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Client news

June 2018

  • Virtual: A Day in the Life of an IT Junior Systems Administrator – Sothearith Prak

    June 6, 2018

    Q&A with Sothearith Prak, IT Junior Systems Administrator at Virtual

    What do you do at Virtual?

    As the IT Junior Systems Administrator at Virtual, I conduct regular server maintenance, push out security patches, manage our hosted phone system, regulate email management, and provide support in our Help Desk ticketing system. I work closely with our Tier 1 Help Desk support staff to ensure that tickets are resolved quickly for both our clients and internal users here at Virtual. I also assist the senior IT team when doing off-hours server upgrades, as well as deploying new software and data migrations.

    How did you learn about the role?

    I learned about this role through a reference from a former co-worker. Knowing that I was studying IT, he informed me that there was an opening at Virtual that he had heard from his wife, who also worked at Virtual at the time. I heard nothing but good things about Virtual, so I decided to apply, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

    What is the most rewarding part of your job?

    Technology evolves at a fast rate, and my job as IT Administrator is to research and test new technologies to improve our infrastructure and everyday workflow. After many hours of testing, it’s a great feeling when a new technology finally deploys across the company’s systems. There’s nothing more rewarding than to look back and say to myself “I was a part of that; I helped make this happen.”

     

     

     

April 2018

  • Celebrating the Power and Dedication of Volunteers

    April 13, 2018

    Did you know that April 15-22 is National Volunteer Week in the United States?  This special celebration of volunteerism was first recognized in 1974 by the Points of Light Foundation. They wanted to create “an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community” to say thanks… and to inspire others to find ways to take action that creates change.

    A study commissioned and published by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016 reported that in 2015 there were 62.6 million volunteers in the United States.  Some interesting data about those volunteers:

    • Volunteers come in all ages – about 28.5% of adults between the ages of 35-54 volunteered in 2015, but teenagers weren’t far behind at 26%, and those over 55 were just slightly less likely to volunteer at 25%.
    • The median hours spent volunteering was 52, and that’s a lot of time.
    • While many of the volunteer hours are spent working for religious or civic organizations, more than half are spent on professional, medical, technical, and trade associations.
    • One of the statistics that jumps out of the report is that those who are employed full-time are just slightly more likely than all others to volunteer – proving the observation that iconic American Comedian Lucille Ball made, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do!”

    I never get tired of celebrating the men and women who work with passion for pay, and then turn around and work as volunteers with even more passion shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues or competitors to change things and make them better.

    As my good friend Susan Neely said recently, “The freedom to associate has always been one of this country’s most cherished rights and among its greatest strengths. The Sons of Liberty brought together the separated classes of shopkeepers, political leaders, and common folk to confront the power of the British crown. The suffragettes formed the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 to organize competing voices under a single banner and amplify their cause. And more recently, the NAACP helped unify disparate voices throughout America in a convincing call for racial justice. When companies or individual professionals join forces for a common cause, they, too, demonstrate the impact of collective action.”

    This IS what associations do.  Beyond all the mechanics of building a member database or keeping minutes of board meetings; beyond the bylaws and the events management, great associations mobilize the exceptional talent and wide reach of their members to build a stronger nation and world.  The American Society of Association Executives calls this “The Power of A” – or the Power of Association.

    I think that’s something to celebrate!

    So here’s an enthusiastic round of applause for all of the volunteers who are making things better and stronger in the associations that Virtual manages, and in all of the great associations in this country and around the world!  Bravo!

     

    About the Author

    Elissa Myers DMG A Virtual Company

    Elissa Matulis Myers is a strategic visionary for associations. With a deep background in association management, she works with clients to develop organizational plans that help them optimize their potential. In over 40 years as an association executive, she has developed a passion and expertise for helping associations achieve their missions by reaching beyond their geographic boarders. Elissa is currently the CEO of the Academy of Eating Disorders in her role as a Senior Vice President of DMG – A Virtual company. She has previously served as the CEO of the Electronic Retailing Association and the Partnership for Prevention, as well as helped literally hundreds of associations to strengthen their governance process and their strategic orientation.

March 2018

  • 5 PMO Strategies to Drive Your Association’s Success

    March 23, 2018

    A Project Management Office or PMO is a group or department that defines and maintains standards within an organization.  A PMO in your organization will save you time and money which means it will significantly contribute to the overall success of your association.  If your association doesn’t have a PMO, you should seriously consider investing in one.

