Julie K. Owen, CCC PSP running for Vice President-Regions
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|1. In order to possibly promote increased attendance, would you be supportive of a more affordable Annual Meeting registration fee scheme for the members?|
|Generally I would not support a more affordable Annual Meeting registration fee. AACE International offers an amazing depth of technical and educational material at the Annual Meeting and its price is much less than similar organizations for their annual conference. AACE continues to increase and broaden its offering and reducing the price could cause organizers to seek to cut corners and cheapen the event. This is not a good member value proposition. In addition, twenty five percent of the association's gross revenue comes from the Annual Meeting, so reducing the revenue stream would require another source of funds for the association to operate. |
Looking at the past ten years of attendance records, 10-12% of North American membership attends the annual meeting irrespective of the price. In other terms, price is not a determining factor for participation and demand is inelastic. When we want to extend the membership value proposition we need to explore new and innovative ideas. Here are a few ideas for consideration:
- Provide guidance and encouragement for regions wishing to hold regional meetings that foster the mission and vision of the Association. This idea is taken directly from the AACE Strategic Plan Item 2-A-8. VP-Regions, Regional Directors, and headquarters are working together to develop an execution plan for sections so that Regional Events may be offered annually to service membership. The Regional Events would include a similar technical and educational offering on a smaller scale than the annual meeting and at a discounted price. Regional Events are being currently being conducted in Calgary, San Francisco, Denver, and Southern California and very successful with membership.
- Offer an event preceding the Annual Meeting that is at a reduced price and marketed toward young professionals and diverse members. I understand from Marlene Hyde that the CMAA annual conference has a similar event structure and that it is wildly successful.
- Explore opportunities to offer the annual meeting experience without travelling the distance to attend.
- Capture annual meeting presentations and training seminars on video and offer them to membership on demand for a fee via the AACE website. Testing of this concept started with a few of the presentations from the 2011 Anaheim Annual meeting. These presentations are currently available via “AACE Presents” on the website.
- Conduct virtual conferences in addition to the Annual Meeting. Virtual conferences are becoming more common and are increasingly enhanced by improvements in technology. Oracle Primavera has been utilizing this concept for their conferences for the past few years. The most recent Oracle Primavera Virtual Summit in November 2011 had 500 attendees that participated in the conference to witness multiple presenters and services vendors.
|2. How would you propose membership be increased in North America and internationally?|
|The key to expanding membership globally is through increasing brand awareness. AACE International has top of the line products that are largely unknown across many industries and in the international market. The new marketing campaign that is in process will help change this phenomenon. The sheer expansion of virtual products that have been launched in the past year (such as the Virtual Library, Visual TCM, and AACE Presents) is staggering. These products, and other products that are in development, will help position the Association for growth and global awareness and knowledge that AACE is 'The Authority for Total Cost Management'.|
Other keys to membership growth are increased activities and offerings to career development opportunities through technical, educational, and certification offerings. These areas are in the process of expanding their offering nationally and internationally. Technical and educational training offerings will be offered in annual events both in North America at the Annual Meeting, and internationally at the International TCM conference. Certification testing will soon be offered at computer based testing centers on demand around the globe. A virtual educational and training learning center that provides on-demand web-based educational seminars and certification training courses is probable. All of these ideas working together will increase the member value proposition and help increase membership.
|3. What do you see as the two most significant challenges facing your position and how would you address these two challenges|
|The first most significant challenge faced by Vice President Regions is balancing the needs of the North American and International membership communities. North American members typically have better access to association resources and also leadership visibility. North American members attend the Annual Meeting in much greater numbers and also comprise nearly all positions on the Board of Directors and Associate Boards. Much of this disparity is explained by global distance challenges and is being addressed by the addition of the International Total Cost Management conference scheduled for November 2012 in Dubai. I serve with others on the International TCM Conference planning committee and am working to bring the international community the same offering consistent with the annual meeting and position this offering on an annual basis.|
Another challenge of the Vice President Regions position is to ensure consistency of service and engagement of North American and International Regional Directors (RD’s). It is a geographical challenge for International RD’s to attend all board meetings especially considering they are all held in North America. International RD’s physically attend the annual meeting board of directors meeting each year. It is imperative to ensure that all RD’s have equal access to information as it relates to management of the association. Special provisions have been made to facilitate meeting attendance by International RD’s virtually to help facilitate communication and collaboration.
