80% is Good Enough

One of the many services I provide my clients is helping them select new enterprise-wide data management systems (typically association management systems). The first significant step in the process is identifying all the functional needs of the organization. That is, if the system could do everything you need it to do for you, what would those functions be?

I explain to them that this is very much a “wish list” exercise. I want to hear (and document) everything the organization would like the software to do for them, regardless of what is possible or affordable. At this stage of the process, nothing is off the table.

In order to be successful with the selection, there are two key points to keep in mind: 

  1. No system can provide everything that you’ve identified as a functional need. (If such a system DID exist, I would own it, and be VERY rich!)
  2. You’re in very good shape if you can get 80% of your functional needs met while still staying within your budget.

Below are two Venn diagrams. The first shows what many associations expect when searching for a new data management system. They expect to find a product that will satisfy 100% of their needs. This is unrealistic – in 17 years of consulting I can count on one hand the number of my clients who even came close to this.

 Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 8.38.22 AM

The diagram below shows what most associations should expect when selecting a new AMS: success is if you can get 80%-90% of functional needs met.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 8.38.28 AM

This is all about expectations management, which I wrote about here. If you go into this process thinking you’ll find a perfect system, you will be very disappointed. But if you enter the process knowing that no system is perfect, and that if you can 80% of your functional needs in a system that fits your budget, you’ll not only be happier, but your long-term success is much more likely.


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