    Below are my top five strategies to get you started:

    1. Start with a Roadmap! Developing a roadmap will help you focus on the goals you set for the year.  It allows you to prioritize by quarter what’s most important to your organization and if you don’t get to it, that’s ok, you can move it to the next quarter.  No initiative is too small for your roadmap.

    Start by thinking about your objective or focus for 2018.  Make an outline of the initiatives you want to tackle (big or small) with obtainable milestones that support your objective or focus.  Then add these items to your roadmap in bulleted format in your desired order.  Set some time aside each week to review your roadmap and to update status.  Share your roadmap with your team and executive staff so they have a clear view of the goals you’ve set for the year.

    2. Create Templates! Creating templates will save you and your teams a ton of time.  Got a new project?  Great, go to your PMO folder and grab your New Project Package which is full of templates you need to initiate your project.  Templates ensure efficiency and consistency throughout the organization and project lifecycle.  Create a Project Charter template.  A Project Charter has all the high-level information around your project.  All projects should have a Project Charter so create a template and the project lead can quickly complete the charter and move on to the next task.  There are many other templates you could create by thinking about your process.You should also have a document repository that everyone in your organization can easily access and where all your templates live.

    3. Small Wins are still Wins! We often think we must tackle the biggest project to “get things done”, that’s not always true.  Focus on one goal and break it down into obtainable milestones.

    For example, New Employee Onboarding sounds like it could be a small project but really, it’s pretty big.  The IT department has action items, Payroll, the Office Manager, and the Hiring Manager all have a to do list, and of course Human Resources has their own list of items to do to successful welcome a new team member to the organization.  This is a good-sized project with many moving parts.  Instead of trying to tackle the full Onboarding Process, start with the IT department.  Get the team together to make a list of items they must complete to onboard a new employee (new laptop, email, etc.).  Then, using your project management tool (in our case Wrike) add those items to a new project plan called New Employee Onboarding.  The IT team can assign tasks to each other, set dates and dependencies, notify one another if a task has been completed and now the next person can start working, comment or ask questions.  What we’re doing is cutting back on questions, emails, and other distractions.  The team has a clear view of what is expected of them and due dates.  This is a small win.  Do this exercise with each functional team and once each piece is built, then put them all together.  You now have your big win, the New Employee Process.

    4. Develop Processes and Workflows! Put it the time now to develop processes and save time later when a project is initiated.  After you create your process, pair it up with a visually appealing workflow that is easy to read and understandable.You can start by drawing on a whiteboard or even a piece of paper the sequential order of the steps in the process.  Once you have the steps drawn out, use a visual tool like Microsoft Visio or Microsoft Word works too to make it look pretty and digital.  Under each step, I like to add some key action items as a reminder to the team of what will and need to be done to move to the next step.  This also helps with standardization.  A process and workflow can always be better, don’t be afraid to make changes as you go…continuous improvement!

    5. A Tool is a Must! Stop using applications like Microsoft Excel as a tracking mechanism for your projects.  Find a project management tool that’s right for your organization.  This is also not an easy task, take your time to find the right one.  Make a list of your “Musts” and “Would be Nice”.  Obviously, budget is one of the main factors and usually a constraint when choosing the right tool.  Find a few that fall into your bucket and compare them.  Do a demo, ask questions, and get a trial and sandbox site to do some real testing.Using a project management tool will help with collaboration, communication, efficiency, standardization (make project plan templates!), reporting, and transparency.  It will cut down on time and as you know, time is money!

    Following these steps will get your PMO off the ground.  Next, focus on adoption and governance of your PMO and remember, not everyone thinks like a project manager so try not to over complicate things.

    Keep calm and make things happen…

     

    About the Author

    Valarie Moschella is a project management rock star. As the director of Virtual’s PMO, she focuses on defining and managing standardization throughout the company. For staff, this means access to a robust framework of process, templates, documentation and more. She has coupled all that with a powerful project management tool and created a culture at Virtual that embraces project management best practices. This is not only valuable to Virtual but also our clients, who benefit tremendously from our staff’s deep knowledge in project management which helps them achieve their organizational goals.

