If you were present when your organization’s current Association Management Software (AMS) was installed you would remember that implementing it was not a lightweight endeavor. The software was a large capital expense and implementation involved the entire staff and took months.
That being said, all software has a life and there will come a time when staying with your current system presents risks far beyond the cost of a new system.
Part of an IT Manager’s responsibility is to constantly evaluate whether existing technology is meeting the current and future needs of the association.
Signs It Is Time to Move On
- Cost of Maintaining Legacy Software is Too High
If you are still maintaining servers and software to run your Association Management Software, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in both dollars and time is greatly reduced by going to the cloud. In addition your association will also benefit from the security, scalability and mobility that enterprise cloud computing offers.
- Inadequate Customer Relationship Management
Today more than ever the modern association needs to be able to effectively manage its interactions with current and future members. New CRM platform-based AMS systems have Fortune 500 class CRM capabilities that enable staff to fully understand your members and service their needs. These critical CRM features include reporting, workflows, communication, marketing and engagement scoring.
- AMS Upgrades Are Painful and Costly
Your last upgrade was so costly and traumatic that your staff may revolt if forced to go through the process again. Modern cloud solutions leverage their platform’s upgrade features to provide a cost and pain free continual upgrade process.
- Staff has Created a Myriad of Rogue Systems
People have to get their jobs done and when the AMS makes that difficult they will find workarounds through other non-authorized systems like spreadsheets, other databases and even manual paper based systems. These rogue systems create isolated pockets of duplicate data.
- Integration with Other Systems is Difficult or Impossible
Members expect a seamless experience between your website, self service portal, learning management system and all other systems. If your legacy association software does not have a robust set of integration options (API, app store, etc) it will greatly limit what you will be able to achieve.
- Lack of Innovation
New technologies are becoming mainstream and your system is unable to take advantage of them. Examples of newer technologies we see today include mobile-enabled and responsive design of the constituent portal, social logins, and inline staff collaboration tools that make working from the road or a remote location a reality.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
So... what do you do if you realize that the current Association Management Software solution needs to be replaced by a new system?
Like many association professionals you want to make the switch from your current legacy AMS to a newer system with advanced capabilities. But the investment in time and money a change might cause gives you pause. Worse, the association’s leadership may think that switching won’t solve the problem or that you can just make do with the current legacy AMS.
Getting Executive Buy-In
How can you make your case to leadership that the investment in a new AMS like Nimble AMS is not only desirable but critical to the association's future?
- Connect it to a Strategic Initiative and the Bottom Line
Is the association making process / organizational changes or an update to its website or other critical system? If so, this may be the opportunity to approach your leadership about a new AMS. By combining initiatives, your organization may be able to reduce costs by launching the new systems or changes together,.
- Get Personal
Be clear on what the direct benefit to leadership will be. Detail how the new AMS will give greater visibility of membership data and enable the Executive director to make better decisions. Review the reduction Total Cost of ownership with the CFO. Develop a clear understanding of what individually drives them and what their goals are and show how the new systems can facilitate and drive those goals.
- Talk Benefits Not Features
Instead of discussing features like social CRM, talk about how social CRM can lead to deeper member interactions that lead to high member retention. Show them how better reporting and business intelligence can give them more clarity into revenue, including reporting on which programs helped drive revenue and which ones aren’t yielding results (ala Race For Relevance).
- Clarify the Risks of Doing Nothing
While there is risk with any new system, leadership needs to be in the loop about what the risks of doing nothing is. These may include:
- Brand/image of the association
- Falling behind the competition
- Staff and member retention as they get frustrated and leave
- Data issues
- Continued Investment into deprecated technology (see Is your AMS a Dead Horse? Stop Riding it!)
- Difficulty achieving the organization’s mission
- Involve Leadership from the Get-Go
Leadership that is not privy to the decision and selection process are far less likely to approve the purchase because they do not understand the benefits. Association leaders have often been on staff for a long time and an additional benefit of having them involved is their deep understanding of the goals and future direction of the organization. Lastly successful change must be sponsored from the executive suite and this will prime the team for success.
- Be Prepared for Anticipated Questions
Leadership will likely have a multitude of questions. Do your best to anticipate what those questions will be and prepare answers in advance so you can give a response that will keep FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) from gaining a foothold. Initial questions typically fall into once of these categories: challenges, cost, ROI, timeline, and resourcing. Another strategy is to have a 1-2 page executive summary that gives a succinct overview and addresses anticipated questions.
Technology will shape the way an association is perceived and will be
central to its competitive position and critical in winning its race to relevance
-- Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations
What are You Doing in Your Organization’s Race For Relevancy?
A new AMS can rapidly propel your organization forward and open new methods for member engagement. With a clear strategy you will make a lasting impression on the organization.
A few thoughts on Race For Relevance
I have made a few references in this post to the book Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations (Amazon listing) by Mary Byer, CAE and Harrison Coerver. In my opinion this is a must read for every association leader.
As someone who has worked with professional and trade associations for 22 years, I found myself really identifying with the challenges and solutions put forth by the authors.
Technology is the last of six major challenges and solutions presented. For the CIO or IT Manager it outlines a solid IT investment philosophy to fundimenally change the way an association delivers value to its members. Consider giving this book to the decision makers as a bonus 7th way to get executive buy-in.