Turning audience data into an action plan with ISACA

ISACA is an association of IT professionals. After 50 years, it had grown to 150,000 members from 180 countries. Its CEO and Senior VP of Membership, however, were looking to the future and scratching their heads.

ISACA had plenty of quantitative data about its members — results of its last annual membership survey spanned nearly 100 pages. But the data painted an unclear picture.

"We knew so much about our members at a high level, but we wanted to learn more about how we could really help them in their careers. Table XI was able to get at that kind of rich understanding, with research techniques we hadn't tried before."

Julia Kanouse, Chief Membership Officer of ISACA

Would the model which had served ISACA well now have to evolve? Making changes without knowing what their members valued and why was too risky. Enter Table XI and design research.

Qualitative vs. quantitative research methods

In ISACA's case quantitative research successfully uncovered issues around satisfaction and engagement. Those methods couldn't tell us what caused those issues or how to address them. Qualitative research methods reveal nuance, helping to uncover the 'why' and not only the 'what.'

Learn more about user research methods

Instead of open-ended qualitative interviews, however, we brought fodder that our target audience could react to — a mix of high-level features ISACA could offer and values ISACA communicated to members. We were trying to reach people who were disengaged, and inherently not thinking about ISACA regularly. Bringing prompts gave us a way to kick-start our conversations and get meaningful feedback quickly.

Turning community and belonging into something tangible

How do you facilitate rich conversations about abstract topics such as community and belonging? Give people something to react to. We did this in two main ways:

The research process: gathering the missing pieces

Testing Values

How did ISACA leadership's view of membership value differ from members' experiences? Through interviews with stakeholders we developed four value propositions to described what they assumed people got from a membership with ISACA

  • Credibility
  • Community
  • Access
  • Flexibility

We then asked members in user interviews to react — did they agree or not? Where would they advise ISACA to invest and why?

Testing Concepts

Next, we shared seven very lo-fidelity concept sketches of digital solutions developed with stakeholders. We weren't trying to validate a feature list ahead of development. These were just stimuli for richer conversations.

For example, one concept was a take on a job board, but for volunteer opportunities. By responding to concepts like these, people got to the heart of big topics like volunteerism, mentorship and belonging.


Our research equipped ISACA with a richer understanding of its community. We learned how members and stakeholders viewed ISACA's value differently. We started to see which concepts showed potential and why.

"Table XI's perspective as 'outsiders' helped us develop a deeper understanding of our community than we could get on our own."

Julia Kanouse, Chief Membership Officer of ISACA

The Turning Point

Conclusions drawn from quantitative research are often black and white, but conversations allowed members to share nuanced experiences. We heard from someone overseas who waited for a favorable exchange rate to renew his membership (which has to be paid in U.S. dollars). He considered himself highly engaged with ISACA.

Most importantly, we learned serving members does not mean driving them through a funnel. People will have varying needs and wants throughout their career. Any professional organization's success depends on whether they can listen and adjust accordingly.

Why it Matters

ISACA internalized these insights from user research by developing more ways to understand their members' wants and needs. Fortunately, and thanks in part to qualitative design research methods, ISACA is setup to serve their members for decades to come.

"The nuanced insights Table XI delivered around our member communities helped us adjust our roadmap — prioritizing the work with the biggest opportunity for impact."

Julia Kanouse, Chief Membership Officer of ISACA

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