.
What benefit might AACE and its members expect from corporations and organizations that recognize our value? Employees may be reimbursed for dues and attendance at events, and volunteer participation may be supported. There may be an uptick in corporate sponsorship. Recognition of the value of certification may be cause for bonuses or raises; in fact, this already occurs regularly in the international marketplace. Expanding the value and influence of AACE to the corporations and organizations that employ our members results in benefits to both AACE and its members
2. In order to possibly promote increased attendance, would you be supportive of a more affordable Annual Meeting registration fee scheme for the members?
Having presented technical papers at nine conferences around the world in the past year, I can confidently state that AACE’s Annual Meeting provides more technical tracks and training across a broad range of topics than almost any of our peer associations (although IPMA’s conference comes close; their fees are comparable to ours). I often have difficulty choosing between sessions scheduled at the same time, and that’s a good thing; my time spent learning at the AACE Annual Meeting is, without a doubt, maximized; the value is even greater when I take what I have learned and share it with colleagues, clients, and staff. For those who cannot attend, popular presentations are videotaped and available online; live streaming could expand on this concept. The existing fee structure is more than reasonable; it is a bargain. However, in order to maintain this extraordinary value, AACE must resist the current cost-cutting trend exhibited by U.S. conferences of reducing conference amenities, tours, and sit-down meals.
3. How would you propose membership be increased in North America and internationally?
The key to attracting members is value, and AACE’s true worth is in its technical, education, and certification products. Visibility of those products, and their worth to employers, will be important to future membership growth. Several recent cooperative agreements signed with other professional associations in both the private sector and government are helping introduce AACE’s products to new potential member populations, new events such as the upcoming Government Agency Forum and Dubai symposium are expanding our influence, and AACE’s participation on the international front with ICEC continues to draw candidates for both certification and membership. [How many of these answers are you reading thoroughly?] Indeed, some smaller professional associations are considering adopting AACE’s certifications as standard.
Membership growth must be sustainable in the long-term. It makes no sense to create new sections where there are only just enough members to serve on the section board. Members must be able to enjoy the full benefits of membership, attending local / regional / national / international meetings, networking, and expanding their technical knowledge. AACE’s ability to serve its members must not suffer as membership increases; this is a potential bottleneck, and we cannot afford to let our reputation suffer due to organizational limitations. AACE has already begun to address these issues by expanding headquarters facilities and hiring staff as needed to address demands created by growth.
4. What do you see as the two most significant challenges facing your position and how would you address these two challenges if elected?
Because many of those who contribute to AACE are volunteers who have paid jobs to attend to, the biggest challenge as president is to keep the association moving forward with a positive result. To that end, it is for the president to guide and encourage (but not control) the Board of Directors, committees, and headquarters. I will seek to overcome some of the communication, scope, and participation issues faced by specific Board member positions and committees, encourage greater involvement, ensure that voices are heard, and support constructive discourse and open sharing of information in the best interests of the association. The organization manual and association governance should continue to evolve to match our growth.
The president becomes, naturally, a lightning rod for multiple constituents who all demand satisfaction and attention; this includes members, corporations, and the Board of Directors. Balancing responsiveness / reaction with proactive efforts is necessary. In some (but not all) instances, delegation is the solution. Teamwork and cooperation is the answer to balancing multiple demands; no one person can do it alone, and indeed the president is completely ineffectual without the Board of Directors and numerous committees. For example: this year, instead of simply having one person overburdened as Inter-organization Liaison, I expanded the concept and created the Inter-organization Committee, with dedicated volunteers who each are closely engaged with one of dozens of professional associations, government agencies, corporate sponsors, and other organizations. Communication has, as a result, improved and each entity has a dedicated point of contact with whom they can work. Each volunteer will, no doubt, continue to grow with AACE and serve in additional capacities, thus ensuring Board succession.