    Check out Val’s favorite client success story and learn what sport she was a Junior Olympian in on our Expertise page.

  • Counting Down the 10 Best Things About Virtual 2.0

    March 14, 2018

    It has been about six weeks since we announced, “Virtual 2.0”—our partnership with Drohan Management Group (DMG) in Washington, D.C. and Professional Credential Services (PCS, Inc.) in Nashville.  I wanted to give a brief update on how things are going.

    Having spent a good chunk of time in our offices in Washington, D.C. and Nashville, not to mention my “home office” in Wakefield, I’m more excited every day by what this change can mean for our clients and our team.  In the spirit of the “home office” from the old Late Night with David Letterman days, here’s a top 10 list of the things that I’m excited about:

    10. A unique capability in certification services. With the addition of our team in Nashville, our certification services are truly unmatched—we now provide comprehensive certification services for professions ranging from nurses to cyber security professionals with a global reach.

    9. A presence in Washington, D.C.. With our Reston office and a location in downtown D.C., we now have “boots on the ground” in the capital to provide the opportunity to interact with a range of associations and the U.S. Federal government.

    8. Continued (and growing) expertise in tech. Our focus on tech as an area of excellence has not changed. We have an expanding practice in fast growing tech areas such as blockchain and have been increasing our involvement in open source communities.

    7. The Nashville connection. Nashville is just a great city. Our office is conveniently about 5 minutes from the airport—and a short trip downtown to a great city with music, food and so much more. Why don’t y’all come down and see us some time? (See how I’m learning?)

    6. New minds, new approaches. We are already seeing great synergy in our client base and the opportunity to approach existing clients with new solutions as “fresh eyes” become involved.

    5. A varied cost model. The lower cost of the Nashville market allows us to provide a varied cost model for our clients—saving them money while helping them be more successful.

    4. Future growth opportunities. Now that we have partnered with Striker Partners, we have the financial backing and acumen needed to continue to grow organically through more partnerships—an exciting opportunity as we look ahead.

    3. Some spectacular clients. Our client list includes dozens of organizations that are changing the world. From tech groups that are establishing the technology of tomorrow to groups like the Academy of Eating Disorders that are solving pressing problems, our clients are truly helping to change the world.

    2. An even more spectacular staff. I’m genuinely humbled to have the opportunity to lead this team of talented individuals. Our staff ranges from recent college grads to individuals with decades of experience in associations and consortia. With one common bond—a commitment to help our clients succeed.

    1. Excitement. I’ve said it before—what’s the point of any of this if we aren’t having any fun? And this process has been as fun and exciting as I could have ever dreamed of. I’m essentially starting a new job and bringing along all the people I love from my old job. That’s a great deal.

February 2018

  • 4 Strategies for Managing Successful Events in the Face of Adversity

    February 16, 2018

    The Best Preparations for the Worst Case Scenarios

    I don’t remember walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror, but lately we’ve had some tough karma when it comes to our client meetings. Faithful blog readers (that’s you, Mom!) may remember that we had a meeting back in September that we had to cancel due to Hurricane Irma. Well, six weeks later, that same client had a meeting in Barcelona the week of the Catalan secession vote and resulting unrest.  And now the same client has a meeting coming up in Cape Town, South Africa, where a water shortage is threatening to completely deplete the city’s water supply.

    So we’ve gotten pretty good at managing through adversity. Here are a few tips:

    1. Gordon Gekko was right. Thirty years ago in the movie Wall Street, the character of Gordon Gekko opined that “information is the most valuable commodity there is.” He’s never been more right than in the case of an event facing a challenge. Whether it was knowing the exact track of the storm in the case of Irma or understanding the impact of water restrictions in Cape Town, we had to learn first-hand the facts of the situation. Keep these two things in mind:
      1. Local sources are best. National and international news tends to generalize by region. In the case of Barcelona, areas of large scale protests were in the city center, with our hotel on the outskirts. It was the equivalent of being in Virginia when there is a large event on the National Mall in Washington—-you’re aware it’s happening, but it doesn’t have an impact. Locals understand the local impact.
      2. Situations change. In the case of Irma, we started the week thinking the storm would miss us entirely, but the track changed daily. Decisions that were sound one day had to be revisited the next. Check and recheck your information.
    2. Understand your insurance coverage. Have you read the fine print of your event insurance cancellation coverage? Understanding what’s covered and what’s not is a conversation that is best had with your broker when there isn’t an active crisis— and especially not when you’re in the midst of one.
    3. Rumors can start quickly, and questions take on a special urgency in a crisis situation. While everyone may be busy trying to fix things behind the scenes, remember that you can’t communicate enough with attendees, staff, stakeholders and vendors. Consider regular huddles, especially with the venue to identify issues, and communicate regularly with attendees via both email and social media.
    4. Safety first. There’s no substitute for good planning—this can mean everything from having flashlights in your bag to making sure you have your event team’s full contact information—and that those in the office do as well. You want to be able to easily reach people in an emergency.

