What do you think our Members want from IEEE?
The top three items consistently reported from our membership surveys year after year are: 1) to remain technically current, 2) to engage with others in their fields of interest, 3) and to enhance their professional careers. IEEE provides an opportunity to network with over 400,000 other global technical professionals – and these are just the individuals on the IEEE membership rosters – and does not include the millions connected through online social networking opportunities, IEEE conference events, and IEEE publications opportunities. IEEE provides access to almost one-third of the world’s repository of engineering and technology intellectual property, connections to over 1700 conferences annually, opportunities to publish, access to interesting local and regional technical activities, and the opportunity to participate in techno-humanitarian activities. For those who want to focus on a specific technical area, about half of all IEEE members belong to one or more society and many thousands participate in standards development. IEEE also provides a wide range of online collection of courses, and conference workshop technology content, for individuals who are interested in career enhancement. We have tens of thousands of active IEEE volunteers who donate their time to help support all of these activities.
IEEE members join so that they can connect with others to share ideas and obtain knowledge, it is the best thing you can do for your career – it is the best thing I ever did. My personal mission as an IEEE volunteer has been to work to make IEEE the best place for technical professionals to engage.
What do you believe are the major issues facing the IEEE?
Relevancy to an Increasingly Diverse Demographic
Associations today face challenges with membership declines. This problem is not unique to IEEE as many associations see these drops in membership, as many professionals do not find value in membership. Yet, as evidenced by the rise and growth of social networking – they do seek connection – more than ever. Social networks provide easy and convenient ways for people to network, and the proliferation of free online content has led to immediate access of the types of information that professionals used to be able to access only through association membership and industry conferences.
We need to rethink our role, instead of conceiving of ourselves as pseudo-club with annual meetings, perhaps we might consider broader communities that organize year-round around common technologies, values and goals. We already see this happening organically within some of our technical activities, publications and standards. However, this needs significant expansion to include things like micro-volunteering opportunities, techno-humanitarian volunteerism, and pop-up virtual technical communities. While we continue to remain technically relevant, and our content is cutting-edge, our delivery and outreach is not relevant to our broader target demographic.
We need to increase the value proposition for our IEEE membership and make IEEE personally relevant. For many years, I have listened to people talk about the need for ‘tailored tools, products and services’. I have seen time and again as much effort and funding have been spent trying to tailor what we think a certain target demographic might want, only to see these efforts fail.
We should focus on knowledge delivery – delivering technically relevant content that will support the individuals working in technology – it is simple. This should be our priority. Having the best technical content is what has made the IEEE brand strong – it will keep us moving forward. What we need to focus on is how to keep up and make improvements to our delivery mechanisms that meet the pace with which technology is changing. We are being challenged by new publishing mechanisms, like open source, and we need to be able to integrate social networking and collaboration tools so that more rapid peer review to publication might be supported.
Business Process Modernization and Integration
We have come a long way from the days when the IEEE conferences business was an offline spreadsheet-based business. However, there are still many areas within the IEEE business infrastructure that we need to improve and integrate. We currently have separate systems that provide support for conferences, publications, contracts management and volunteer reimbursements. Each of these systems currently provides varying levels of access to centralized data management and support for extensibility. We need a centralized data management system that will continue to enable our our strength… our multi-level federated system.
It is critical that we move forward and provide all who are touched by our IEEE business processes with up-to-date modern systems that provide support for today’s compliance, financial and audit requirements and most importantly that meet our user needs. I feel this is one of our most urgent strategic priorities.
What would you do, or have you done, to increase Industry/Government/Academic collaboration and partnerships?
When I was President of the IEEE Computer Society, I chartered the Computer Society Industry Advisory Board (IAB). The IEEE IAB is very similar, and although IABs are good, they are put in place to give industry advice to active standing Boards. This is their role. It is important to understand that engagement with key industry leaders at the Board-level is important to understanding trends – that their influence and their engagement is limited. I would continue to support this type of engagement. There is a missing piece and that is the advice that the IEEE Board of Directors might receive from the most senior leaders in academia. I would explore the possibility of putting an Academic Advisory Board in place.
