A few years ago, a prospective client shared his spreadsheet for AMS pricing decisions with me. His team was calculating which AMS was going to be the least expensive up through 3 years. Their reasoning? “Our Executive Director will probably be moving on by then, and the new one will probably want a new system, so why plan further than that?” But is that type of planning approach really the best for the organization and its members? Doubtful.
In a white paper entitled “How to Choose an Association Management System (AMS)”, the Bross Group notes that “Optimally, an AMS will provide you what you need for 10 plus years.” So how do you make the right investments to make this happen?
- During the AMS selection process, make sure this is the partner you want for a decade.
- Are you comfortable with the team and the vendor in general?
- Talk to over clients/users of this system. How long have they used it?
- What have the last few releases of the product added? Past releases and schedule are a good indication of future commitment to enhancements
- What is the pricing curve? Some AMSs get cheaper over time, some get more expensive over time. Be sure to crunch those numbers!
- Keep your staff trained!
Unless you are lucky enough to have no staff turnover, you’ve probably got new people on board who weren’t there for the original AMS implementation and training. Just a few weeks ago, a client was complaining to us that it took 8 hours to reformat and tweak a meeting report they needed. This new staffer didn’t realize that a custom 1-click report had been built for her association that literally gave her exactly what she needed. Maybe some of YOUR staff are doing things the hard way when they could be doing it the easy way.
- Keep process notes within your organization of how you use the system most efficiently for your organization
- Take advantage of any training sessions or webinars offered by your AMS vendor. An hour of training could save 3 hours of doing something ‘the hard way’
- Find out about customized training if you’ve had a large staff turnover
- Keep up with Product Enhancements
Most AMSs are on a release schedule, so:
- Make sure that you are following your schedule; when are changes happening that may add new features?
- Watch out for documentation and training opportunities when the new releases come out. The MatrixMaxx AMS team always publishes extensive release notes and offers a free overview session webinar, as do other AMS vendors. This is a great time to pull everyone together for a brown bag lunch and listen to what’s new.
- Always ask; don’t assume
If your AMS doesn’t do something you want it to, don’t assume it doesn’t or can’t. Maybe it is a feature that your association didn’t choose to implement. Maybe it is there and you don’t know it. Maybe it is being built right now and it will be live in 2 months. Ask the question and you may be very pleased with the answer.