The economist and political writer Thomas Sowell once wrote: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” What Sowell means, of course, is that every decision we make in life involves a trade-off. Choosing to ride the bus, for example, involves giving up some freedom of choosing your own route as the driver. In exchange, the bus ride may be cheaper or more convenient or faster than driving. So we make the trade-off.

I’ve written about trade-offs in the past (click here to read) and I’m writing about it again because it came up recently with one of my clients. I’m working with them to select a new association management system, and there has been a lot of discussion about the value of staying with their incumbent vendor (upgrading) vs. going with a new system. The discussion revolves around the trade-offs. The list looks something like this:

  • we know the incumbent better than the other vendor we’re considering
  • the new vendor has better/fancier technology
  • sticking with the incumbent will keep the learning curve lower
  • there is no data conversion consideration for the incumbent
  • and so on.

So what’s the client’s best choice? Well, as Sowell says, there are no solutions, only trade-offs. So the client will have to consider all these trade-offs and make decision based on what is most important to them as well as how much risk they’re willing to take on (e.g., there is inherently higher risk moving to a new vendor from the current vendor).

So whether you’re choosing a new AMS, or deciding whether to take the bus or drive, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t find the “perfect” solution. As Sowell writes, it doesn’t exist.