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Documenting Your Processes

I spoke at a users group meeting a few weeks ago, and asked if anyone in the audience had a users guide or documented business processes for their AMS systems. In a room of about 50, I saw exactly two hands go up. Two!

Frankly, I don't know how an organization can successfully use an AMS over time if it hasn't documented how it processes data in the database. I suspect that in most cases, the organizations are relatively successful because one person on staff has all the processes in his or her head, and as long as he or she doesn't leave, everything is fine. But that's hardly a way to run a business.

Ironically, one of the attendees came up to me afterwards to explain that they are struggling with their existing database because the one person that knew how to run it has left. And now staff thinks they need to buy a new system. When I asked her if they had any documentation, she said "no." I was disappointed, but not surprised.

If you want your database to succeed for the long-term (meaning more than five years), you have document your processes. A new user needs to be able to look at that documentation and easily determine how to process things like new membership joins, membership renewals, event registrations, product orders, certification, fundraising, and the myriad other things your association does.

Are your processes documented? And if not, why not?

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Testimonials

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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