Given the fact that BICSI’s Vision Statement is to be “the worldwide preeminent source of information, education and knowledge assessment for the constantly evolving information and communications technology community,” it’s easy to see why the organization would call itself a truly global association. In this particular case, being global is the direct result of a clear, planned strategy, as explains Paul Weintraub, CAE, Vice President of Global Development & Support at BICSI.
Expanding any association globally is a big step that requires careful preparation. In order for the expansion to be successful, it is critically important to develop a thorough plan including objectives, market situation, entry strategy, financial and ROI analysis, goals and measurement. All this is very hard work, yet it comes with great opportunities for growth, such as getting and retaining new members, brand awareness, new products and services, and the possibility of making your organization truly competitive.
With membership spanning nearly 100 countries, a satellite office in Dubai and affiliate offices in Tokyo and Melbourne, BICSI, whose purpose is to advance the knowledge and success of its members, their customers and the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, has become global surely and rapidly.
“As with any organization, the journey toward becoming a global entity has not been without its challenges, though” says Paul Weintraub. “Language barriers, time zone differences, pricing, and other high-level considerations all require thought and strategy to determine best practices and courses of action when expanding your reach globally. BICSI has approached its entry into global markets by making global a focus of our Board of Directors’ Strategic Plan; creating a task force to determine where to focus our efforts; and developing objective decision matrices and a weighted point system to take a fact-based approach to global expansion.”
Establishing a satellite office in Dubai has given BICSI the ability to better service its members and stakeholders who operate on a completely different time schedule from Florida, where the organization is headquartered. “That includes Africa, Europe and, of course, the Middle East,”explains Paul. “Having support from the Dubai office means customers can call and speak with someone who can assist them during their normal business hours. It also means that BICSI staff are more “local” to them and more attuned to global concerns, such as differing communication styles, cultural nuances, and the process of relationship building. We have found that opening the Dubai office and having affiliate offices in Japan and Australia, has given BICSI a more global face and local reach.”
In Dubai in particular, DAC, the Dubai Association Centre, has been an indispensable resource in providing local market and cultural insight and “boots on the ground” to BICSI’s expansion in the Middle East. “DAC provided support and a clear, easy-to-understand process we followed when opening our office in Dubai. From there, they provided the required handholding to get things done locally like opening a bank account and establishing mobile telephone accounts, all the way to recruiting and managing of local staff,” says Weintraub.
The Dubai Association Centre was formed in 2014 as a joint initiative of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) as a “response to the surge in the demand for association engagement in the UAE and the Middle East.” Now, more than 60 associations fall under DAC’s umbrella, which acts as a platform for dialogue and education for associations interested in expanding their presence and activities in the Middle East.
There’s no doubt that, if executed properly, globalization can bring your association many benefits, the first and most obvious being getting access to a much larger base of members and partipants for your events. If your services are proven added values, you can enjoy increased revenues while at the same time helping an exponentially greater number of people find the answers to the questions or challenges your association helps solve, this way improving your reputation.
In BICSI’s case, because information and communications technology (ICT) is everywhere, there is an increased demand for product design and that’s where the organization’s added values lie. “There is an ongoing – and even rising – need for skilled digital infrastructure designers and installers experienced in Smart Cities and Buildings, Data Centres and Cloud Computing, 5G Cabling Systems, IoT and such are needed more.” says Paul Weintraub. “BICSI trains and certifies ICT/ELV professionals using BICSI standards and best practices that are recognized worldwide and included in many tender and design documents for a variety of commercial buildings and projects including airports and stadiums.”
And when asked for a piece of advice he would give anassociation wanting to ‘internationalize’ itself, Wintraub concludes: “First and foremost, determine exactly why your association wants to expand globally and what the opportunity cost may be of not doing so. Make sure you gain Board support, and have a global focus included in the Strategic Plan. Remain objective, using decision-making tools including a SWOT Analysis, a points-based and weighted decision matrix, and a lot of fact-based research. Staff should spend time in the region of expansion and learn the local way of doing business. It also greatly helps to have enthusiastic volunteers willing to lend a helping hand in the regions into which you are expanding.”
This piece, written by Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve, is part of the exclusive partnership between Boardroom and the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), which comes as an innovative response to the increasing decentralisation of international associations, as they look to develop their activities globally. www.associationhubs.org. The right to use, part or all of it in subsequent works has to be granted by the Publisher.