How Much Does Strategic IT Planning Cost for Associations (Trade/Professional)?

For trade and professional associations in particular, technology can have an incredibly large impact on the efficiency of your operations and the overall success of your mission.
Unfortunately, this kind of harmony between IT and business does not tend to flow naturally and of its own accord; in order to align your systems with your mission, an expert needs to put some real elbow grease into learning your goals, assessing your current situation, comparing it to industry best practices, and spelling out what it will take to get from A to B.
This is the basis of strategic IT planning engagements, which are only gaining in popularity as time goes on. After serving the trade and professional association community for almost 25 years, you can imagine that we at Optimal have heard quite a few questions about what a project like this will end up costing.
Having a ballpark investment in mind when you approach a strategic consulting project is important not only for budgeting purposes, but also to make sure you’re getting both a fair price and a quality result. Below we’ll break down the main factors that will impact your cost, along with an average price range for these engagements.

What are the main factors that influence the cost of strategic IT planning for associations?

In general, the cost of strategic IT planning will depend almost entirely upon the scope of your engagement. The main factors in play are:

  • The size of your association and its infrastructure. Is your association fairly small with only one or two dedicated servers, or do you have multiple offices packed to the brim with staff and twenty servers to show for it?
  • The number of interviews your provider will need to run. How many people will your consultant need to speak with in order to get a proper understanding of your current business and technical situation? Just your leadership? A member of every individual department?
  • The length and quality of your write-up. Are you hoping to receive a full-fledged, prioritized 3-year roadmap for your association’s future, or will a more succinct list of recommendations do the trick?
  • Whether or not you’re including a security component. Security audits are complex and require their own unique set of tools (take a look at the key elements here). Do you need your strategic consultant to also assess your network security? In what depth?


What is the average price range for a strategic IT planning engagement?

Depending upon the factors outlined above, your engagement could run anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000. Unlike ongoing managed or cloud services, this will be a one-time investment (though it’s not a bad idea to repeat the process every 4-5 years, or whenever your association goes through significant change).
At the highest level is where you’ll find providers doing incredibly detailed technology roadmaps for large associations, including an analysis of their AMS and member communications, a security assessment, and a long list of interviews from both the technical and business side of operations. As you scale the engagement further and further back, the price tag will drop accordingly.
If you’re offered an engagement for much lower than that $10,000 mark, tread carefully; many companies will perform an assessment at low to no cost with the end goal of identifying problems that they can solve with their services. They’ll run software, that software will locate holes, and they’ll hand you some glorified marketing literature as their final product.
The key here is locating a provider with the proper technical and business acumen who will give you a truly objective account of your IT situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for résumés along with your references to dig into what kind of experience your consultant(s) will have.
An investment of this size—and with the potential to revolutionize your operations—is not one you want to take any chances with.

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Topics: associations, consulting, cost, nonprofits, planning, pricing, projects, strategy