How to choose your next association management software

There are dozens of association management software (AMS) systems on the market today. How do you choose the one that’s right for your organization?

Let’s break it down into three key areas:

  • Which AMS capabilities are right for your organization
  • Selecting the right AMS vendor for your organization
  • AMS pricing considerations

Which AMS capabilities are right for your organization

A helpful way to start thinking about the right AMS for your organization is to consider your organization’s size (staff, membership, annual revenue) and how much flexibility you need in an AMS (for example, based on the complexity of your membership levels and processes):

  • If your organization does not require a great deal of flexibility, an “off-the-shelf” solution built for small or large organizations (depending on your organization’s size), might be right for you. These solutions typically have the baseline functionality that most associations need and also sometimes allow for basic configuration.
  • If your organization is small, but complex, you might choose an “off-the-shelf” solution, and then add applications to handle various aspects of your association management.
  • If your organization is large and complex, your best option likely is an AMS built on an enterprise-level development platform. These types of solutions offer deep and broad AMS functionality and also allow you to substantially configure and tailor the system to your needs.

Other considerations include what type of platform the AMS is built on, whether the software is hosted by the vendor or on-premises at your organization, and whether the software is configurable or fully customizable. Most of these decisions depend on the size of your IT staff and how much control your IT team wants over the software.

Quick Fact: As an industry leader with more than 23 years of experience, Aptify AMS is one of the most robust and feature rich AMS applications available. In addition to a full feature set "out of the box," Aptify's Rapid Application Development architecture enables Aptify to be easily configured and expanded to meet virtually any business requirements for your organization.

Selecting the right AMS vendor for your organization

After you narrow your list of options, it’s time to start reviewing your top candidates. Here are some areas to consider when selecting the right vendor for your organization:

  • Trust/reliability – Be sure to ask the vendor how long the company has been in business. Also, ask for a list of some of the vendor’s top customers and see if you can contact them for a reference. Take a look at customer reviews for the vendor on top review sites, such as ReviewMyAMS or
  • System processes and data migration – Make sure you understand the vendor’s approach to data and data processes. For example, ask the vendor to explain the process of migrating your data into their system. Ask if there is a data cleanup process before migrating the data and who is responsible for it (you or the vendor?). Can data in the AMS sync with any other custom applications you might have?
  • Configurability and upgrade path – Ask about the platform’s flexibility and configurability. Make sure you understand any restrictions to make sure any configurations or customizations you make won’t break when the system is upgraded to a new version. Ask who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the system (you or the vendor?).
  • Adoption and training – Ask about what training the vendor provides for the AMS system. Are training options one-time or ongoing? Are courses in-person or online (or both)?
  • Team functions and support – What is the vendor’s implementation process? What is the process for handling any issues that might arise during installation? After the system is up and running, how will the vendor work with you? What is the customer support process?

Quick Fact: Aptify customers are set up for success with helpful resources, including a help site and product knowledgebase, in-person and virtual training options, a robust in-person and online community, and customer support. Aptify also builds staff training into the implementation process. Learn More

AMS pricing considerations

Determining cost for your AMS can be tricky. Multiple factors go into the cost of a new AMS system. Also, pricing between any two AMS systems is not always an apples-to-apples comparison. What’s most important is the true cost of owning the system over time and making sure the system meets your organization’s needs. Here are some key considerations as you think about AMS pricing:

  • Users – The number of people using your AMS will impact the price. Some vendors charge by membership volume (actual number of members logging into your member site) and some charge only for the number of your staff members using the AMS. Be sure to ask the vendor about this.
  • Implementation – Ask about what functionality comes with the system and what functionality you might need to configure or build on your own. Be sure to have well-defined business requirements in place so your vendor can give you an accurate estimate of what will be required.
  • Operating costs – Operating (also called on-going) costs are non-personnel costs associated with keeping the system running and well-maintained. These costs can include licensing fees, upgrade costs, support fees, and hardware and/or hosting costs. Be sure to ask the vendor about estimated costs for these items.
  • Long-term costs and lifetime value – The investment you make now will have a direct impact on how much you must spend in years to come. The cost to maintain your AMS at the level required to run your business can quickly increase over time if the software you choose today can’t adapt to changing needs.
Look at the total cost of ownership of any system you’re considering:
    • Will you need to re-implement your system in a few years because the software is too complex to upgrade?
    • Is your system built on a platform that allows for change, or will your modifications have to be rebuilt with each product upgrade?
    • Is your software able to support the latest technology innovations as they evolve?

For any AMS you consider, ask about the vendor’s customer retention rate, interview customer references about their upgrade experience and cost, and check on how the AMS system has been able to keep up with the customers’ changing needs.

Quick Fact: Aptify has been a leader in technology and innovation in the association industry for more than two decades. The Aptify team is continually adopting new technologies and best practices as they emerge, incorporating them into the Aptify framework, and educating customers on how to use these new features and technologies. Because of this, Aptify has numerous customers that have counted on the Aptify framework for 10 years or more – longer than some AMS vendors have been around!

Need more tips on selecting your next AMS? Don’t miss this on-demand webinar.

Discover more about the topics in this article.

Watch the on-demand webinar, Tips for Choosing Your Next AMS.

Ready to take the next step?

If your organization is in the market for new membership software, viewing a demo of Aptify is a great place to start! Our friendly team of experts can show you exactly what you’re looking for to ease the selection process.

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