Selecting Membership Software for the Long-Term

If you’re in the process of deciding whether to upgrade or change your membership software, you have a lot to consider, from deciding whether it’s worth it in terms of budgeting, seeking board approval, or overcoming the fear of change. Perhaps most important, after all, is the product itself. 

Many associations know the pain of implementing a system, working in it (or around it) for years, and then having to spend exponentially more on an upgrade because the custom adaptations impeded a seamless and affordable upgrade process. You may not be thinking about your search in terms of “configuration versus customization,” but it’s certainly something that will impact the bottom line for several years to come.

The eBook Configuration vs. Customization explains the differences between these two “C-Words” and why these differences are important when considering a new membership system. Here’s an excerpt to get you started…

What’s the Difference?

At the highest level, configuration enables you to change the behavior of the system without modifying the underlying product. You are able to “plug in” new functionality in a controlled and expected way that augments the system without changing it and preserves a smooth upgrade path.

Let’s take a very simple example. Let’s say you want to make some changes to the member record to keep track of additional information in a dozen new fields. In a customizable system, a programmer minimally would need to manually alter the database to add new data columns, hand-code any product forms to add the new data entry and display fields, add code for any new form validations, update all database queries related to the member record, and test everything to ensure that all dependent functionality is updated.

In a configurable system, an administrator would use a visual design tool to add the fields and place them onto forms. With the press of a button, the database would be automatically updated and all queries needed to access the member record would be regenerated along with links to any other related functionality. The new fields would automatically be visible and available to data viewing and reporting tools. The entire system change is accomplished in minutes and is visible immediately without programming.

Keep the Good Stuff While You Grow

A configurable system will also enable you to introduce progressively sophisticated changes to the system while maintaining the same core principles. Let’s look at an example for member dues pricing. Your member dues pricing is likely non-trivial—gone are the days of a simple tiered pricing structure based on member type. What your member pays may incorporate tenure, level of education or certification, region, professional specialty, or many other factors. A configurable system will let you add sophisticated rules without hard-coding them, and then allow you update them at any time on a product-by-product basis.

For business rules that are very complex or require access to an external system, you should be able to build a code-based configuration that is introduced into the system in a non-evasive way, meaning the core product knows that the configuration exists and calls it at exactly the right time to execute the business rule. The power of configuration gives you the flexibility to support your business needs without limiting your future.

Want to read the entire Configuration vs. Customization eBook? Download it here:

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