In addition to a full suite of association membership management capabilities, an ideal AMS solution for these types of organizations is one that offers:
- A choice of hosting environments
- Optimal control and flexibility
- Customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities
- Continued investments in product enhancements
- International capabilities
Let’s take a look at each of these aspects in more detail.
A choice of hosting environments
There are two primary options for AMS hosting environments: one that’s hosted in the cloud and one that’s hosted on-premises. The main difference is about where the hardware and software reside, and there are reasons your IT team might want to choose one or the other:
- Cloud-hosted AMS – A public cloud-hosted solution might be more attractive to your association if you want to transfer the cost and hassle of running hardware and software to the AMS vendor. In this case, the vendor manages things like software upgrades, security patches, and hardware upgrades for you, taking the burden off of your organization – especially your IT department. While cloud solutions do not always offer the same level of deep customizability as some on-premises solutions, some do offer a great deal of configurability to meet your organization’s requirements.
- On-premises AMS – The on-premises option might better suit your organization if you want complete control of your IT infrastructure, including data compliance and security (though many cloud-hosted solutions today offer solid levels of security). Also, on-premises solutions often offer a greater ability to customize the system at a deep level, which can appeal to organizations with unique processes.
Optimal control and flexibility
If your association wants more control and flexibility in your AMS software, the ideal solution is one that’s developer-friendly. Essentially, the solution should:
- Be built on development tools familiar to IT professionals, making it easier for your IT team to get the job done today and to find qualified candidates when the team is ready to expand.
- Be built in a way that makes it easier for developers to build applications for the organization’s specific needs. This includes things like: plugin-based architecture, app containers, and open documentation.
- Allow for configurations of every application on the platform while maintaining compatibility with future versions of the product. It should preserve your organization’s configurations and custom plugins and components, which means that your IT team doesn’t have to rebuild the system every time your organization adds a configuration or performs an upgrade.
At the same time, the solution should be easy for non-technical to use so they don’t have to continually turn to IT for help. That means your IT team can spend less time on ad hoc requests and more time ensuring your systems support your business processes. Here are some features to look for:
- Mobile-friendly look and feel
- Easy-to-configure dashboards
- Easy-to run reports
Customer relationship management (CRM) is critically important for large member-based organizations. To keep pace with today’s highly personalized online environment, you must be able to:
- Collect and store information about your organization’s constituents
- Track interactions with them
- Get useful insights that help you make smarter business decisions, build stronger relationships, and ultimately provide a better member experience
To get these capabilities, look for an AMS system that includes these essential CRM elements:
- Contact management – Collect, track, and manage contacts for individuals and companies.
- Record search – Easily search for data across the system, including contacts, files, and documents.
- Campaign management – Create and track marketing campaigns to promote events, products, and more.
- Lead management – Manage and keep track of sales leads and opportunities.
- Communication tracking – Log contact with constituents, including phone calls, emails, mailed items, and meetings.
- Case management – Manage and track customer support and help desk communications.
- File/document management – Keep everything related to a contact in one place by attaching documents directly to a record.
- Workflow management – Work more efficiently using drag-and-drop process automation tools.
- Reporting and analytics – Use multiple out-of-the-box reports or easily generate your own dashboards for the business insights you need.
Continued investments in product enhancements
The last thing you want is an outdated AMS. Be sure to look for an AMS vendor that is continually enhancing and updating the product to keep pace with modern technology and the member-based industry. For example, look for a vendor that invests continually in advancements to the:
- Staff user interface, with modernization, mobile capabilities, and ease-of-use at the forefront
- Developer tools and documentation to ensure they support the latest and greatest technology
- Performance enhancements so the product continues to work optimally
If your association is (or plans to become) international, you have a host of special requirements. Here are five key international capabilities to look for:
- Multi-currency support – Collecting membership and program fees in multiple currencies is important for international associations. Look for an AMS system that supports the use of distinct primary currencies for any contact or product within the system.
- Multi-language functionality – If you have a presence in multiple countries or multi-lingual countries, make sure your AMS offers the option to display database information in a variety of languages and dialects.
- Multi-time zone support – When members are spread across the globe, your system needs the ability to display times in members’ own time zones.
- Unicode storage and search capabilities – Your AMS should be able to recognize and correctly display international Unicode characters, such as accents, umlauts, and foreign language characters (e.g., Chinese, Russian, Japanese, etc.). The system should also make it easy to run queries on these characters.
- GDPR compliance – One the most important changes to data privacy in decades, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), was enacted in 2018. If your association has employees, members, prospects, or customers residing in the European Union (regardless of their citizenship), you’re required to meet GDPR compliance standards. And, your AMS should support this compliance.