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Five Significant Trends in Association Management Software

The world of technology never stops changing, and certainly the same is true for the world of association management software (AMS) vendors. As I look back at 2011 and forward to 2012, there are several trends I see developing among many (though certainly not all) of the major AMS players.

Trend #1: Social – Yes, I’m as tired of hearing about “social media” as the next guy (or gal), but let’s face it, social is here to stay. It’s not a matter of whether, but a matter of how. Some AMS vendors have built their own social media platforms (often called “community” platforms with directories, chat rooms, blogs, wikis, and other social media tools) directly into their AMS offering, while other vendors have chosen to integrate with third-party social media tools. Regardless of how it’s being done, most vendors now offer some type of social media platform for use with their AMS. The question for associations, of course, is how will you implement the social tools? There’s not an easy answer for that.

Trend #2: Mobile – With the astonishing growth of smart phones and wireless tablets (think iPad), making data from your database accessible to mobile devices is becoming increasingly important. Your members and customers want to be able to access key data (e.g., member directories, event listings, profiles) via their handheld devices. Simply using your existing website interface on a mobile device is no longer sufficient. More AMS vendors are now offering mobile options for online database access, and increasingly, associations are developing mobile apps for association events, using data stored in the database.

Trend #3: CMS built in – I’ve been talking about integration between AMS products and content management systems (CMS) for years. And although some AMS vendors have offered CMS tools for years within the AMS, it’s only been in the past year or two that these products have matured enough that associations have become comfortable replacing their existing CMS products. For most associations, the CMS does not need to provide sophisticated workflow tools for thousands of pages. Most associations need a tool that will allow multiple staff to easily and quickly edit pages on the association website. More AMS products are offering CMS functionality that will allow complete management of the association’s website.

Trend #4: More technology, less money – I continue to marvel at how much technology can be accessed for relatively low prices. As I’ve written before, I think back to the first DOS-based database I used and can recall that the system itself cost tens of thousands of dollars and provided very limited functionality. Today I can go online and rent association management software with functionality I didn’t even dream of 20 years ago, at for only a couple of hundred dollars a month. As technology improves, prices continue to fall (relative to the amount of technology provided). Associations need to take advantage of this.

Trend #5: Faster delivery – Because more technology is being delivered on line now, and often from multi-tenant environments (i.e., several associations in the same database), delivery time for implementation of a new AMS has been decreasing rapidly. What used to be typically a 6-12 month  process is now taking as little as 45 days. That’s a huge and important change for associations, because as with most things, time is money. Faster delivery generally means a less costly implementation.

These are just a handful of the trends affecting the AMS market now. But they are key areas to focus on as you move forward with your current system or consider searching out a new AMS.