    So how did this all turn out for us?

    In the case of Irma, we cancelled the meeting, but learned a ton. In Barcelona, we went forward and had no issues at all.  As for Cape Town, our current plans are to proceed forward, but we are alerting attendees about the water situation and making sure that we are utilizing sustainable practices.

    I can’t wait to see what our Tokyo meeting will hold— here’s hoping Godzilla doesn’t know we’re coming!

January 2018

  • Announcing Virtual, Inc. “2.0”

    January 29, 2018

    We’re Teaming Up To Help Clients Reach New Heights

    I have some exciting news to share with you about our company.

    I’m pleased to announce that Virtual has joined forces with two companies: Drohan Management Group (DMG)  of Washington, D.C., and Professional Credential Services (PCS, Inc.)  of Nashville, Tenn., to grow our resource base and enhance our service offerings to clients.

    This new company will combine our technology industry expertise with a broader set of resources in membership, meeting planning, and certification services to create a one-of-a-kind professional services firm geared toward making our clients successful.

    With offices in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Nashville —not to mention our presence in Silicon Valley—we’ll have more than 230 team members, making us one of the largest companies of our kind.

    As CEO of the expanded firm, I’ll be joined by Bill Drohan who will serve in the dual role of president of DMG and president of Virtual, Inc. Craig Paxson will lead PCS and serve as Virtual’s EVP of Service Delivery. Other members of the Virtual senior management, include COO Terry Lowney, CFO Sean Hainer, CTO Kathy Gallagher, EVP Don Kaiser, and EVP of Strategy Greg Kohn.

    We’re excited by the possibilities. From the beginning, we’ve been  bonded by our shared commitment to service excellence, curiosity, and unlocking potential. While core client services relationships will remain the same, we’ll provide a  wider range of resources and enhanced expertise in functional areas.

    To build this new enterprise, we have partnered with Striker Partners, a private equity firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Striker’s backing will enable us to continue to grow and invest in the best people and systems that our clients need to be successful.

    If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or one of the senior team members at Virtual. Thank you as always for your ongoing support and partnership.

    We appreciate the opportunity to work with you.

  • NFC Forum Call For Entries; 2018 NFC Innovation Awards Open For Submissions

    January 17, 2018

    NFC Forum Call For Entries; 2018 NFC Innovation Awards Open For Submissions

    NFC Forum Invites Brands, Developers, Entrepreneurs and Startups to Submit their Groundbreaking NFC-Enabled Products, Services, and Experiences for Global Recognition

    WAKEFIELD, Mass., USA – Jan. 17, 2018 – The NFC Forum announced today a call for entries for the 2018 NFC Innovation Awards to recognize innovative Near Field Communication (NFC) products, services and experiences worldwide. Innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and organizations using NFC in new, disruptive and pioneering ways can submit award entries showcasing their work for the chance to win in one of three award categories. There is no cost to enter the competition. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 2, 2018, and the award program is open to NFC Forum member and non-member companies or organizations. Systems integrators, agencies and media brands submitting on behalf of their clients may also enter the awards

    Winners will be announced at the NFC Innovation Award ceremony and reception held on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, co-located with the NFC Forum Members meeting at the Barbican Centre in London, England. A panel of global judges including well-respected journalists, analysts, and industry experts will select the finalists and winners based on innovation, benefits, user experience, and NFC impact. Finalists are invited to the award ceremony and receive two nights paid hotel room in London, an award trophy, global recognition and networking opportunities.

