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Inward vs. Outward focus of your AMS

One of the most significant changes in association management software over the past decade is the change in functionality focus from staff to customer. That is, prior to the internet (and even early on in the internet years), AMSes were designed to help staff process data more efficiently. As the internet grew and more and more customers were accessing it, AMS products had to change their focus to provide more functionality to address customer needs on the organization’s website (e.g., membership join and renewal, event registration, donations, etc.).

Because the focus changed from staff to customer, the workflow and user interface had to change. After all, staff can be trained to use the database, but you can’t expect to be able to “train” your customers on how to use the database. The interface has to be completely intuitive to allow the customer to easily do what he or she needs to do.

This creates a dynamic tension for developers: How do I make a database that’s simple enough for untrained customers to use, while at the same time sophisticated enough to allow staff to manage some very complex processes?

The result is that very often, an AMS product will actually provide better functionality for staff than the customer, or vice versa. So if given the choice between a product that leans to one side over the other, which should you choose? I would choose the product that serves the customer better than the staff, for three reasons:

  1. Making it easy to buy from you should always be your number one goal. After all, if no one’s buying, you won’t be in business very long.
  2. Pushing the “work” to the customer is always cheaper than having staff doing data entry.
  3. Staff can always work around any deficiencies that the system has. The customer won’t work around deficiencies; she’ll just leave.
So when considering a new AMS, be sure to think about how it will impact the customer, as much as you consider how it will impact your staff.
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2 Comments on "Inward vs. Outward focus of your AMS"

Diane Whitehead - 27 October 2011 Reply

Wes I agree. Front-end is paramount. Its's member facing.

Joe Ricci - 29 October 2011 Reply

Spot on!! The paradigm has shifted several years ago. Self-service with an aesthetic portal where you can mask the url.

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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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