As the Internet and online capabilities exploded during the first decade of the 21st century, virtualization emerged as a major topic of conversation throughout the business world, including professional associations such as SAE International. How could it enable organizations to extend portfolios of programs, products, and services? What new audiences would or could emerge because of it?
The possibilities, just like the technologies, were endless. That thinking became even more important during the economic downturn later in the decade. Organizations, associations included, were challenged to gain new efficiencies in their operations. Virtualizing became a necessity in operations, as well.
At SAE International, we have recognized this dualistic thinking (portfolio and operations) for over a decade and have been modifying our portfolio accordingly. Member and customer expectations are continuing to grow for the society’s programs, products, and services to be available in a variety of ways, including electronic and virtual formats. Accordingly, we have been adapting our strategies and even creating new ones to leverage opportunities.
In fact, much of our portfolio is available in a fully electronic format. Still other parts are available in “hybrid” mode where both the virtual and tangible are beneficial. For instance, membership with SAE International used to be what a traditional association membership was – you had a membership card and could attend various events or belong to local chapters, and you could take advantage of special discounts. But, things have been changing. Now, SAE International offers more “cafeteria-style” benefits that can be tailored to fit specific needs; there are more remote access and other engagement opportunities; and SAE International members can connect with colleagues from around the world through social networking features and other Web-based interactions, including SAE International’s EngineerXchange.
Publications continue to change as well. Gone are the days when you ordered a book or magazine subscription and, in return, you received a physical book, journal, or magazine. Of course, that’s still an option, but you also can receive that book, journal, or magazine electronically from SAE International in a variety of formats that are friendly to a smart phone or e-reader. Or, you can purchase portions of the whole if that is all you need. We’ve also increased the ability for customers to interact and actually provide information—in SAE International’s Momentum magazine; students can contribute content through features and other technical articles.
This trend continues through our other programs, products, and services, too. Components of SAE International’s meetings and conferences are available via digital video or real-time Web streaming; technical standards are available via download and as part of customizable subscriptions services; and professional development courses feature interactive student/instructor engagement through ongoing electronic communications.
SAE International also has taken several steps toward virtualizing some aspects of our operations with a goal of working more efficiently and effectively with members. This includes operating several different offices to better reach members and customers around the world, and also engaging subject matter experts to help provide the knowledge and resources they need.
Virtualization is a journey; it’s a journey whose direction is influenced by the needs, resources, and vision of the organization. At SAE International, we see the promise that it offers and will continue to incorporate such technologies in all that we do.
David L. Schutt, SAE Chief Executive Officer