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Why you shouldn’t build your own software (from someone who knows!)
16 September 2014, by , in Executive, IT, 7 comments

This blog post is LONG and fascinating. It’s written by the CEO of an AMS company explaining why associations should not build their own AMS product.

Sure, he’s got a vested interest in associations buying off-the-shelf software, but he has an interesting perspective because prior to running his own AMS company, he was actually hired by an association to build a custom solution for them.

His experience underscores what I’ve told my clients for years: Associations should not be in the business of designing their own database.

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  • Jeremy Sontag

    Wes, as always, your post is one-sided. Naturally, you have a vested interest for associations not to build custom solutions. I liken you to a financial adviser who pushes products based on their commission rate. You clearly peddle products that benefit you. In the real world that’d be a conflict of interest. If you think an out of box solution is the end all be all, I feel sorry for your customers.

  • Wes Trochlil

    And yet here you are, at my blog! Funny that.

    The analogy is wrong, too. I take no money from vendors. In one sense it makes no difference to me which vendor they choose. But I stand by my position on the value of off-the-shelf products versus custom-built software. I’ve written and spoken about it at length.

    As for be-all-end-all, I’ve never written or spoken those words.

  • Kathy Salladae

    Wes, name one off the shelf provider that has a cms, custom reports, certifications, chapters, exhibits, magnet mail integration,outlook integration, fundraising built into their product ?

  • Wes Trochlil

    Why do you ask?

  • Dave MacSwain

    This article makes several excellent points about buying a license, or a subscription, to a commercial application software package, versus building a custom application from scratch.

    There is one additional reason for selecting a software package: the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). If you calculate the total cost of a software solution over a 7 to 10 year period, which is a standard, the cost of the maintenance of the custom software solution will likely exceed the cost to build the original system. This TCO alone will make the packaged solution a much more attractive decision, from a financial justification perspective.

    • Wes Trochlil

      That’s a great point, Dave. TCO should be considered for any technology purchase and as you say, it’s likely that a custom solution will have a higher TCO than off-the-shelf software.

  • John Griffo

    Dave, if price sells everything , then, Wes, would not have to spend time writing this blog.

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Testimonials

“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

“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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