Fall in Love with your AMS all over again

Remember back when love was new?  Your heart first skipped a beat when you saw the software in the demo. After implementation, you fell head over heels again when you saw it loaded up with your association’s data.  Do you still feel that way or are you finding yourself interested in playing the field again? 

In 2007, researchers reported that the dangerous time in marriage should be called the five-year itch.  The study suggested that “the honeymoon lasted less than 5 years with most divorces likely to happen between 5 and 10 years into the marriage. “

Tom Lehman’s annual study of the AMS marketplace seems to confirm that associations upgrade or replace AMS products on average about every five years.  So, why does this happen?  An oversimplified explanation is that marriages take work.  Let’s take a look if you you’ve been doing your part to keep the relationship healthy.

Key to any healthy marriage is communication. 

When organizations go through the selection and implementation process with a new system, a team of key people are assembled to participate in the process.  An executive sponsor leads discussions with the group about the organization’s needs and business processes, and then compares itself against industry best practices.  Fast forward five years.  Things change as the organization grows and personnel turnover.   When was the last time your senior staff talked about how the AMS fits in with the organization’s business process and decision making?  Talk it out. 

Add an agenda item to your next meeting.  Have each department list the top 3 questions that they think the database can or should be able to answer for them.  Give these questions to the database administrator.  Some questions may have simple answers that can be addressed with training or a new report; while others may lead to strategic conversations about revamping business processes. 

Make major decisions in your lives together as a couple

After you talk with your staff, talk with your vendor about what you learned.  Associations and vendor partners should meet periodically to touch base on how things are going.  What new projects is the association working on?  If it touches the membership, it likely touches the AMS too.  Does the software have new features, modules, or partners that the association should consider to better meet the project’s objectives?

Take time out together every so often and get away for a few days.

It’s likely that many of your key staff have changed since you initially implemented the AMS?  Are you training all new employees on basic system tasks?  How are the power users learning to perform their job functions in the system?  How much does executive staff know about the data in the system and, more importantly, how to access the data to help make key decisions?  Schedule simple training sessions or brown bag lunch-n-learn sessions the database administrator can facilitate to get all employees back up to a basic level of understanding.  AMS vendors, resellers, and consultants offer in-depth training both in-person and online.  Database administrators and power users can participate in user group meetings to learn from their peers.  Taking time out for training can be time and money well spent.  For each event I’ve attended, I left with a new idea that saved my association much more money than the cost of the training itself.

Keep the spark alive

The same old, same old, well–relationships can get stale.  Part of what attracted you to your vendor in the first place was the shiny new tools, right?  Although some associations are choosing hosted solutions that are updated on a regular basis, too many associations fail to upgrade the on-premise software on a regular basis.  Budget constraints and staff time are cited as typical excuses.  Remember the dollar value of the initial investment in the solution in software licensing, consulting, development, training and staff time.  So next time your eyes go wandering to the shiny new tool rolled out by another vendor, talk to your staff and your current vendor about how your association can get access to that feature or functionality too.  You may be surprised to find out that the answer to your needs may be a simple upgrade to rekindle that love once again.


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