When you compromise, no one is happy

I recently traded emails with an association colleague of mine, an executive director of a small association, asking him how his search for a new AMS was going. (He is not a client, but chose to do this on his own.)

He has called the process “a train wreck.” Here are just some of his comments (he agreed to let me discuss this as long as I keep his name and the product name anonymous):

“Goal was to have an all-in-one system that was both all the front-end stuff (CMS, forums, social networking, etc, etc) AND have a good enough back-end (ie, to avoid a separate hardcore AMS).

So, we wanted both, and it turns out that it is kinda good at neither once you try to start bending it to your specific needs.”

In other words, what they tried to get was a system that could do really good “Web 2.0” and still provide solid association management tools. And in the end, from his perspective, he got neither.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience for a lot of organizations. We focus on some really cool or powerful features (e.g., web 2.0 tools) and neglect to determine if the basics are being taken care of (e.g., standard AMS functionality like accounts receivable).

My experience suggests that the “old school” AMS vendors (those that have been around for 10+ years) do the basics of AMS very well. And that the new kids on the block (those that started from a web- and broad-community-of-users- perspective) do the Web 2.0 stuff really well. The problem is trying to get one system that does them both well.

So far I’ve not come across any system that does both exceedingly well. But if I had to choose, I’d choose the AMS functionality over the Web 2.0 functionality, because in the end, managing the money will be most important.

The traditional AMS vendors will catch up on the Web 2.0 stuff eventually. And the new guys with their newfangled 2.0 tools will eventually have stronger AMS back-ends. But for now, it’s the classic definition of compromise: A compromise is where neither party gets what they want and neither party is happy.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, 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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