The Computer Society, conducted two industry engagement experiments. These previous prototypes were called Corporate Package Training and Corporate Affiliate Membership. For the first, a portfolio of customized training was developed for Boeing Corporation. The second, a number of electronic memberships were bundled with a set of member benefits for Northrop Grumman to make available to their employees for a single bulk contract. In both cases the companies were engaged with IEEE and it allowed the companies to incentivize their employees using IEEE as the incentive. A win-win. In 2018, the IEEE started a Corporate Partnership Pilot Program. This pilot aims to do much of the same things conducted under these previous prototypes conducted by the Computer Society. I support this IEEE-level program and think we should continue to explore how to best work with our industry partners to further the IEEE mission and vision. We can also think about leveraging Industry engagement and corporate sponsorship to support our IEEExtreme competitions, in the areas where IEEE is engaged in at the local level in STEM like our Future Cities competitions, and in support of our SIGHT humanitarian activities.
As a US Government employee I think that we are missing engagement with a very vital and important sector. Our lowest engagements, across the globe tend to be with technologists that work in government sectors. This can be improved. In 2018, I worked with IEEE USA to conduct a prototype, setting up a US Government Community of Interest (USGOI). Reaching out to specifically try to engage individuals working in the US Government in technology fields. Recognizing that these individuals are a unique community with unique engagement requirements. I would support these continued types of engagement experiments.
We need to understand that ‘industry’ are people who want to be connected and engaged. They want the connection from their company to IEEE. This can come at the corporate level or at the local level. We just need to identify and provide for these engagement opportunities.
Not many individuals from Industry are IEEE Fellows, what would you do to ‘fix’ this problem?
Yes, this is indeed an issue. Each year the numbers of individuals from industry elevated to the rank of IEEE Fellow are far outnumbered by those in Academia. A number of years ago specific categories were added to support individuals from industry. Application Engineer/Practitioner, Educator, Research Engineer/Scientist, and Technical Leader. Yet we are not seeing the numbers of individuals elevated that are representative of our membership, which is about 60%. The statistics are public and can be found by a simple Google search. For example, in 2018 of the 660 Educators nominated 208 were elevated; of the 190 from Industry 71 were elevated. The problem is even worse for those in the category ‘Government’, of the 50 nominated, 14 were elevated. The issue is NOT that we do not have individuals from industry who meet the qualifications of IEEE Fellow. We need to do a better job of educating both the reviewers and those preparing the applications.
A proposal is currently being floated with which I vehemently disagree. It is to introduce a new level of membership – something in between Senior Member and Fellow specifically for our Industry members – originally this proposal was being marketed as ‘Industry Fellow’. I am from industry/government and am a Fellow. I am affronted by the idea that we are somewhat lesser and need this category. The idea is that we need to be provided with something – easier – for our members, to be placated – rather than to fix the Fellows process just amazes me. I will use an analogy. If this same type of category of Fellow/membership was being proffered to women, as women are also severely underrepresented as IEEE Fellows, would Women think it appropriate? I would think not. If the proposal is morphed so that there is a new category of membership to perhaps bridge the gap that exists between senior member and Fellow, I might be persuaded to support this but would have to examine the details. I am somewhat reluctant to introduce a new level of membership at this point, as I do know the original proposal was to target something lesser to support our industry membership.
We need to add industry representation on the Fellows Committee – ensuring that due process during the selections occurs. We must review the evaluation criteria for the Application/Practitioner and Technical Leader – are these being evaluated and are these taking into account the weight of things like industry awards? Company Technical Fellows programs? etc? I could go on. Let’s work together to fix the current IEEE Fellows process.
What do you think is the number one goal for the IEEE leadership?
Our roles as senior volunteers within IEEE should be to figure out how to best carry out the IEEE mission and vision. Accurate, clear and regular financial reporting is essential to ensuring an organization’s successful future. Much progress has been made in the clarity and quality of reported financials, but these efforts must continue so that the leadership of each TAB Societies and Councils are equipped with the financial tools to support informed decision-making and budget planning.
