There’s no disputing a new association management system (AMS) is a major investment. While there are several factors that determine the ultimate price of what the system will cost—from the number of licenses to implementation to staff training—there are even more strategies to keep your AMS software price from escalating beyond the budget.
Here are three ways to lower the price of your next membership management software system:
1. Be Prepared for Change
Key to keeping pricing manageable and within budget is to look to best practices—an implementation that’s done in the way that others have done it in the past means there’s no recreating the wheel. The more you can commit to following best practices, the lower your implementation estimate will be.
Following best practices, though, is directly tied to being ready for change. Chances are, what you’ve always done in the past won’t be the best way forward. After all, if you’re not looking to make a change in process—if you’re looking to do what you’ve always done—do you really expect different results?
Be open to the idea of change when your implementation team suggests a best practices rule. Sometimes this means that you’ll need to prompt those in senior management to accept something new, other times you’ll have to finesse a conversation with the board about changing policies and bylaws to adopt a new process.
Remember, the end result is a system that best helps you achieve your organization’s goals. There may be new paths to get there, but the result will be better—and less costly—in the end.
2. Work in Phases
Most associations have complex needs, so when mid- to large-sized organizations set out to gather all their requirements, the list can get very long, very quickly. The best way to tackle this—and to keep costs down—is to work in phases and focus first on a subset of what’s needed. For instance, plan to implement half of the full requirements in the first phase, then the next quarter in the second, and remainder in the third. While this could be seen as more of a cost-delay model than a cost-reduction model, it’s not. And here’s why.
We’ve found that when organizations embark on implementing a leaner amount of requirements right out of the gate, they end up needing to implement less in the long run. Those who decide to implement in phases find that, once they go live after phase one and get comfortable with working in their new system, their total requirements are actually reduced.
Again, this relates directly to being prepared for change we discussed in Step 1. Those associations that are open to change will find that, with phase one fully implemented, there are new processes available and new ways of doing things that eliminate the need for additional configurations that were originally planned.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be taken care of in phase one, but you may see your list of original requirements start to shrink after go live. Familiarity with the new system after phase one is also beneficial because you and your implementation team will find that it’s easier to work in a system that’s already up and running. Releasing incremental functionality after you’re live will save more time and money than if you converted everything all at once. Plus, you’ll be able to stop paying maintenance fees to your outgoing vendor once you turn your new system on. A phased implementation will having you doing that much sooner.
3. Stop Scope Creep
We’ve all been there—it’s halfway through a construction project and, as long as everything is ripped up and exposed, why not add another bathroom or redo the floors. The inclination to add scope to a project is a natural one.
The same goes for an AMS implementation. You may have been as detailed in your requirements gathering as possible, but once you get into the implementation, those seemingly “little” requests and add-ons start appearing.
Scope creep is, naturally, one of the biggest areas you can manage to keep costs down. The bulk of this management, however, takes place not when you’re in the think of it but right from the start. A good pricing model (and implementation methodology) strongly assumes that spending time upfront will save an organization a considerable amount in both time and money than discovering things toward the middle or end of the project.
To that end, our implementation team spends a great deal of time in open discussions with our clients, making sure we have every piece of information, no matter how exhaustive the RFP is. That’s not because the RFP isn’t necessarily complete, but because these discussions tend to reveal deeper requirements. Additionally, the implementation team can bring to light the needs and best practices of similar clients. They may be able to suggest requirement you’ll need for processes that will save you in the future.
It All Comes Down to Change
No matter what stage of your software selection and implementation you’re in—whether defining new processes, gathering requirements, or managing the scope of work—staying open to change is your best cost-savings tactic. The less time it takes to go live with streamlined requirements, the less your overall scope will be. And when you define everything you’ll need from the start, you’ll keep surprise costs from sneaking in. As you and your team open yourselves to new process, you may find that you can do more with less, leaving you with a system that stays within budget while helping to achieve your goals.
If you’re wondering how much does an AMS cost or how to build a business case for implementing new technology, check out the AMS Pricing Guide.