As I work with different non-profits to help them choose an association management software (AMS) package appropriate to their needs, I’m struck by two issues that continue to influence the choices my clients make. It may come as some surprise that these two issues are completely intangible and subjective. That is, they can’t be measured by anything beyond a “feeling” that the user gets.
Issue #1: Relationship with the vendor — This is one of the most underrated issues regarding AMS selection, and probably the most important. Unlike most software that you purchase over the counter (like MS Office products, games, etc.) AMS selection is not a one-time shot where you buy the software and then move on. The relationship with your software vendor is key to the continued success of your AMS. Thus, you must have a “good feeling” about the vendor and the people who you will be working with. This is purely intangible but extremely important.
In one case, I had a client looking at two software packages. In terms of price, Package A was nearly twice as expensive as Package B. Both had similar functionality. But because of something said by the software vendor presenting package B, my client was willing to take Package B off the consideration list. As my client put it: “He was rude. I can’t imagine working with him long-term.”
Issue #2: Interface/Usability — How does the software look and feel to the average user? Is it attractive and uncluttered? Or is it ugly and cumbersome? I strongly believe that how a system looks and feels will directly affect how your users feel about the software, and thus how willing they will be to learn and use the software.
I have clients tell me “I like what the software does, but I can’t imagine staring at that screen all day.” Put another way, “Even if we have it, I’m not going to use it.”
Why are these two issues important? Because choosing the AMS package appropriate for your needs is not just a matter of creating a checklist of needs, counting the number of checkmarks, and choosing the AMS with the most points. Indeed, more often than not, the installations that are successful are those that didn’t score the most checkmarks, but scored very high on the two issues raised above.
This article originally appeared in Association Trends. Reprinted with permission.
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