What is the current state of IEEE finances, and how of you propose to ensure that IEEE remains sound financially?
For the past 6 years, there has been a group of individuals within Technical Activities working to raise awareness regarding the state of IEEE finances. Our collective efforts are paying off. I am optimistic about where we are heading, infrastructure caps are finally being reduced, and as a by-product, the allocations of these costs to the operating units are being reduced. Collectively, there is an increasing awareness within the IEEE Board of Directors, the IEEE Finance Committee, and Executive Staff, as well as the members of the individual Operating Unit Boards, as to the importance of increasing the clarity associated with our financial operations. However, there is still work to do, and I remain committed to developing IEEE financial accounting that provides us with the ability to determine how each dollar is spent (as I describe in my position statement). We need to ensure that this trend continues with volunteer leadership that has been involved, understands, and holds financial transparency as a priority.
I have a demonstrated record of fiscal responsibility within IEEE. I base my approach to financial management on a simple set of basic principles: realistic balanced budgeting (no deficit budgeting) and tight control over expenses. I have practical experience, external to the IEEE organization, with the management of large, complex, budgets that require oversight and accountability.
What have you done to raise revenue for IEEE?
In 2007, I worked to increase efficiencies of IEEE-CS conferences management and conference publications, remaining focused on providing volunteer support. I successfully developed and deployed significant revisions to the IEEE-CS conference operations business model. These changes were prompted by need to address the IEEE-CS financial situation.
In 2007, the IEEE Computer Society was losing money at an alarming rate, more than $10,000 per day. The approved baseline budget for the IEEE Computer Society (CS), at the time, reflected a deficit of $3,232,700. As incoming Vice President of CS Conferences and Tutorials, I conducted a review of the 175 conferences in the CS portfolio, which projected an operating net loss for 2007 of $3.4M. Pretty bleak.
I had to figure out pretty quickly how to generate additional revenue and reduce expenses. I did using data driven decision, using data indicating an insufficient fiscal model, primarily an inverse fiscal relationship between the number of conferences and associated net contributions. Although numerous improvements were implemented, a notable few:
- Significant changes to the conference approval process (e.g., automation/efficiencies).
- Centralization of conference finance administration and improvements to the way in which conference staff were organized.
- Simplification and changes to financials; single fixed fee based on expenses to cover costs.
- Changes to the way volunteer conference leadership was organized.
- Implementation of conference vitality measures and improvements to portfolio management.
These efforts directly contributed to the generation of a balanced budget and elimination of $3.7M deficit during 2008-2010 and provided a simplified and more efficient process for CS conference organizers.
What do you see as the balance between revenue generation and serving the public through public imperatives and humanitarian efforts?
It must be said that just because IEEE is a not for profit, does not mean that we do not have to pay attention to the bottom line. It is even more important for us to raise revenue, and be dutiful stewards of our finances, so that we have the funds to support our mission, which is to advance technology for the benefit of humanity. You must have the funding if you want to serve the public though public imperatives and humanitarian efforts.
In 2017 the total revenues for IEEE were just over $490M with the major contributors being revenue from IEL and conferences. In 2017 we saw the first comprehensive IEEE foundation fundraising campaign – where they met their target goal of $30M by mid-October. In 2018 we see similar financials.
What is important to note is that we not only see support for IEEE humanitarian and public imperative activities through the IEEE Foundation. There are activities within IEEE that are externally funded – through IEEE technical and membership activities or through IEEE initiative funding. These programs include:
- The Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (SIGHT), which funded 12 projects in 11 countries last year;
- The Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS in IEEE), which provides students a platform to make a real world difference in rural communities with the deployment of engineering-related projects;
- and the IEEE Mobile Outreach Vehicle (MOVE), which partners with the American Red Cross to support provide short-turn communications, computer and power solutions when disasters strike.