    The NFC Forum invites submissions from all industries and categories: smart homes; smart healthcare; customer-focused advertising, marketing, and branding; connected hospitality; smart retail; connected car; Internet of Things; “NFC for Good;” gaming; and transportation, among others. The NFC Innovation Award program will recognize the groundbreaking product, service or experience that features NFC modes including card emulation, peer-to-peer, and reader/writer use cases based on NFC Forum tags within the following three categories:

    • Best In-Market Implementation
    • Best Emerging Concept
    • NFC for Good

    Award Program Offers Networking Opportunities with Global NFC Leaders

    Entrants benefit from global media coverage and the opportunity to share ideas and forge relationships with luminaries from the world’s leading mobile device, semiconductor, payment, consumer electronics manufacturers, and solution providers. NFC Forum sponsors members include Apple, Dai Nippon Printing, Google, Infineon, Intel, Mastercard, NXP Semiconductors, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Visa. For more information and to enter, visit https://nfcforum.secure-platform.com/a/.

    About the NFC Forum

    The NFC Forum (www.nfc-forum.org) was launched as a non-profit industry association in 2004 by leading mobile communications, semiconductor, and consumer electronics companies. The Forum’s mission is to advance the use of Near Field Communication technology by developing specifications, ensuring interoperability among devices and services, and educating the market about NFC technology. The Forum’s global member companies are currently developing specifications for a modular NFC device architecture, and protocols for interoperable data exchange and device-independent service delivery, device discovery, and device capability. Only member companies can participate in the Forum’s certification program of NFC devices, readers and tags. The NFC Forum’s Sponsor members, which hold seats on the Board of Directors, include leading players in key industries around the world. The Sponsor members are: Apple Inc., Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., Google, Inc., Infineon, Intel, Mastercard Worldwide, NXP Semiconductors, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Corporation, STMicroelectronics, and Visa Inc.

    Follow the NFC Forum:

    Facebook  Google+   LinkedIn   Twitter    YouTube

     

  • Top Tech Trends Heading Into CES

    January 8, 2018

    I’m on my way to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. CES is always a good time to see the latest technologies, some B-list celebrities doing some demos and wait in some long cab lines.

    It’s also a good chance to start to think about the trends that will impact the coming year.

    There are no shortage of “2018 trends to watch” list from bloggers, magazines and various sources this week.  In reading them all, I notice some “trends amongst the trend lists” that are worth noting.

    Just about everybody had augmented reality at or near the top of their list. We’ve been fortunate to be involved with that technology through our client, the Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance for a few years now. It really is game changing stuff at the enterprise level—yes, even cooler than Pokémon Go. No doubt, AR is the future of user manuals—where was it when I was putting my daughter’s IKEA furniture together?

    Blockchain is the next item on everyone’s list though everyone feels a bit like this cartoon:

     

    Once you have your “aha” moment with blockchain it is clear that the hype exists for good reason.  We’ve been working with a number of blockchain groups—notably the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and specialized groups such as the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance for a while now. I have no doubt that the potential of the technology far exceeds my ability to explain it to my mom (I lose her at “distributed ledger” every time).

    A third is cyber security—in so many forms.  I‘ve spent years at client meetings for groups such as the PCI Security Standards Council and SAFECode getting a sense of how real cyber threats are.  Technologies that balance user experience with security—such as the FIDO Alliance’s quest to drive security without passwords—will no doubt be of value this year.

    The fourth is IoT—such a broad topic that it increasingly encompasses everything. The trick is that taken with the last trend, IoT starts to present a raft of new opportunities for vulnerabilities. That’s why groups like TIOTA—the Trusted IoT Alliance, with whom we’ve been working for the last year—are so critical.

    And finally, there’s 5G.  If you don’t appreciate the importance of new generations of wireless networks, you haven’t traveled to a place recently where the little “3G” indicator lights up on your phone, and you suddenly grind to a halt.  5G will usher in endless possibilities for content and sharing, and no doubt new challenges as well. Meanwhile, we are working with groups like TIP, the Telecom Infra Project—that are bringing wireless technologies of all sorts to new parts of the world – an exciting and worthy venture.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to CES to do what I really love—checking out the new toys.

     

    *If you happen to be at CES, swing by the Alliances Community Reception On Wednesday, January 10th from 5-7. Virtual is a Platinum Sponsor of this event. Open to all CES attendees.