From the CEO

Like all 21st century organizations, APA has embraced new and advancing technology to support and improve our member services and information products, and to facilitate staff productivity and the association's overall management. These technologies have allowed APA to grow and prosper, and we are constantly looking for ways to use technology to improve our operations and provide better service to our members. For example, starting with the 2006 membership renewal process, members will be able to renew their memberships online. This innovation will make it easier for members to renew their memberships and less time-consuming for staff to manage the renewal process. More broadly, the association is heavily dependent on technology to run its day-to-day activities, and members, nonmembers and universities rely on our numerous electronic products, such as PsycINFO, in their work. Because of this, we are implementing plans to use technology to ensure the continuation of APA operations and member services in the event of a disaster in Washington, D.C., that adversely affects our headquarters location on Capitol Hill. Although APA is clearly a technology-centric organization, it is also clear that there is much room for improvement. One of the things I constantly hear in my interactions with members is that we need to make our Web page more user-friendly, especially with regard to the search engine.

Assessing where we are now

As APA becomes more technology-focused, it is critical that we become more strategic and systematic in how we manage our information technology (IT) resources. Last year, based on a recommendation of APA's Board of Directors and Council of Representatives, I asked Jeanneret and Associates (an industrial/organizational psychologists consulting firm) to review the association's overall IT functions and to assess our need for a chief information officer.

Jeanneret's study process involved looking at IT structures in organizations similar to APA. The Jeanneret groups also interviewed members of the executive management staff and numerous APA staff members responsible for APA functions that are highly technology-dependent, such as the Database and Publications Directorate, the APA Service Center and our current Management Information Systems (MIS) and Internet Services (IS) staffs.

The review process found that although the association's IT needs are currently being met--primarily because of the talents and dedication of our MIS and IS staffs--the association would benefit from a more standardized and coordinated approach to IT resources and leadership. In its report, Jeanneret wisely counseled that organizations that are successful because of the talent and hard work of individuals, rather than the success of system-wide processes, put themselves at risk if those individuals were to leave the organization. In summary, the Jeanneret report found that for continued success in the future and as the association further embraces new technologies, a more strategic and structured IT function is needed.

Taking APA to the next level

In light of the recommendations of the IT review, and after consultation with APA's Executive Management Group, Finance Committee, Board of Directors and Council of Representatives, we have begun the process of recruiting a chief information officer (CIO) for APA. This new position will join the Central Office staff at the executive management level and will be responsible for providing a strategic vision for all of the association's IT operations, including the APA Web page. I will also look to this new CIO to help the association more fully use technology to provide member services and to help the association balance the IT needs of the APA directorates, member services and product services departments. For example, APA's IT operation needs planning, standardization and documentation to support its critical and complex function. But, we also need to be flexible and innovative to keep pace with changing market, member and customer demands.

As one of the largest professional and scientific organizations in the world, APA should be at the forefront in the use of 21st century technologies to accomplish its multifaceted mission. Achieving this objective requires the development of an overall vision for technology at APA, and the crafting of a systematic strategy that moves us toward that vision. Such a strategy must address infrastructure requirements, meet the needs of our members, governance groups, staff and the public, and it must balance the diverse technology challenges associated with our nonprofit and business development units. The hiring of a CIO, who I hope will be in place by the end of the year, will greatly accelerate our movement to the next level of technology.