I believe we should budget and plan for the most efficient IEEE operations. We should include in our budgets support for our mission. Where we have short falls, we should look to external fund raising. Incidentally, during 2017-2018 I have been a member of the MOVE fundraising committee, which is not an official IEEE committee, but rather a group of Region 3 volunteers trying to raise external funding to keep the MOVE initiative alive and well.
What do you propose to do to deal with the increasing prevalence of open access and its impact on IEEE publication income?
When IEEE first decided to jump into the Open Access arena in 2007, I was concerned and made it a point to monitor the impact to publication finances. The IEEE Technical Activities Board (TAB) and Publications Services and Products Board (PSPB) also made a commitment to ‘continue experimentation with Open Access and monitor its impact on the organization’.
Open Access was initially viewed as a threat. To date, this concern has not realized – peer reviewed, high quality publications are still highly sought after and our IEL subscriptions have seen steady year-to-year increases. IEEE has also been able to move into the Open Access market with three options for authors: Hybrid Journals, a new Multidisciplinary Open Access Mega Journal, and fully Open Access (OA) Journals. As I stated, the threat has not realized… yet.
However, two significant risks remain:
1) Decreases in IEEE Electronic Library (IEL) subscription revenues from librarians – those paying for current content access, and
2) Shifts in Open Access requirements mandated by funding agencies driving the main researchers – those paying to publish content.
We have been monitoring these risks within TA. To address the first risk, we have not seen significant downward trends in IEL subscription revenues. Current sales forecasts are pretty much on target for 2018. The academic market is saturated, and corporate sales are the mitigation for potential loses.
We are being much more proactive as we see the market changing more quickly relating to the second risk area. Funding organizations in Europe are eliminating author’s abilities to publish in a hybrid journals. They are eliminating the use of grant money for publication in OA Hybrid Journals. We need to make sure that we have a balanced portfolio of OA publications that provide for this new rule. We are working to create a portfolio of fully OA journals to meet the needs of the European community; this will position IEEE for a nimble response to the changing publications market place and the needs of its authors.
Open Access is here to stay, and has proven to be a viable part of the IEEE publication portfolio. IEEE must continue the commitment it has made to experiment and monitor. We need to continue to set a price point that is acceptable for authors, one that covers our publication costs, one that is benchmarked with competitors and positions us for a sustainable publication business.
How much importance should IEEE place on professional development activities?
IEEE should place the development and implementation of continuing professional development activities as a priority for the organization. The ultimate outcome of any continuing professional development program is that it deliver benefits to the public, the employer, and the professional. It has never been enough for someone to simply graduate with a technology degree – they must stay current. Professionals must stay relevant, aware of changing trends, their knowledge must stay up-to-date, and their skills must stay current. IEEE’s Mission statement is to ‘foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.’ Providing support for continuing professional development directly supports IEEE’s Mission by helping to ensure that practicing technologists are meeting the highest standards by staying relevant and up to date. Today IEEE journals, conferences, standards and IEEE Xplore serve to help our members stay current. In addition, IEEE provides continuing professional education. We need to significantly expand our continuing professional education program and work toward bundling our course content as packages to Universities and business that provide continuing education.
What do you see as the value proposition for IEEE members with our current membership model and membership-based professional societies?
Let me first discuss our current membership renewal process, which is the traditional – you sign up year-to-year annual renewal model. This is fine, but does not fit with today’s global ‘membership economy’. What I mean by this is today we see an ever-increasing popularity of the subscription-based business, which is primarily tied to millennials, who appear to prefer to pay incrementally for ongoing access to services. We should provide, with online and automatic payment, an almost effortless way for our members to spread out the yearly cost of their membership. The data from these types of programs shows that when members join, they do not consider the monthly transactions – they become automatic parts of their budgets. This would also allow for IEEE to plan and execute larger, longer-term programs because of the associated sizable recurring revenue. As it currently stands, we watch and wait for the annual renewal numbers to arrive to inform the budgeting process.
