Talking Tech with Steve Volkodav
Steve Volkodav has built a reputation for delivering technology solutions to meet members’ business needs, positioning his association as one of the most technologically advanced in the nation.
Before Steve Volkodav took the helm of the 3,300-member North Shore–Barrington Association of REALTORS® in Illinois last June, he was its chief information officer for nearly 13 years. During that time, he oversaw the association’s conversion to a digital records system, launched the first REALTOR® association mobile app, and rebuilt NSBAR’s telecommunications system. As CEO, he teaches classes on technology nationwide and offers members a customer support Web chat, online education, a technology hot line, computer repair, and much more.
Q. What is the biggest technological challenge your members face today and how is your association working to address it?
A. I think technology is outpacing most of the membership. Many members don’t know how to secure the products they use or what products are relevant to their business. They see so many different products that they don’t know which way is up. Our tech department works to make it as painless as possible for members by focusing on what members need to get out of technology, not what the technology does.
Q. How do you ensure that money is well-spent (and not wasted) on technology?
A. Research and planning is the short answer. Make sure your technology investment solves a clear need. Purchase software that has multiple purposes, whenever possible, along with strong company support. Just simply asking a technology vendor for a 30-day trial version will answer many questions. Then ask your peers, other association AEs, and their staff about what works and what doesn’t. Even if they haven’t used the technology, they may have valuable research.
Q. If we were given a grant to completely fund a new association technology investment, what would you spend it on?
A. Well, since I serve on the 2014 AE committee, let me take a broader view and give you my idea for the entire REALTOR® association community. The problem we need to solve among REALTOR® associations when it comes to technology is collaboration. For example, AEs getting together to design the ideal association management software solution, then working with NAR to build it with a technology vendor, then making it available cost-efficiently to all associations was the genius behind RAMCO (REALTOR® Association Management System Cooperative). But what if that type of teamwork and partnership from concept through implementation and support was used to create a wide variety of technology products and initiatives for associations? A critical component of this technology collaborative would be advice and practical help—somewhere AEs could call whenever they had a question about what technology to buy and how to use it. Individual REALTOR® associations spend enormous amounts of time researching products when sharing or pooling information would ensure that each of us isn’t reinventing the wheel.
Q. What piece of software, cloud service, or app has most changed the way your work in the last year?
A. Cloud services are probably the biggest improvement we’ve seen. I can store, view, and work on all of our data on the Web. It’s easier than ever to immediately share with staff while I’m on the road. I can use multiple services over multiple devices that all sync with each other, with staff, and with the office.