By Brian Smith – Business Development Representative
If you’ve read any of our blog posts before, then this next sentence might sound like a broken record: Selecting an association management system (AMS) is tough.
Nonprofit professionals will tell you that it’s a collaborative effort. They take all factors into consideration. However, depending on the makeup of your AMS selection team, certain platforms, functions — like federated site search and application technologies — will have a higher priority than others during the evaluation period.
Let’s be honest though. You and your colleagues will most likely make the final decision based on the answers to these two questions:
- How did we feel about the demo presentations?
- How much will this cost us?
Knowing how to actively prospect a demo, as well as understanding what services are included in a quote, are crucial to determining the best fit.
Take a look at the following guideline, and you will sleep well knowing that your association will be making the right selection.
Targeted AMS Demos – How will this system work for us?
Sure, an AMS provider may have a quick flick on their website that highlights the basics – membership reporting, accounting integrations, event management – but those videos are, in part, a tool to get a foot in the door. Those videos won’t be able to explain how they can help your association specifically.
You’ll need to go into your demo session with a clear objective. Here’s what to look for:
- A history and background of the organization – When was it founded? How many people are on its staff? Do they work with similar associations?
- Basic information technology (IT) infrastructure – Is it a platform solution, like Microsoft Dynamics 365, or is it proprietary? Are they in the cloud or will the database be on-premises? How is the system updated? Can you access data on mobile devices?
- Third-party applications and connectors that can be simply integrated with the AMS.
- Will the AMS will add value and bring ROI to your association on top of your association’s business processes?
- Business intelligence tools with predictive analytics
- A product roadmap that answers the question, “Where do we see ourselves in five years?”
- Internal resources that can guide you through the implementation process.
- A live look at how the system will be seen by your staff through the back-office database, and for your members through your association’s CMS.
When the demo comes to a close, be sure that your team has time after the demo to ask any remaining questions. Never be afraid to ask for follow-up demos focused on the needs of specific departments. Perhaps your accounting staff wants an in-depth look at how the AMS integrates with Sage Intacct, Microsoft Dynamics GP, QuickBooks or MIP. Or maybe your event management staff wants to delve further into Eventbrite or Map Your Show integrations. No matter the case, the AMS vendor should be accommodating to your schedule and specific requirements, not the other way around.
If you discover that one or more of these bullet points are not answered after seeing multiple demos, it might be time to move onto other options.
AMS Quote: What’s included?
For many associations that develop an RFP, they will ask for a detailed quote of the AMS vendor, breaking down the costs for each year of the contract and specific fees related to software development.
It’s imperative that the quote is as comprehensive as possible. You don’t want to find your association drowning in customization costs because you didn’t take the time to read the fine print.
Make sure the quote has the following services accounted for and included by your potential AMS vendor:
- Project management.
- Consultations with the vendor’s implementation team.
- Customizations for third-party application integrations.
- A breakdown of licensing costs, including those for remote or international staff.
- Training hours for your staff.
- IT development and maintenance support.
- Data migration from current AMS.
- Monthly, quarterly or annual maintenance costs.
- Unique programs, policies or processes development for your association.
As was the case with the demo, if one or more of these are missing or not fully answered, find out why. The last thing you and your executive managers want is to experience AMS remorse six months into go-live because you weren’t diligent.
Recognizing the difference between standard and targeted demos requires experience. But, experience is hard to come by, as most folks don’t take on an AMS search more than a few times in their career. Combine that with the typical cost of an enterprise-grade AMS, and you’ll quickly learn why association professionals can get overwhelmed.
My best advice: Start early, take your time, keep up-to-date on technologies and come prepared during the demo and evaluation phase of the project. There’s never a perfect fit, but you’ll be able to find the best of what’s out there following this template.
Listen to more insight on targeted AMS demos and pricing from Protech’s business development team on our on-demand webinar – Behind the Curtain: Insiders Dish on AMS Selection Secrets.