Secondly, our membership models. I know that IEEE Membership and Geographic Activities (MGA) has been exploring many options. I would encourage this to continue. We need to support excursions and experimentation that would allow us to support continued membership price and package tailoring to underserved and serviced Regions. We must look at membership models that engage industry, the possible revival of previous prototypes where memberships and services were bundled and sold in bulk, these memberships and services offered by the corporation as incentives to their employees. Any change to our membership model must be self-sustaining over long-term revenue projections, but we should experiment.
I also want to discuss membership representation. This is also something that MGA is considering and is a topic of strategic discussion at the IEEE Board of Directors (BOD). The current representation of 10 Division Directors (those Directors who are sitting on the BOD from Societies and Councils S/Cs) and 10 Region Directors (those from the IEEE Regions) has been in place for many years and we have seen significant shifts in growth in Regions 8, 9 and 10. These areas are under represented on the BOD and we should support MGA in their examination in how to correct this and make the representation of these Regions more equitable.
Lastly, I want to address the value proposition for membership-based professional societies. The value proposition should be the society’s determination of what is valuable to the member. It is what makes the professional society attractive. Some societies do a great job of this, some could improve. The Society and Council Review Committee is in place within Technical Activities to help each Society and Council gauge whether improvement is needed and to help. I am biased. I would not be a member of IEEE today had it not been the value provided to me by the Computer Society’s community of professionals. Also, data from our most recent membership survey shows that the majority of IEEE members view societies as important and satisfaction levels remain high. The data also reflects that the key reason members interact with societies is for information and education. This engagement, the ability to discuss important and topical matters, to affect change, to make a difference to the engineering profession – this is why membership-based professional societies matter. It is important for us to continue to have the IEEE and Society and Council offerings so that we provide continuing multiple value propositions to our members.
What can we do to better support the coordination between our Chapters and Sections?
There is a disconnect between many IEEE TAB Society Chapters and MGA Sections. I have served in both IEEE regional activities (Region 3) and in IEEE technical activities and knew for years that something was not quite right – I thought maybe it was just competition between the operating units. I just could not figure out what was wrong.
It was not until this past year – too late in my term as TAB Vice President – that I figured out the structural issue causing the disconnect. See, within MGA there are organizational structures that provide for the coordination between the sections and regions. In TAB there are organizational structures that provide for the coordination between societies and councils. Everyone assumes that the Societies will just manage their Chapters. They provide some oversight, but the oversight they provide does not provide the needed reach into MGA. There is a gap. Chapters are lost in between MGA and TAB and there should be a structure within TAB that provides some organizational oversight bridging the gap between the societies and working with MGA. This would help fix the problem.
What can we do to better support the diversity of members and the professions we serve?
IEEE’s Women in Engineering (WIE)program is one of the world’s largest with over 20,000 global members. It is also one of our fastest growing areas of membership with a 15% increase in membership in 2017. It is important that we continue to promote women in science, technology, engineering and math. It is important that additionally that we expand our conversation more broadly. Frankly, we need to be more inclusive and broaden our definition of diversity beyond that of gender, and the narrow definition of that associated exclusively with women. We should continue to fully support our activities in Women in Engineering, and expand these – looking for opportunities to remove gender biases from our governance, marketing and awards materials.
However, we serve a broad community that is currently under represented. We need to find a way to more equitably, and possible creatively, represent our membership in our growth regions. We have an imbalance with the current representation of our Regional membership on the IEEE Board of Directors. We have had significant growth in several Regions and we need to find a way for these regions to be better represented. Does it really make sense to have a single Regional Director, Region 8, representing on the IEEE Assembly the entirety of Africa, Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Republics of the Former USSR, and the Near and Middle East Countries (west of Afghanistan & Pakistan)? This needs to be improved. This should be one of our top priorities.