|4. What are your thoughts on the AACE International membership category of “Emeritus”?|
|As per the organization manual, the Emeritus Member pays no membership dues and enjoys all the benefits of association membership including free registration to the Annual Meeting. In practice, folks wishing to become Emeritus Members often self nominate for this benefit and solicit VP-Administration to approve their membership status. VP-Administration has sole approval to approve Emeritus Members. The criteria for this membership category is not well defined, managing has been a challenge, and inconsistent in application. This membership category should be eliminated as it places unwarranted financial strain up on the association. |
|5. What do you see is working right with the association today; in general or specifically?|
|The Association has an amazing depth of technical, educational, and certification products that are unequalled and the best available in the marketplace. The relentless volunteers largely from the associate boards have contributed their blood, sweat, and tears to develop these products. Passionate volunteers are working in sections around the world to spread the word of AACE International and extend the global brand. |
|6. What do you see as needing improvement with the association today; in general or specifically?|
|The world has changed into a diverse global marketplace comprised of people from different religious faiths, ethnicities, gender and age ranges. Groups that can embrace diversity in their core strengths are weathering the economic downturn better and enjoy increased profitability. The Center for Association Leadership, (ASAE) has published many articles relating that the days of the traditional member in Associations is gone and that Associations must find creative ways to find new member pools or risk elimination. In North America alone there has been a dramatic change in population demographics. The 2010 census in the United States specifically reflects that approximately 30% of the population is non-white. |
The world is becoming multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural and associations must embrace diversity to survive. This is the one area where AACE is continually challenged and is taking steps to improve diversity. The first step is realizing the starting point. AACE conducted a membership survey in 2010, and data showed that 50% of the total association membership was over the age of 45 and 30% of this group was over the age of 55. This data proved that association membership was mostly comprised of the baby boomer generation. Another interesting membership statistic was that 85% of the membership was male and 55% Caucasian.
|7. For the areas where you see the association needs improvement, how should they be addressed?|
|The AACE Board of Directors recognized the need to enhance diversity and began implementing strategic plans to address the need for engendering change. Several task forces and committees were created and chartered with vision and mission statements to enhance diversity in the Association within their respective areas. |
The Young Professionals Committee (YPC) was created to attract younger members and non-members to AACE International by adding values and benefits that today’s younger generations are looking for from a professional organization. The Women in Project Controls Committee (WPC) was created to encourage and mentor the growing number of women entering the Project Controls and Program/Project Management profession to join AACE International. The Diversity Task Force (DTF) was created to identify the diversity of AACE International membership in the North America and then use the information to strategically align to embrace diversity and foster inclusion. The Mentoring Advisory Committee (MAC) was formed to provide oversight of the program and to promote participation and support of the mentoring concept within the Association.
YPC, WPC, DTF, and MAC are working conjunction collaboratively since 2010 to facilitate membership demographic change and secured the membership offering of the annual Leadership Conference. The driving principles of the Leadership Conference are as follows:
- Create a more diverse membership base and foster inclusiveness
- Develop the next generation of leaders in AACE International
- Promote avenues for leadership amongst young and diverse members
- Provide programs that educate members and potential members about leadership
- Offer soft skills training including leadership, communication, team building and networking
|8. What value to the association does the Approved Education Provider (AEP) program provide?|
|The AEP program provides educational and professional development training opportunities to members via professional trainers. AEP companies are validated and approved by the AACE Education Board as capable to provide qualified training programs and instructors as an extension of AACE International. Often AEP firms are operating in areas where AACE sections are scarce or training opportunities limited. In this case the AEP's are partnered with AACE International to increase the membership value proposition. |
|9. How would you propose the value of the AEP program to AACE members be increased?|
|Some years ago there were challenges with AEP firms and association oversight. Some of the AEP firms were operating in the international community and communication with AACE headquarters was inconsistent. Enhancements to the AEP program were implemented requiring review and approval of AEP applications and validation of course content and instructor qualifications. An AEP review committee was formed that performed detailed review of course material to ensure alignment with the AACE body of knowledge and instructors were required to hold certifications in the courses being taught. Periodic audits were implemented to validate courses for professional content, course offering, and review of instructors. A quality control program was implemented that incudes disciplinary action and ethical review based upon any perceived complaints or allegations received.|
The AEP’s could further increase membership benefits by increasing the virtual classroom offering. This would greatly assist members in remote locations that do not have access to either a local section or proximity to an annual meeting educational seminar. Provision of web-based virtual classes available on demand is desired.
|10. What are your thoughts relative to the association expanding internationally, including into China?|
|One of the major keys to expansion of the brand of the Association is growth internationally. Expansion internationally is the largest market for continued growth. National membership growth has been fairly steady at roughly 2-3% per year. Conversely, the international market has been growing double digits annually since 2007 and now represents 30% of the membership base. This market offers a huge opportunity for AACE International to extend the brand globally. The International TCM conference in Dubai represents another facet of this growth opportunity. Historically only 5% of the International community participates in the North American annual meeting compared to North American residents. Travel times, travel cost, and visa constraints are all complicating factors that impact North American annual meeting attendance by international members. Having a separate meeting in the International market that is comparable to the Annual meeting every year serves this growing membership demographic and also helps expand brand awareness. |
Growing into China has already started and is a natural result of global expansion. China is the second largest economy in the world and also the fastest growing. AACE International recently kicked off its first China section in Shanghai in November and sent a delegation of high ranking board members to participate. I was one attendee and spent a week in Shanghai meeting people, touring companies, talking to executives and I returned changed. I was fascinated by their very young professional workforce that is fluent in English and clamoring for more knowledge of professional recommended practices. The Chinese market represents a huge potential market for AACE and I hope the success of the first China section replicates from Shanghai into other Chinese cities. It is true that expanding into China could pose risks. AACE International must be risk aware as several other associations have tried and experienced unforeseen risks with their expansion plans. AACE International established a China Task Force to serve in conjunction with the China section. Oversight is established from both the President-Elect and the Inter-Organizational Liaison to ensure checks and balances are in place.
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