There was a thread on the ASAE technology listserver a few weeks back about whether an association should choose an AMS based on .net or PHP or something else. There was some interesting responses, but one of the best was from Bob Nedbal, Director of IT and Web Services, at the American Educational Research Association.
Bob wrote, in part: "If you want to provide a great deal of self-service, commerce and personalized information to users of the website, write descriptive examples of what you would like members and partners to be able to do and prioritize them. Use this as part of your vendor evaluation, identifying what they do "out of the box" vs. what needs to be built."
This is great advice. Too often when associations evaluate AMS systems, they don't give enough consideration to what the member or customer experience will be like. And even if they are thinking about it, they haven't articluated it clearly enough to be able to communicate their needs to the AMS vendor. As Bob suggests, writing up scenarios and walking through them with the vendor will go a long way to communicating what is needed, and might help you avoid choosing a solution that isn't a good fit.
And as for .net vs PHP and the rest. Well, in a sense, it doesn't matter. Does the tool deliver what you and your customers need? Is it easy to use? Is it scalable and upgradeable? These are the important questions. Obviously technology does matter. But too often we get caught up in the technology and forget that it's simply a tool.