INFORMS News: 2012 Member Survey

Record number of respondents reveal what they think of INFORMS (and it’s good!)

By Vithala Rao and Gary Bennett

The INFORMS Marketing Strategy Committee, led by Cornell Marketing Professor Vithala Rao and INFORMS Director of Marketing Gary Bennett, recently completed its analysis of the 2012 Member Survey. The committee also includes Bob Klein and Steve Gaskin of Applied Marketing Science, Inc., Venky Shankar of Texas A&M University, Paul Messinger of University of Alberta and INFORMS VP of Marketing, Communications and Outreach Andy Boyd.

The 2012 Member Survey was designed to measure members’ needs, satisfaction and value received. Specifically, the survey measured members’ primary goals for joining INFORMS and subdivisions, the products and services used to achieve that goal, and members’ satisfaction with the products and services used. The overarching goal of the survey was to supply INFORMS leaders with information needed to clarify INFORMS value proposition and to develop programs and services to deliver that value to existing members and attract new ones. The Board of Directors received a briefing at its summer meeting in late July.

The survey is completed every three years. It should be noted that INFORMS’ various strategic forays into the analytics market was not addressed in this survey since they were addressed in member research conducted by member Matthew Liberatore in 2011 and published in Interfaces.

A total of 1,781 members completed this year’s Member Survey by the closing date of June 15, a 19.6 percent response rate. The response rate surpassed the 18 percent goal the committee set and the 17.1 percent response rate achieved by the 2009 Member Survey. The demographic description of the respondents closely resembles the overall demographic description of all INFORMS members. This fact combined with the high response rate yields highly reliable and valid responses that INFORMS leaders and members can have confidence in. The Board of Directors and Marketing Strategy Committee thank all members who completed the survey.

Tabulations for the 2012 Member Survey have been posted in the INFORMS Self-Service Center (https://online.informs.org/informsssa/ssaauthmenu.show_top_menu) along with presentation slides. INFORMS members will need their member log in to access this information. Results from the 2012 Member Survey are confidential and for members only. Disclosure, transfer, duplication or reproduction of all or any portion of the results is not permitted.

Executive Summary

People join INFORMS for a variety of reasons. Key among them is gaining access to important subject matter in specific areas and across a wide variety of areas. Maintaining an identity as an OR/MS professional is very important as well. The INFORMS Annual Meeting, electronic journals and OR/MS Today play large roles in meeting many important member goals. The Spring Analytics Conference is rated so highly by those who attend that it is likely the one best thing that INFORMS does.

Overall, members are quite satisfied with INFORMS but not truly delighted. The exception is with subdivision membership. Member satisfaction in subdivisions is significantly up from 2009 and 2006. Members join subdivisions (societies, sections, fora) to acquire state of the art, focused knowledge and to meet people with similar interests. Local and student chapters are used as mostly social vehicles. Even though satisfaction is high with subdivisions, membership churn may be an issue just like it is with INFORMS and needs to be addressed.

Overall Findings

Primary Goal for Joining
Members’ primary goals for joining INFORMS are broad and diverse:

  • Keep up with the state of the art in a specific area – 31.9%
  • To be informed about a wide variety of subjects – 24.1%
  • Maintain my identity as an OR/MS professional – 20.1%
  • Meet people with similar interests – 12.9%
  • Gain visibility throughout my profession – 8.2%
  • Identify new job opportunities – 2.3%
  • Meet potential clients – 0.7%

Educators are more apt to join INFORMS to keep up with state of the art in a specific area, while members in business and consulting are more apt to join INFORMS to keep up with a wide variety of subjects.

Other Membership Organizations

Other membership organizations relied upon by INFORMS members.

About two-thirds believe that another membership organization also helps them achieve their goals. Besides INFORMS, respondents belong to an average of 1.6 other organizations. Fifty-three percent believe INFORMS is more effective at helping to achieve their primary goal; 11 percent believe INFORMS is less effective, and the balance believe INFORMS and others are similarly effective. Among the key other organizations, IIE is seen as being less effective than INFORMS, and IEEE is seen as being more effective. When INFORMS is seen as more effective, respondents cite the quality of the journals and magazines, strong Annual Meeting and better networking opportunities. When INFORMS is seen as less effective, respondents cite INFORMS is too broad, too academic and conference is too large.

Products and Services Used
Members use a wide variety of products and services to help achieve their primary goal for joining INFORMS; some much more than others:

  • Attend fall Annual Meeting – 53.9%
  • Consult electronic journals – 44.6%
  • Read OR/MS Today – 44.5%
  • Consult print journals – 39.7%
  • Read Analytics Magazine – 38.0%
  • Speak at Annual Meeting – 31.4%
  • Attempt to publish in journals – 23.9%
  • Attend another type of INFORMS meeting (i.e., international, regional, topical) – 22.9%
  • Speak at another type of INFORMS meeting – 15.1%
  • Attend spring Analytics Conference – 13.0%
  • Use Science of Better Webs site – 13.0%
  • Compete for prizes and awards – 11.4%
  • Use INFORMS Career Center – 7.6%
  • Volunteer for activities – 6.6%
  • Consult INFORMS social media sites – 5.5%
  • Speak at spring Analytics Conference – 4.4%
  • Participate in Speakers Program – 2.5%
  • Use Membership Directory – 1.8%
Satisfaction with INFORMS products and services

Members heavily use journals and the Annual Meeting to keep up with state of the art in a specific area. To keep up with information on a wide variety of subjects, OR/MS Today and Analytics Magazine are highly used. To help maintain their identities as OR/MS professionals, members turn to the Annual Meeting, Analytics Conference, OR/MS Today and try to publish in the journals.

