I get asked this question a lot by clients and prospects: CEOs and Executive Directors who are about to embark on a move to a new membership database want to know who should be in charge
of the migration.
My answer: Not IT. Create a small committee that includes membership, meetings and IT, maybe one more department. Let me explain.
When IT is in charge of a project, the rest of the organization often tunes out the project. They assume the project is way too technical and they don’t need to be involved.
But a move to a new database is just the opposite. The entire organization must be aware of the details of a move to a new AMS (association management software): why you’re moving, what the new system is, how the organization will benefit, the process for the move, staff responsibilities, requirements and testing burdens, and the timeline.
Membership should be involved because, well, it is THE membership database after all. Membership needs to define the rules for who gets to be a member, who gets tracked, what information goes into the AMS, yada, yada. Membership also needs insight into why and how people and companies become members, which the database should provide.
Meetings should be involved because for more associations, conferences and courses are a major member benefit and revenue source. The new AMS needs to support the various events your organization sponsors AND have a user-friendly interface that encourages people to sign up.
If your organization has other, significant departments that must be supported by the database (e.g., publications, sponsorship, foundation), then by all means, give them a seat the table. In fact, insist they be at the table.
IT must be involved because IT can respond to the technical requests of your new vendor. Questions like: what version of SQL Server are you on? How does staff connect to the database to run reports? Can we get an export of all the data? What does this field mean? What are the legal values possible in this field?
Create a small committee, give the members joint responsibility, make them jointly accountable, and tell them they all need to love the new system before it can go live. If you need to assign one ultimate neck to wring, you decide which neck that will be. I vote for Membership. And tell membership to play well with the other departments in the sandbox.