When your organization makes an investment in technology and software such as a new CRM or association management software solution, we know it takes a lot of effort. It’s often a lengthy decision process. Many internal and external stakeholders are involved. Your team’s time and organization’s financial stakes in these decisions are huge. When you start to really dig into the power and potential of solutions with the power and scope of Microsoft Dynamics 365 that’s the engine powering Cobalt’s AMS software, Engagement Dynamics, the list of what’s possible could be overwhelming.
Sometimes, what happens is that a team gets through the vendor or software selection process, plows through implementation, does some foundational training, and then … gets back to work. That is the whole point, after all, right? Work smarter, increase efficiencies, and improve your end user’s experience. However …
If your team can’t really afford to carve out time to learn how advanced features work …
or your technology partner doesn’t seem to have the time to help …
or other priorities keep putting those efforts on the back burner …
You might wind up feeling frustrated about not getting everything you could from the investment you made. Also, we all know how much work it is to really change our minds about the ways we approach our work and the processes we use to get things done. That nearly universal inertia and professional foot-dragging when it comes to change is just a human reality. But, we can help.
How We Promote Innovation at Cobalt
Getting more from what you’ve already built is literally something we do for fun as a team at Cobalt. We’ve even incorporated this into our annual company retreat by holding a Hackathon. It’s a fun and enlightening way that we can take all our expertise in the Microsoft Power Platform (including Dynamics 365) and our Cobalt modules and put ourselves in your shoes for a day. The rules for our Hackathons are simple:
- We split our crew into cross-departmental teams and give them six hours to brainstorm and develop a creative solution that could possibly be applicable to Cobalt’s customers.
- They cannot use any custom code in their solutions! They are only allowed to use the out-of-the-box Microsoft Power Platform and Cobalt Engagement Dynamics modules.
Our team loves this part of our retreat. It is a lot of fun, and the constraints force us to innovate in ways that are realistic and exciting. The whole point is that any team that has invested in Cobalt Engagement Dynamics could do more with what they have on hand. It’s not just that we say our solutions are flexible or easily and quickly integrated with other applications — we put them all to the test to prove it, over and over again.
There were tons of good ideas that surfaced in our last Hackathon event:
- One team developed an app that allowed users to submit continuing education activities right from their phone so their managers could approve them.
- Another team created a solution that used Dynamics 365 Customer Voice, Microsoft’s surveying tool, to collect votes for a Board of Directors election tied to the Cobalt committees module.
But the winning idea was something we call Membership Match. It is a solution for professional networking that is loosely (and hilariously) built around the matching components of online dating services. Users can create a profile with things like job title, industry, etc. Once they’ve set up their profile, they can submit match requests where they detail the qualities of a person they are looking to network with. The solution then goes through all of the profiles and finds a profile that matches the criteria in the request. One of the coolest things about Membership Match is how it requires very little upkeep — an organization can set it up and never think about it again, but it will continue to provide value to members.
Are we going to eventually rollout Membership Match as a new Cobalt software solution? Maybe, in some form. But the more important point is that your team could be stretching and applying Cobalt Engagement Dynamics to do what you — and your members, or clients — need.
Want to hear more about our Hackathon and our process for innovation? Check out the archived version of our webinar where we give a high-level overview of the event.
How Our Professional Development Benefits Your Team and End-Users
Cobalt has always kept innovation and exceptional attention to our clients’ needs at the heart of both our business priorities and our motivations for research and product development. We’ve built some truly amazing CRM and AMS tools in the last 20 years, and we want teams to get everything possible out of them. For our team to thrive and our clients to lead in all they are doing, we knew early on that we needed to attract — and keep — the best and brightest from around the industry.
We make huge investments in our team because we know it’s the best way to make better investments in our client relationships and the software products you’ll use to serve your members or clients. One of the ways we continue to make this an ongoing commitment internally and for our clients is through our program for professional development. The Hackathon is just a small part of what we offer our team members. Cobalt creates an annual statement of alliance with all of its employees (more on that in another post) that includes short and long term career goals as well as two key elements aimed at professional development and continued learning.
Get Dedicated Time for Professional Development
There are always one or two specific action items that we surface and capture in our Statements of Alliance. They are tied to each employee’s two-year and five-year professional development goals. And, we follow through administratively. When we budget what someone will do for work throughout the year, their personal professional development goals are included right alongside their billable hours.
Have a Budget for Their Professional Development
If an employee needs to attend a conference as a part of their professional development, Cobalt is happy to pay for that expense. Same thing with classes, continuing education, and specialized certification. We have a tuition reimbursement program that will covers 100% of the cost of a related master’s degree — and many of our employees have taken advantage of that investment.