What AMS Vendors Think – 2010

Over the past several years Ive conducted a non-scientific survey of association executives, asking them simply what was top of mind with management of their database. (You can see the results of these surveys here, here, here, here, and here.)

For a change of pace, Ive asked the AMS vendors to respond to a set of three questions, answers to which Ive summarized below. The conclusions Ive drawn from the answers to these three questions are:

  1. Staff needs more training.
  2. Associations need to review their business processes and how they use the database.
  3. Staff needs more training (no, thats not a typo).

When taken in totality, what the vendors are saying is that their customers need to get better at knowing how to use their software. This means that associations need to spend more time (and yes, probably more money) on training staff. And this isnt just training for staff new to the database, but providing updated training to staff who are veterans in the system. Because most vendors provide relatively frequent updates to their products, all staff need to be aware of what those changes are, how they might be used within their association, and what changes in process may occur as a result of these updates.

Beyond training, associations also need to periodically review their business processes to ensure that theyre doing the things they need to be doing, are NOT doing things they should no longer be doing, and are leveraging the software as effectively as possible.

Vendor Responses
Heres a sampling of the answers provided to each question, with some brief analysis from me.

Question 1: What is the single greatest challenge that your customers face right now, when dealing with their database?

While there were a broad range of answers, one answer that consistently rose to the top is that too many database users dont know how to use their database technology effectively. This could be due to poor training or an incomplete knowledge of what the software can actually do. Here are some representative responses:

  • Turnover of staff, often leading the new employees with little or no training in the AMS. Management often doesn’t see the need to bring in professional training and often rely on existing staff to train new employees.
  • Getting users to use it to its full potential.
  • Maybe too much functionality? If certain modules aren’t used often, staff forget how to use them and are frustrated when they DO need to do something in those modules.

In addition, several vendors pointed out that their clients are not leveraging the data that is being collected by the organization. Comments included:

  • Leveraging the database for data mining purposes to help unearth new business model opportunities.
  • Data mining

Question 2: What’s the single greatest challenge your clients face when working on deployment of a new data management system?

The preponderance of responses her focused on processes, specifically the need for users to adopt new business processes to take advantage of the new software. Responses to this question included:

  • Letting go of old processes and envisioning their organization as they would like it to operate going forward.
  • Adjustment to new practices – there is huge resistance to changing any internal practices, even if staff agree they could be streamlined.
  • Getting users to break inertia and adopt new processes.

Question 3: What’s the biggest issue your clients face when it comes to support and maintenance of their database?

Far and away the most common answer to this question revolved around training. Clearly database users need to be more focused on system training, especially as this relates to staff turnover. Some of the comments included:

  • Staff turnover and lack of training or support for new staff is a challenge, and has caused us to start offering larger training, documentation and support models as part of our offerings.
  • Training and getting used to the new database.
  • Turnover – without recognition of the need for software training for new employees.


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