I recently traded emails with an association colleague of mine, an executive director of a small association, asking him how his search for a new AMS was going. (He is not a client, but chose to do this on his own.)
He has called the process “a train wreck.” Here are just some of his comments (he agreed to let me discuss this as long as I keep his name and the product name anonymous):
“Goal was to have an all-in-one system that was both all the front-end stuff (CMS, forums, social networking, etc, etc) AND have a good enough back-end (ie, to avoid a separate hardcore AMS).
So, we wanted both, and it turns out that it is kinda good at neither once you try to start bending it to your specific needs.”
In other words, what they tried to get was a system that could do really good “Web 2.0” and still provide solid association management tools. And in the end, from his perspective, he got neither.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience for a lot of organizations. We focus on some really cool or powerful features (e.g., web 2.0 tools) and neglect to determine if the basics are being taken care of (e.g., standard AMS functionality like accounts receivable).
My experience suggests that the “old school” AMS vendors (those that have been around for 10+ years) do the basics of AMS very well. And that the new kids on the block (those that started from a web- and broad-community-of-users- perspective) do the Web 2.0 stuff really well. The problem is trying to get one system that does them both well.
So far I’ve not come across any system that does both exceedingly well. But if I had to choose, I’d choose the AMS functionality over the Web 2.0 functionality, because in the end, managing the money will be most important.
The traditional AMS vendors will catch up on the Web 2.0 stuff eventually. And the new guys with their newfangled 2.0 tools will eventually have stronger AMS back-ends. But for now, it’s the classic definition of compromise: A compromise is where neither party gets what they want and neither party is happy.
“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.”
“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.”
Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
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