Software for Association Management: What You Should Ask Vendors

Need new software for association management? Ask these questions to separate the good from the not-so-good.
Need new software for association management? Ask these questions to separate the good from the not-so-good.

By The Protech Team

Technology advances quickly. Trends change overnight. Checklists that associations used for software selection in 2015 won’t work in 2020.

So, what should you ask vendors to make sure you pick the perfect software for your association management? Here are five questions that  will set any trade or professional association on the right path.

1 – What are your recent industry innovations?

Innovation is a way of life. A company either strives to innovate or they don’t.

True innovation is centered on examination of current processes and finding ways to make them better, faster and easier. For trade and professional associations looking for software for association management, finding a truly innovative company can be challenging.

Innovation means responsive and dynamic reports and dashboards to display information in a way that’s never been seen before. Why? First, it’s easier to understand data when you can visualize it. And second, organizations with real-time data visualizations see a 15 percent increase in revenue generated from operations.

2 – Will our questions be answered in a timely manner?

Some AMS vendors are fantastic illusionists. They vanish into thin air once implementation is finished — or sometimes even before that.

How can an association steer clear of a disappearing vendor? Early on in the selection process, ask how easy it is to get in touch with a vendor’s customer support team. Down the road a little further, ask again. Finally, before committing to a vendor, ask one more time.

If the answers you’re getting during the selection process are increasingly dodgy, it’s a good sign to look elsewhere. Why? Because the perfect implementation of software for association management requires several open channels of communication. An online community, a competent customer care team and a project relationship manager should all be available to help associations maximize their returns on investment.

3 – Who owns your company?

For a time, the big trend within the AMS community was major investment in and absorption of various vendors.

It lead to spectacular capital expenditures and stunning tradeshow booths. But not innovation. Not improvements to AMS solutions.

Lack of innovation is sparked by a failure to understand the association industry. So whoever you choose, make sure you know who’s running the show and they know all about your world.

4 – Do you incorporate customer feedback into the product?

What features do association executives and staff want in their AMS?

Plenty of AMS vendors are content to tell associations what they want, but they never actually get around to asking.

Find a vendor that asks what you want. At Protech, we look to our customer-run Ideation Lab to crowdsource ideas. The Ideation Lab lives in the Protech Users Group, a community that saw member-to-member interactions increase by 57 percent from its second to third year in existence.

5 – Do you have a pure cloud system?

Pure cloud systems are all the rage. And according to Bain & Company, subscription-based software-as-a-service solutions will continue to be popular, rising at a rate of 18-percent growth in 2020.

We’re not talking “cloud-based,” hosted systems here. We’re talking pure cloud: systems that can upgrade on the fly without a 3-4 month project timeline or excessive implementation costs.

Just a handful of AMS solutions have found their way to the true cloud, noted by third-party certifications. It’s possible the rest will find their way eventually, but for now, expect those other “cloud-based” systems to cost your association time and money once the next upgrade comes around.