Union tech survey 2024 – some thoughts on the results

At the TUC Digital Lab, we get most of our good ideas from the unions we collaborate with. One such need we found recently was for unions to know more about the various IT tools that other unions were using.

The ideas was that by compiling a shared list of tools, unions could see where there were union colleagues that they could network with around best practice with specific tools, or ask for references for systems they might be considering. And they could see how their own tools and IT capacity measured up against the rest of the movement.

We worked out the scope for a survey (thanks in particular to Ben Sellers of NEU and Paul Gregory of Usdaw for helping with this) and put that to IT contacts in each of the TUC’s 48 affiliated unions. 28 unions responded and we’ve now worked it up into a reference and contacts book, to circulate back to everyone who took part.

This one isn’t a public report like most of our resources, so we won’t be going into much detail about what we found in this post, but if your union missed out the first time round, we can always add your information to the survey belatedly and send you a copy of the updated guide. Just get in touch to find out more.

Platform use growing

One interesting general finding was around how unions have adopted cloud platforms, both in terms of CRM and office tools (see our 2021 report on infrastructure modernisation for more on the cloud for unions).

Platform CRM use across the unions surveyed has doubled from 16% in 2020 to 32%. Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce and iMIS have all grown in share.

This has been at the expense of older generations of membership database products, as unions choose whether to upgrade a generation or move to a platform approach. Microsoft Dynamics overtook Miller Sodalitas amongst the unions we talked to as the most common system used.

The last few years have seen a big move towards cloud office tools as well. Several unions switched during the pandemic, to help support remote working, and more have made the move since. 90% of unions are now using Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud office suite, with a further 7% currently transitioning to it.

Where could unions go next?

This move means there is now good potential for unions in making use of Office 365’s more advanced features, of integrations, automations and new Copilot AI assistants.

At the larger union end, this could look like unions with platform CRM tools finding cheap and effective ways to build and integrate new tools for reps, using Power Apps or Power Pages to connect to CRM data and permissions management. That offers a more affordable way to developing reps’ software than extending CRM licenses. We’re already seeing some large unions developing this kind of functionality in-house, or with varying degrees of in-house and external capacity.

For smaller unions, these new features may be more focused around Power Automate, and lesser-known tools in Office 365, such as Forms, Lists or Bookings. Power Automate can stitch together existing Office functions to make new custom processes. This could allow specialist staff in the union to build more of their own tech as “citizen developers”.

However, for many small and some medium unions there is still a skills gap, or a lack of capacity amongst current technical staff, which prevents them taking up these opportunities.

There may be interesting possibilities here as Microsoft’s Copilot AI tools are extended into their citizen developer offering. The low-code/no-code approach in tools like Power Automate is already democratising this area, but being able to describe automations in natural language could take this even further.

What would you like to see us working on in the platform space? Get in touch if you’ve got ideas for our next project.