Satisfaction
Generally, members are well satisfied but not delighted with the products and services they use. On a three-point scale where 1 = delighted, 2 = satisfied and 3 = dissatisfied, most ratings centered around 2. However, items on the high end of the scale such as attending the spring Analytics Conference, competing for prizes and awards and volunteering for INFORMS activities are demonstrably more satisfying than items on the low end of the scale such as using INFORMS Career Center or attempting to publish in the journals. It is also noteworthy that the most satisfying INFORMS activities – attending the spring Analytics Conference, volunteering for INFORMS activities and competing for prizes and awards – are relatively lightly used. INFORMS should take steps to increase participation in the more satisfying endeavors.
Subdivisions

About half of INFORMS members belong to a society, section or forum. Members primarily join these subdivisions to keep up with the state of the art in a specific area, meet people with similar interests, or to be informed about subjects that are of more interest to them. Attending a subdivision conference is the main activity pursued to help reach the goals for joining. Members are somewhat more satisfied with their overall subdivision experience now than in 2009 and are significantly more satisfied with their subdivision experience than with INFORMS overall. The main reasons for not belonging to a subdivision are variations on “not seeing value/lack of interest” – 80 percent. Twenty percent did not know about subdivisions. A strong majority of members are in favor of adding a subdivision membership to the current INFORMS dues structure.

About 15 percent of INFORMS members belong to a local chapter. The primary goal in joining a local chapter is to meet people with similar interests. Attending chapter meetings is the main activity pursued to help reach the goals for joining. Members are slightly more satisfied with their overall local chapter experience now than in 2009.

Student members primarily join university-based student chapters in order to keep up with state of the art in specific areas and be informed about a wide variety of subjects. Gaining visibility and building their professional profiles are important, too. Student members do not primarily join student chapters to gain career advice or be informed about job opportunities – they tend to use local chapters for that. To pursue their primary goals for joining a student chapter, students attend the fall Annual Meeting, read OR/MS Today and Analytics, and attend student chapter meetings. Students are slightly more satisfied with their overall student chapter experience now than in 2009. They also show greater satisfaction with their INFORMS student memberships than regular members do with theirs.

Concept Tests
Survey respondents were asked about their interest in several concepts designed to enrich member value. If initial interest is deemed strong enough, INFORMS would then flesh out details and ask members for additional input.

One such concept is a new membership dues model that would offer all members a subdivision membership of their choice as part of their overall, slightly increased member dues level. Fifty-one percent of respondents thought this to be an extremely or very appropriate offer, and another 35.7 percent thought it was somewhat appropriate. [Editor’s Note: At the July 31 Board of Directors meeting, this proposal was tabled for further analysis and discussion by Membership Committee and Subdivisions Council.]

Respondents were also asked to provide their satisfaction with another key concept that was established in 2012 – a change in the number and type of journals that are provided with membership from one print or online journal to two online journals. Most members are generally satisfied with this switch in dues journal benefit. Specifically, more than 75 percent indicate they are “extremely satisfied” (13.6 percent), “very satisfied” (31.8 percent) or “moderately satisfied” (31.3 percent). About 13 percent said they were “not satisfied” and just over 10 percent were “not aware.”

Respondents were asked to rate several other concepts that could be pursued. In general, respondents were interested in all concepts; some more than others, however.
The five contest tests that drew the highest percentage of “extremely interested” responses included:

•     Organize regional international meetings – 52.8%
•     Provide online short courses/tutorials – 40.2%
•     Facilitate networks of researchers – 36%
•     Support online competitions – 32.3%
•     Provide in-person short courses/tutorials – 28.8%

[Editor’s Note: The new concept of providing analytics certification was not tested in this member survey since it had already been tested successfully in previous studies and is currently in development.]

Overall Implications
The Marketing Strategy Committee uncovered the following implications of the survey:

  • Members are slightly more satisfied with INFORMS then in 2009. They are satisfied but not “delighted.” Board of Directors should look for more sources of delight.
  • Current members are quite satisfied with their subdivision memberships. That fact should be leveraged. But like with INFORMS, member churn needs to be addressed with subdivisions.
  • INFORMS does two outstanding things that need to be leveraged more: spring Analytics Conference and engendering student satisfaction. Both should be used to attract new members in these sectors.
  • The fall Annual Meeting is a clear centerpiece for INFORMS, especially for academic members. Looking for ways to improve it – moving the rating from satisfaction to delight – is more worthwhile than developing new programs for this sector.
  • Electronic journals are very popular. There is demonstrably not as much need for print as in 2009.
  • OR/MS Today is widely used in ways we might not expect and should be examined closely to see if we can make it more of a source of delight.
  • Analytics Magazine is making an impact. INFORMS should nurture, expand and make it a source of delight.
  • Take a closer look at lightly used INFORMS Career Center. Is it as good as it can be?
  • Social networking is not yet a key endeavor for most members but will be in years to come. INFORMS must ensure state of the art IT systems to support and expand.

The Marketing Strategy Committee plans to more deeply analyze the findings in the coming months, especially how the usage and satisfaction of activities and benefits vary by affiliation (academic vs. practitioner) and geographically.

For more information, see http://ce.informs.org/survey_results.php for the 2012 Member Survey presentation made to the Board of Directors on July 31, as well as for the question-by-question tabulation of results. Log in will be necessary. The Board of Directors and Marketing Strategy Committee welcome comments about the survey and findings.