Documenting Your Processes

I spoke at a users group meeting a few weeks ago, and asked if anyone in the audience had a users guide or documented business processes for their AMS systems. In a room of about 50, I saw exactly two hands go up. Two!

Frankly, I don't know how an organization can successfully use an AMS over time if it hasn't documented how it processes data in the database. I suspect that in most cases, the organizations are relatively successful because one person on staff has all the processes in his or her head, and as long as he or she doesn't leave, everything is fine. But that's hardly a way to run a business.

Ironically, one of the attendees came up to me afterwards to explain that they are struggling with their existing database because the one person that knew how to run it has left. And now staff thinks they need to buy a new system. When I asked her if they had any documentation, she said "no." I was disappointed, but not surprised.

If you want your database to succeed for the long-term (meaning more than five years), you have document your processes. A new user needs to be able to look at that documentation and easily determine how to process things like new membership joins, membership renewals, event registrations, product orders, certification, fundraising, and the myriad other things your association does.

Are your processes documented? And if not, why not?

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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