Last week, I attended AMS Fest, an event organized by ReviewMyAMS that brought together a half dozen association management software (AMS) vendors and association execs exploring new systems.
One of the speakers was Bruce Moe, Executive Director of the Missouri State Teachers Association. MSTA recently went through an AMS implementation, and Bruce shared his top ten implementation tips. I loved his list so much I jotted them down to share.
- Put together a cross-functional team to be in charge of the implementation. A diverse team will bring different perspectives to the project, and team members can report back to the rest of the organization.
- Spend on technology as needed. For example, don’t limit the spending to the AMS project. You may need to upgrade laptops so staff can take advantage of new AMS functionality. You may need to upgrade your office connection to the internet.
- Invest in training and don’t stop. Staff who are trained in the system will be able to do what they need to do, and satisfaction with the system will increase.
- Make data hygiene a priority. Staff and members will trust the database only if it has good data. So put systems in place to make sure good data goes in from Day One. Get your vendor to put in good validation. Develop good policies and train to them. Audit data entry regularly.
- Ask for robust APIs. No single system will handle all of your membership needs, which means you’ll need APIs to connect all of your systems together. Develop use cases and ask your partner or potential vendor if they can accommodate your needs.
- Bend business process before bending the AMS. This is my favorite tip, btw. This is a fancy way of saying, “Rethink your processes and try to use baseline functionality before asking your AMS vendor to customize their system.” And please don’t try to replicate the databases and workflows from the old, broken system that you are trying to leave behind.
- Insist on “one truth” or the master database. Bruce said that when they started the migration process, they found a lot of rogue databases in Excel and Access. It’s hard to truly measure member engagement if data is not in one place, so he and his staff have worked hard to eliminate the rogue databases.
- Decentralize data entry. It’s impossible to have accurate, complete data if only a couple of people are responsible for data management. MSTA allows members to edit their own records. More importantly, every MSTA staff member has full access to edit individual and organization records because Bruce wants good, accurate data, and he expects staff to update the database when they learn of a change.
- Standardize processes and document them. You can’t have an effective staff training program unless you have defined your procedures and documented them somewhere.
- Stay current with upgrades. If you don’t stay current with your AMS, you’ll end up needing a major upgrade or reimplementation in the near future. Besides, keeping current means you get the latest security patches and new features.
Many of these tips sound so obvious but when followed, they will result in a really great, effective, low-drama implementation. How about you? What implementation strategies have worked for your organization?