Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda
CEO & Chief Troublemaker

AMS Implementations are 20% Technology and 80% Governance

AMS Implementation Team Working Together

AMS Implementations are only 20% technology; the rest is governance.” Such were the provocative words by Thad Lurie, VP of Operations and CIO at EDUCAUSE, during the opening session at AMS Fest 2017 in Chicago earlier this month.

He made the case that with so many terrific and feature-rich AMS and CRM systems available to associations and non-profits, the success of an implementation and indeed the life of a system is no longer all about the data.

I couldn’t agree more. In our experience, it’s governance that ends up making or breaking an implementation. What makes up good governance?

  • Having executive sponsorship and interest in the project. When the person at the top is paying attention, a project gets resources, people pay attention, and things get done.
  • Having representation from all teams and departments on the implementation team.
  • Not viewing the AMS and the implementation as an IT project. Putting IT solely in charge of your AMS implementation is akin to making membership recruitment is an IT project because applications are processed online.
  • Being willing to change your business process to avoid costly customizations and to increase productivity.
  • Having people on the team who are able to make decisions about changes to business process.
  • Having a timeline that is aggressive, but not too aggressive.
  • Devoting time each week to the implementation so the project doesn’t get stale.
  • Having amazing project management on the client and vendor sides.
  • A strong commitment to initial and ongoing training.

The system you select must meet 90% of your requirements and it must support absolutely mission critical functions, like your special membership eligibility rules that are in the bylaws. But beyond that, the success of your implementation really depends on the people and processes you put in place to manage the project. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda
CEO & Chief Troublemaker

Who Should Be in Charge of Your Association Management Software (AMS)?

During pitch and kickoff meetings, clients and prospects often ask me, “Who should be in charge of my Association Management Software (AMS)?”

Should it be the IT department? Membership? Finance? Meetings? GR?

In my mind, there’s no question that the Membership Department should ultimately be in charge. Why?

Because at its core, any association management software is a tool to track membership and custom applications, activities and engagement.

As a membership organization, if the membership team doesn’t love your AMS and feel ownership over it, they are not going to use it, they won’t be zealous about data integrity, and they won’t take the time to become expert at it and mine the data for trends and insights.

Of course, other departments should have a big voice during selection, implementation and management. The meetings department must have the features it needs to generate revenue from webinars, conferences and courses. IT needs to be comfortable with the security aspects of the system and be able to run more technical reports and configurations. The finance team must be able to get the accurate reporting it needs to generate good financial reports for the association.

In the end, good stuff happens when any “thing” has an owner. Let the Membership team own your AMS and see what happens to membership recruitment, reporting and engagement.

Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda
CEO & Chief Troublemaker

Is It Time to Add a Gender-Neutral Honorific to Your Forms and Directories?

I was in the car a few weeks ago when I heard a story on NPR about Mx, a gender-neutral honorific that is being adopted by many organizations because not everyone wants to identify their gender in the traditionally binary ways (e.g., Mr. or Ms.).


In 2015, the New York Times wondered if Mx has gained the same stature as Mr. and Ms.; two years ago, the answer was “not yet.” But in March of this year, HSBC began offering clients up to 10 gender-neutral honorifics, including:

  • Mx
  • Ind (which stands for Individual, meaning free of gender)
  • Mre (which stands for mystery)

The MatrixMaxx database has a free-form Prefix field. This field is free-form because while most clients use traditional honorifics like Mr. and Ms., some use formal Honorifics like Dr. and Excellency.

It will be up to your organization to decide whether or not you wish to adopt gender-neutral honorifics. The good news is that your MatrixMaxx database already supports it.

Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda
CEO & Chief Troublemaker

The One Thing You Should Do to Make Your Database More Secure

Every day, we hear about another big data breach. Last year, Yahoo! revealed that 500 million user accounts had been breached. eBay had 145 million accounts compromised. The numbers are getting so big, we’re numb to them.

In some cases, sensitive data was leaked. In others, millions of emails are getting a new flood of spam.

If Yahoo!, the White House, eBay, Anthem, OPM and NATO can get hacked, how can organizations like yours stand a chance and secure your members’ data?

Here at Matrix Group, we believe that every organization needs layers of security so that if one layer (e.g., a firewall) is breached, there is another and another.

But here’s one simple thing you can do to make your database more secure: make sure your user passwords are encrypted.

Why do this? If a server has been compromised, aren’t the individual passwords that least of our worry? Not really.

It turns out most people reuse passwords. Which means if one of my passwords gets hacked AND the password is not encrypted, hackers can try my username and password combination on other sites, including online banking and eCommerce sites.

I hear from clients who say they get many customer service calls from members who forget their passwords. They want to be able to view a member’s password so they can provide good customer care. While I understand this, I don’t think helping out a few hundred members a year is worth the risk to the other tens of thousands. Any database worth its salt has a password reset, which you can easily send to members.

If the passwords in your membership database are not encrypted, please, please ask your vendor to do so ASAP. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Do it now!

 

Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda
CEO & Chief Troublemaker

Help, My Most Important Member Just Got Deactivated from the Database and The Importance of Data Entry Verification

The CEO of one of my clients called in a panic to say that the database deleted the profile of an important member. He was the primary contact at one of the association’s larger members. “Help,” my client said. “When I went to look for his number, his record was gone. This guy is really important. What happened?”

Turns out one of the association’s admins had deactivated the member’s record after receiving a bounce from a mass mailing. She had been instructed to do so by her boss and did it without thinking.

“Oh my God. I can’t have admins just deactivating important members! What can you do about it?” Well, MatrixMaxx has the Change History Report by person and by company. In MatrixMaxx you can also run a report of changes to primary contacts, titles, etc., so this association can and should be looking at deactivated records, changes in titles, etc., to see if any changes have far-reaching consequences for the association.

What we can’t do is stop association staff from making certain types of database changes, unless a client wants to invest in potentially costly programming to limit access to specific tasks.

You see, assuming you have the tools to run these reports, this isn’t a technical issue. As an association, you want to have clean data and clean data means cleaning up bounces. But not all email bounces mean a person has left an organization. It could be that the email server was having trouble that day; or it bounced messages after reaching a threshold number of the same email going to people at the same domain; or the anti-spam filtering didn’t like some words in your email.

Who the heck knows? All we know is that it’s important to review data entry changes to your database and to have policies in place so that certain types of database changes (e.g., primary contact leaving, big title change, move to a different state) get escalated to someone higher up in Membership or even to the President of the organization.

One association CEO and MatrixMaxx user runs the change history report once a month and sends congratulations emails to members who have just received promotions, calls members who have switched jobs, and contacts organizations when a key contact leaves the company. How smart is that?

BTW, this happened at Matrix Group last year. An admin who had not received proper training was given the task of deactivating people whose emails had bounced in MailChimp. The results? Some really important clients and consultant partners stopped receiving our newsletter and almost didn’t receive a holiday card. Yikes! Thank goodness we caught the problem and have since strengthened our database management training.

Don’t let this happen to you! Invest in data entry training that goes beyond the technical. Develop an escalation protocol to report important database changes. Tell your admins to escalate when in doubt.