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Things I heard at ASAE Tech Conference III – Modify your expectations
5 January 2012, by , in Executive, 12 comments

I can’t remember who said it, but along the way I heard someone say something simple yet profound. When it comes to selecting and implementing a new association management system (AMS), staff need to modify their expectations. That is, they cannot expect the system to be all things to all people. It will have weaknesses. It will have shortcomings. It will do things differently than we are accustomed to. If your expectation is that a new AMS will be the answer to all of your problems, then you need to modify your expectations.

I’ve written and spoken frequently about seeking success and not perfection. This is true in all of life, but especially true when it comes to data management and our AMSes. The data will never be perfect. The database will never be perfect. But we can still be successful with both, especially if we modify our expectations.

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12 Comments on "Things I heard at ASAE Tech Conference III – Modify your expectations"

Jeff De Cagna - 5 January 2012 Reply

Wes, I have a serious disagreement with this perspective. In a world that is being "eaten by software" as Mark Andreessen argued this summer (http://tinyurl.com/3ubhjev), I think association leaders have a responsibility to raise their expectations for the value that association management systems, and all software applications in which they invest, should deliver. As technology continues to drive a relentless societal transformation, traditional association business models will continue to suffer. To build our organizations to thrive in the years ahead, associations and their technology partners need to develop more robust applications and platforms that can serve as the foundation for business model innovation. We won't get there by settling for ordinary. Now is the time for association executives, technology company leaders and other key contributors to collaborate on developing the next generation of association-specific technologies that will meet the high expectations our next-generation stakeholders already hold for us, and that we should hold for ourselves.

Wes Trochlil - 5 January 2012 Reply

Fair enough, Jeff, but I'm not sure I advocated "settling for ordinary." I'll stand by my position that if one demands perfection, one will always be disappointed. I'll go for success every time!

Mark Streger - 5 January 2012 Reply

Wes This was fine in 1994 when distributed software and SQL was new to the AMS world. 16 years later the vendors should get it right, no excuses anymore.

    Wes Trochlil - 5 January 2012 Reply

    Mark, I wrote above, " If your expectation is that a new AMS will be the answer to all of your problems, then you need to modify your expectations." Are you saying that AMS vendors can now solve all of our problems? If so, please point me to them, I'd like to buy their company. ;-)

Sig VanDamme - 5 January 2012 Reply

Wes, I think this goes for almost everything; software, relationships, etc. Question: What is the difference between excellence and perfection? Answer: Excellence is achievable. I think that for too long Associations have been dealing with sub-excellence and they should expect/demand excellence from their AMS. -Sig

    Wes Trochlil - 5 January 2012 Reply

    Agreed. Demand excellence but not perfection.

Jeff De Cagna - 6 January 2012 Reply

Wes, let's set aside the semantic argument and focus on the substantive one, which is that associations need better technology to build better business models that will make it possible for us to serve our most demanding 21st century stakeholders. What are your thoughts on how we achieve this outcome?

    Wes Trochlil - 6 January 2012 Reply

    Great question, Jeff. Strategically, associations need to move from transactional to transformational. Too much of the AMS work is still focused on transactions (e.g., how do I process this order more efficiently). The transformational will occur when associations start looking at their data holistically, which includes really understanding who their volunteers are and how their members and customers want to engage with the association. Many of the AMS products can address this now, but too many associations are still too focused on the transactional. Am I answering your question?

David Sieg - 6 January 2012 Reply

I think it's a lot like buying a car... (where did I hear that before!?) I can get a car for virtually nothing. Today. Right now. On the local corner lot a salesman will take me for a quick spin, and I'll be on my way for CHEAP! Or... I can spec out my 'dream' ride. Order all the trimmings, have custom work done to build it out EXACTLY how I like. Chances are, it'll take a while longer for that car to be built and delivered. Heck, they may not even get my custom ostrich skin seats monogrammed correctly -- and I'll have to send it back to the dealer for tweaking. Oh, and I know it will certainly cost a LOT more than the car at the corner lot. And maybe that's OK... Today's technology, including AMSes, need to come in many flavors. There are tools that are virtually free and, on the other end of the spectrum, tools that will easily set you back six figures. And there are tools in the middle that provide tremendous value. I analyze value via this simple formula: "Quality/Price = Value" or "Higher quality/lower price = greater value." Today's AMSes come in different packages: need something cheap? You got it! It's out there. Need an ultra-custom development that will meet nearly 100 percent of your business needs -- you can get that too. But it'll take longer to implement and cost more. Take a look at your association's very real needs. Take a peek at your budget. Demo different levels of AMSes, and get an accurate quote to see which one provides the greatest value for your organization. There's no magic panacea (us vendors won't stop trying!), but today there is likely a very good solution that fits your real-world budget and delivers the increased value/success you need.

    Wes Trochlil - 6 January 2012 Reply

    >>>today there is likely a very good solution that fits your real-world budget and delivers the increased value/success you need. Agreed.

Gary Kilgore - 8 January 2012 Reply

Wes, I doubt you tell your clients they should modified their expectations when they are perusing Salesforce.

    Wes Trochlil - 8 January 2012 Reply

    Actually, I do all the time, Gary. I can't tell you how many times I've had clients or potential clients tell me "We've got free licenses from SF Foundation. Can't we just use that for our AMS?" (Note their expectation.)

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“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
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“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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