We must also focus on the next generation of technologists. As the VP of Technical Activities (TA) in 2018, I wanted to focus on the revitalization of the Young Professionals program within This began with a campaign to engage leadership of all the Societies and Councils to support and promote this program within their organizations, to include the appointment of a representative to TA sponsored activities. We kicked off the year with a TAB sponsored YP summit and we continued to focus energies and continue the momentum during the year. I personally fought for the funding to support the required YP activities and used part of my personal discretionary budget as well to ensure that there was adequate support for these activities within TA for 2018. I am happy to say that 42 IEEE societies and councils (S/Cs) have established Young Professionals programs. These S/Cs are working to build activity portfolios that demonstrate the value of these entities to IEEE’s next generation of technical leaders. The representatives meet monthly to build best practices and collectively share experiences—from the planning of technical programming to introducing young volunteers to leadership roles.
We must also continue to empower our entrepreneurs as these technologists drive tomorrow’s innovations. For the last three years, IEEE has focused resources, created events, offered collaboration opportunities and provided a series of N3XT events to provide founders, investors and service providers with this community with the resources that might best position them to help bring their concepts to life. As TAB VP I appointed Samantha Snabes to Chair the IEEE Entrepreneurship Initiative. Among her many other accolades and accomplishments she won the WeWork Creator Award Million Dollar Prize in 2018. During her tenure as Chair we have seen the launch of an IEEE Entrepreneurship Founder Office, IEEE N3XT affiliate event sessions within existing IEEE Conferences, expansion of the IEEE N3XT Stars Program into three large-scale tech industry startup competitions, and collaboration with Innovation Works to provide Industry Content into the International HArdware Cup Competition.
To close, while IEEE traditionally tied to the technical academic and we should maintain this critical relationship. It is vitally important that we continue to provide the high quality peer-reviewed publication and conferences that support the academic career path structure. We should also support the practicing technical professional. Data from our most recent membership survey shows that the top reasons people join IEEE are to remain technically current, to network with others in the profession, and to continue their education. We should do our best offer this to those working in industry. We need to do a better job of this. I am excited about the work that is in progress to consolidate and deliver the courseware that is currently distributed across IEEE Technical Activities and to develop new content. Collabratec offers a platform for collaboration, as we continue to look for ways to improve on this platform.
What do you view as future technical direction in our fields of interest and convergence of multi-disciplinary expertise to solve grand challenge topics?
Convergence is an approach to solving problems that integrates across scientific disciplines and knowledge backgrounds. I do not think that convergence is new; this is regularly done on large-scale programs to bring in the correct expertise to solve a problem or create a design.
As far as getting out my crystal ball as to what the next hot technology might be… from what I have been reading. I would say that there are breakthroughs coming in artificial intelligence, robotics, cyber and privacy, nanotechnology, augmented virtual reality, and even smarter cities.
If you pay close attention to the activity that is going on within our technical communities you can observe this type of convergence naturally occurring within our technical communities – and it does occur topically. The key draw is the topic, not the technology. They bring individuals with diverse experiences and expertise together to discuss a common area of research or problem.
There is an area that I do think that IEEE should aggressively monitor and should immediately lean forward to address. This is the current development in robotics and AI and its associated ramifications on the work force within industry. IEEE could play a significant role in re-educating the work force and technical community that is displaced by robotics and AI now and in the future. This will become a global challenge. We should look to the role that IEEE might play – particularly in education and technical training as employers require those previously employed in traditional labor roles to move toward technical support.
I see IEEE, and our flexible framework of technical communities, as being uniquely positioned to contribute toward future technical challenges.
What do you see as the growing importance of ethics of design and application of technology?
As technology becomes more and more pervasive throughout society and in our daily lives, so does the importance of the application of ethics to its design. The design of technology has a huge influence on how people behave and how their lives affected. Any individual who is responsible for the design of technology should understand this influence and have a clear realization that design is not neutral – that design is in fact an inherently ethical activity.
We must ask the following design questions:
- Who could this disenfranchise?
- Who might possibly get hurt?
- Could this design enable one person over another through its use?
- Are we responsible for the impacts of addiction?
Here are just some examples for discussion:
The Environmental protection Agency (EPA) found that Volkswagen (VW) cars were being sold with software that could detect when it was being emissions tested. The engines emit nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the U.S. This affected 11 million cars worldwide; VW has set aside approximately $5.25B to cover costs.
