One of the things that really seems to come as a surprise to Canadians when they move to Australia is how our seasons just kind of blur from one to the next. It's now May, and although the weather is starting to cool down a little, it's nothing at all like Canada. When I lived there, I was really struck both by how dramatically the seasons change, and how predictably it happens. You can know, almost to the day, when the leaves will fall, or snow will begin. It's nice to actually have four distinct seasons. Although most Canadians I met sounded envious of our Australian weather, there is something to be said for a distinct change of seasons.
Speaking of distinct changes, there have been quite a few of them happening in our club over the last couple of months. Hopefully you've been noticing some of them, and we think they will help us grow the club into the future.
The most obvious one is the new website. As a member, we hope you've had a chance to visit the new site, log in and have a look around, and that you like what you see. We've tried to build on the good stuff that was in the old site, adding some extra interactive features that make it more functional and making it easy to navigate your way around. The feedback we've received has been really positive so far, but we'd like to hear your opinions too. The site will continue to change and evolve over time, adding more pages and information.
But the website you see as a member is just the surface... The real changes have been behind the scenes, where most members never see. A better membership database is now in place, and many tedious (and sometimes error-prone) processes are now fully automated to make it much easier to manage. We are trying to move as many manual processes as possible to be part of an automated workflow, requiring minimal intervention.
Take the process of joining the club for example. Potential members can now click a button on the website, fill in an application form, add their payment information and join online. The system will automatically track their membership application, send a welcome email, process their payment, confirm with an emailed receipt and activate their membership, all in about 4 minutes from start to finish. This process used to take anything up to 4 weeks to do previously. Removing the friction from joining the club has seen an increase in the number of people joining, with 11 new members joining the club this month... and we haven't even started promoting it yet! These are just folk who wander onto the website from a Google search and join because its easy to do so.
Similar improvements have been made to the process of renewing your existing memberships, registering for club events, voicing an opinion through the online discussion forums, and so on. The biggest change has really been to make the site more member-focused so that it becomes the place to go when you need to know what's happening.
The list of upcoming events is growing, with members offering to run or host activities like wine nights, theatre visits, and social days out. If you spot an event you'd like to attend, just click the Register button to create an RSVP.
These changes, where we integrate the use of the Web more into our daily operations, are the way the world is heading. If you look around, you see every organisation moving their operations online. Travel agents, banks, retail stores, schools and universities... the list goes on. To thrive in this day and age requires the ability to provide a functional and effective online presence.
One of the other questions to emerge from all this is the need to publish paper copies of our newsletter. In an age where publishing online is essentially free, it no longer makes economic or idealogical sense to publish and send paper magazines. This is an issue being faced by every newspaper and magazine publisher in the world these days, and many of them are facing some desperate times ahead. Printed publications are in the business of disseminating information, but when that information can be provided using other means at virtually no cost, their very existence must be questioned.
We face this same issue. The costs - both in terms of dollars and human resources - to produce, print and distribute paper copies of the club newsletter just can't be justified in an age where the Web and email can do it all faster, easier and cheaper. To this end, the committee make a decision that we will no longer distribute printed club newsletters via mail. Instead, the newsletter will be available online on the club's website in freely downloadable PDF format, and an email will be sent to all members each month with a link to the download. The newsletter will be stored in the members section of the site, so a login will be required to access it.
There may be a couple of members that are inconvenienced by this change, and we're sorry if that's the case. We are looking at ways of trying to assist those members. But for the vast majority of the membership, we believe that these changes will make things better and easier.
As always, your feedback is invited through the club forums.
Till next month, see you on an event!