Tag Archives: AMS implementation

Leah Monica

Leah Monica

Who Should be in Charge of Your Membership Database Migration?

interlocked hands

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.

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

Top 10 AMS Implementation Tips from Bruce Moe, ED at Missouri State Teachers Association

brucemoe-medLast 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Standardize processes and document them. You can’t have an effective staff training program unless you have defined your procedures and documented them somewhere.
  10. 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?