By Brian Smith, Communications Specialist
The process of buying enterprise association management software (AMS), from developing an RFP and recruiting your AMS selection team to narrowing the list of vendors and evaluating demos and quotes, requires a full team effort from your association.
Part of that selection process is mapping out an estimated timeline for the implementation. There are a lot of factors that can affect the amount of time it takes to implement a new AMS, which often leads to confusion and misinformation when trying to determine how long the project will take, and how much it will cost, from start to finish.
But, if you consider some of the following factors, there are several things that you can control, or plan for in advance, to help define a more accurate timeline projection for getting your new AMS up and running.
5 Key Factors for Planning Your AMS Implementation Timeline
1 – Scope of Deployment
Some AMS solutions are specifically designed for smaller associations, with less functionality and more streamlined operations. Others are massive and backed by enterprise software companies like Microsoft, Salesforce or Oracle. While each of these solutions has its benefits, the enterprise software will inevitably take longer to deploy, especially if you plan to leverage much of the functionality it has to offer.
Fix: Determine what must be completed for go-live and what can wait for phase 2 of implementation. Focusing on the priorities streamlines the implementation and gets your staff using the system while you circle back to set up other features.
2 – Out–of-the–box Functionality vs. Customizations
One of the most important considerations for a new AMS is how the technology can address processes and procedures that are unique to your organization. As these systems have evolved, much of what was once custom for your organization has become part of the core offering. This is great news since customizations significantly extend your implementation timeline and increase costs for the project.
Fix: Consider how your association’s unique processes and procedures can be set up with out-of-the-box functionality, and limit customizations to only those “must-haves” with no other solution. This will keep the costs in check and help to ensure nothing will break during future software releases.
3 – Third-party Integrations
Undoubtedly, you will want to use some third-party solutions to supplement the capabilities of your AMS, like an LMS, event, abstract or community platform. To optimize the value from both systems, eliminating data silos and streamlining administrative tasks, you must integrate the software with your AMS. Tools like Microsoft’s Flow Connectors simplify the integration process and offer low code/no code options to create new integrations.
Fix: Check to see what software the AMS vendor integrates with already and determine what the process is to create new integrations if they don’t exist. If an integration is completely custom, it will add both time and cost to your implementation plan.
4 – Schedules and Timing
While your association is undergoing this digital transformation, the staff still needs to manage day-to-day operations and serve your members. How will these responsibilities and tasks be delegated among departments? Also, are there any major events, holidays or membership programs that could interfere with or delay the scheduled project milestones?
Fix: Consult with all departments on upcoming events and activities so you have a thorough understanding of what could interfere with your AMS project. Then, work with your AMS vendor to map out an implementation timeline that accounts for these key dates.
5 – Data Cleanliness
Do you have good data in your current system? Is it outdated? Unfortunately, a lot of associations either don’t know the state of their data or haven’t maintained it properly. This affects every aspect of your organization since data drives decision making and provides insights into the effectiveness of your programs. To ensure your new AMS delivers actionable reporting, the data you import must be clean.
Fix: If you cannot state with near 100% certainty that your data is clean, schedule a data cleaning as part of the data migration. Your AMS vendor likely has data specialists on staff that will help organize your data for the new system.
AMS Project Timelines
Selecting and implementing an AMS is a major undertaking and by no means an exact science. But, if you factor in these key considerations when planning the implementation with your association colleagues, you will have a much better understanding of your estimated costs and timeline, as well as which factors can derail the process.
Need help with other parts of your AMS selection project? We’ve detailed the entire process from the initial research and picking your team to creating an RFI/RFP and narrowing down the list to your perfect AMS vendor in our e-book, “Ultimate AMS Selection Guide: How to Find the Perfect AMS in the 2020s.“