There is a third unavoidable and often unspoken reality. Every AACE past-president has stated that the role of president is, essentially, a second full-time job as advocate, emissary, spokesperson, and officer. No matter which candidate is chosen, they will need to have the flexibility to perform the role, availability to travel, corporate support for both time and travel costs, excellent management skills, focus, commitment, passion and drive in order to serve meaningfully, while remaining accessible to members.
5. What are your thoughts on the AACE International membership category of “Emeritus”?
The category of Emeritus is not well defined. The only requirement is 10 years of active membership; Emeritus members need not be retired. Emeritus status may be conferred at the sole discretion of the VP Administration. Emeritus members do not pay membership dues or Annual Meeting registration fees, for life.
In contrast, the category of Honorary Life member requires a majority vote by the Board of Directors and is conferred as an award at the Annual Meeting, with specific criteria that include distinguished service in industry or academia, and 15 years of continuous membership. The lifetime benefits are the same as Emeritus.
There is no need for two membership categories that provide the same benefits, especially when the criteria are disparate. Further, the VP Administration should not have the sole power to bestow an award with such great financial benefits; this opens the door to favoritism, and potentially cheapens the prestige of the Honorary Life member award. To reduce this ethics risk, the Emeritus member category should be eliminated, and existing Emeritus members transferred to the Honorary Member category to retain their benefits.
6. What do you see is working right with the Association today; in general or specifically?
There is clear global recognition of and respect for AACE’s technical, education and certification products, momentum which we need to maintain. AACE has a devoted and unparalleled volunteer base, without which we could not function; our overhead is far lower than that of our peer associations, yet we accomplish so very much with high quality and will likely continue to do so [choose wisely!]. We need to be ever thankful for our committee and board members, who all serve in a volunteer capacity. Thanks in part to the first two, even in a ‘down’ economic climate, international growth has been booming and is likely to continue. AACE continues to develop, influence, and improve global standard definitions in project management and project controls, with GAPPS and ISO. There are many more ‘successes’ about which I am passionate, but the role of president should be about more than just cheerleading.
7. What do you see as needing improvement with the association today; in general or specifically?
First, due in part to volunteer focus, AACE is constrained by a lack of resources which results in glacial response to changes and demand in the market; speed of development of TEC products is quite slow (although patience and thoroughness are key to quality control).
Second, AACE constantly finds (and positions) itself in competition with project management (PM) and quantity surveying (QS) associations, unnecessarily segmenting the market.
8. For the areas where you see the association needs improvement, how should they be addressed?
AACE needs to expand its base of volunteer members; engaging younger members and members of our special task forces is key to maintaining the membership lifecycle. Each of these volunteers will learn valuable organizational skills that can be applied in their career, thus benefiting employers. In addition, I have been active with a committee that is taking a critical look at and making improvements to our governance structure; this also will help the association streamline operations and improve board communication, efficiency, and responsiveness.
Recognition of the skillset overlap with other associations in the CE, PM and QS fields can lead to partnering and mutual support. Instead of engaging in competition, more inclusiveness will help build the brand, increase visibility and exposure, and boost demand globally for technical services in all fields. My keynote speech for the upcoming ASAQS conference highlights the similarities and differences in the three disciplines, and encourages cooperation instead of competition.
9. What value to the association does the Approved Education Provider (AEP) program provide?
AACE is a volunteer-driven association, and Approved Education Providers (AEP) approved by the Education Board provide much needed training and certification resources that supplement the volunteer and headquarters efforts. AEPs have proven especially effective in serving AACE’s international and newly formed sections.
10. How would you propose the value of the AEP program to AACE members be increased?
As with all outsourcing, there are risks and ethics issues that need to be addressed, thus increasing the value of the AEP program to AACE members. Risks AACE has faced and begun mitigating include: improving the quality of services provided, preventing AEPs from “teaching to the test”, protecting AACE copyright, approving course content, and maintaining the integrity of certification exam administration.
Broadening the scope of services available, such as virtual training and translation, could increase the value to AACE provided by AEPs. AEPs invest considerable time and money in developing coursework and materials; we can assist them in maximizing their return on investment through visibility and marketing.