When I help clients through the process of purchasing a new association management system, the metaphor that often arises is that of buying a car. The client will say something like: “It’s like we’re buying a new car, and we want to be sure we’re buying the right car. We don’t necessarily need a Maserati…”

It’s a nice metaphor but I think it’s not quite accurate. Buying a new database is actually a lot more like buying a Soloflex (yes, I’m a child of 80s television) or some other exercise machine. You see, when most of us buy a car, we start driving it right away. Some of us will read the users manual, but most of us just jump in and drive. And the car usually gives us the results we expect: getting us from point A to point B.

But buying and using a database is similar to buying new exercise machinery. We know our objective: To get in shape, to look better, to feel better. But simply buying the exercise equipment and installing it in our home does not get us those results. We have to work for those results. And achieving those results takes time.

This is why buying a database is more like buying a Soloflex, rather than a car. When you buy a data management system, you’ve only purchased the workout equipment. You still have to work at achieving your goals (e.g., cleaner data, more targeted marketing, improved customer service). And achieving these results will take time. And just as we must continue to exercise to maintain the way we look and feel, we must continue to actively manage our database to ensure it continues to deliver on its objectives.

So, yeah, I can help you buy your next car. But I think what you’re really looking for is a nice, shiny Soloflex.