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Things I heard at ASAE Tech Conference IV – How to deal with the fear and pain of a new AMS
6 January 2012, by , in Executive, No comments

At one session I attended, an audience member asked the question quite plaintively: “How do we deal with the fear and pain of selecting a new association management system?”

First, you’re not going to eliminate the fear. People will be worried/concerned/scared. You can’t change that.

Second, there is going to be some “pain,” regardless of what you do. Even the very best projects have bumps and unexpected twists and turns. That can’t eliminated.

But you can minimize the amount of fear and pain by taking some very simple steps:

  1. Over-communicate. You can’t just tell staff what’s going to happen and then go away. You have to let them know what the plan is, and then keep them updated on the progress. And if things change, let them know that, too.
  2. Acknowledge that there will be problems. I always tell my clients, as we make decisions, we have to acknowledge that we’re making this decision with the best information we have now. That information may change later, and we may have to change our decision then. That’s not a failure; that’s adapting to change.
  3. Communicate clearly what success looks like. Too often success is implied by simply going live with the new system. But real success has to be measured concretely. For example, for one of my clients, one measure of success was that within 90 days of launching their new AMS, online renewals had gone from 0% of the members renewing online, to nearly 70% renewing online. That’s huge!
As consultant Alan Weiss points out, people don’t really fear change; after all we deal with change every day. What they fear is ambiguity. And communication is the key to clearing up ambiguity.
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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
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Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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