In a large study of seven thousand video gamers, close to twelve percent were classified as being addicted to video games; Games industry generated $108.4 Billion in 2017.
31% of U.S internet users aged 18-29 who have used dating sites or apps as of April 2017, the average user logs in 11 times a day spending about 77 minutes on the application daily in pursuit of a match; $1.28 Billion – revenue of the Match Group in 2017.
Software developers have come a long way, with cyber and security as major priorities when they design and code. However, the ethical consequences are not often still considered during software requirements and design. More troubling is that the ethical considerations associated with long term use and addiction are not only not considered, but are exploited as a business strategy for maximum profit.
What is your view of the current IEEE shared governance model?
IEEE, like many other nonprofits, operates with a traditional Board of Directors, which is based on for-profit corporate models. Inherent in this governance model is the demarcation between the board, our membership, our volunteers, and staff. Often the Operating Unit Vice Presidents are the only link between the various parts of the organization. This type of separation commonly results in the disconnection of the board and, ultimately, the organization from the very communities they serve, and it inhibits effective governance and accountability.
The other type of board, one comprised of experts, who may – or may not be – engaged in IEEE’s activities or mission, has tended to deepen a class divide between boards and their communities. Ultimately, these models prevent nonprofits from being effective—that is, responsive and accountable to the communities they serve.
Whatever governance structure a particular nonprofit adopts, it should strive to adopt one that fosters and advances democracy and self-determination. While our current governance structures within IEEE may not be perfect, we should continue to look for efficiencies, ways to increase communications, and continue to look to best promote the activities of our volunteers and membership that support our mission and vision.
What is your opinion on the use of private sector, for-profit business practices in a not-for profit association dedicated to our members, professions, and the public?
IEEE, as a not-for-profit, has a different mission and goals than for-profit enterprises. This is important to understand as it leads to two distinctly different types of organizational cultures. For profits, as the label implies, set goals of financial gain, and the culture within for-profit organizations focus on finances and business metrics. The culture within IEEE is more community-oriented, where more local communities within the Operating Units tend to take up initiatives that often have limited financial return, but that have much to do with the mission and vision of the IEEE. This is appropriate for a not-for-profit and appropriate when the initiative has strong alignment with the IEEE mission and vision.
There are some for-profit business practices and tools that IEEE has adopted and more that we should continue to look into. Some of the key areas that we should look to the for-profit sector for tools and business practices are:
- Governance & Board Oversight: One recent example is BoardSource. This tool is being used to manage the information repository for the IEEE Board of Directors and this same tool is used to support for-profit and not-for-profit Boards.
- Strategic Planning – for-profit strategic plans are often driven by CEO priorities. IEEE could benefit from an annual Board of Directors driven strategic vision. We had this during 2018, we should leverage this moving forward. Each President and BOD should begin the year with a revised strategy, which would then be communicated to the IEEE OUs. This would help greatly in setting the vision within the organization.
- Travel Reimbursement– There are many commercially available, for-profit, travel reimbursement systems available. I know that one is being Beta-tested for use within IEEE. This is the type of tool that we should be able to readily integrate into our business processes.
- Business Metrics – Adoption of key performance indicators for funded projects. We can look to for-profit companies for these measures. We have all heard how good we are within IEEE regarding project initiation. We are not necessarily good when it comes to stopping a project that is a non-performer. Financial strength is critical for any organization. Not-for-profit status is a tax strategy, not a business plan. If IEEE does not remain a financially viable organization, we risk mission delivery.
- Marketing: for-profits hire others to handle their digital marketing and create their digital marketing strategy. If we are not doing this in a consolidated manner, holistically for the IEEE brand, this should be considered.
Both not-for-profits and for-profit organizations must have the correct staff, (volunteers for not-for-profits), organizational structure, the right management team and business practices in place to function and grow. There are distinct differences that are important to understand before applying for-profit business practices where appropriate to a not-for-profit. However, it is important to understand that due to these differences, many for-profit business practices cannot be applied in a wholesale fashion to not-for-profits but much can be leveraged to reduce risk and gain performance.