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Choosing Our Dream AMS by Amanda Kaiser

By Dave Gambino

Throughout our research of the association management industry, we occasionally come across some very good info and with the permission of the author, Amanda Kaiser, we are resharing it for the benefits of our clients and any association leaders looking to make a switch.

Introducing Amanda Kaiser:

Amanda Kaiser is a qualitative researcher for the association industry. To date, she has conducted over 373 in-depth member interviews. Through these conversations, she comes to understand members’ goals, challenges, and worries then translates these insights into strategies that exponentially improve member engagement. Channeling member insights, Amanda writes a weekly blog for association professionals at SmoothThePath.net or follow her on Twitter @SmoothThePath. Amanda can help you engage your new members early to engage them for life!

The Association Management Software (AMS) is the lifeblood of the association. Through this system, we run many or all of our transactions and store much of the organization’s data. When the system does not work the way, we hope we get frustrated. There is an enormous switching cost for acquiring a new AMS which includes the product cost plus the cost of training, downtime, and all the energy that goes into implementation and launch. When we purchase our AMS, we want it to work for our association now and into the distant future.

Please know that I am not a technology consultant and this is not a technology post. Rather this post attempts to capture how I would think about vetting an AMS based on what I know about member experience and association management.

  1.  Ease of member use – I would ask the AMS company to demonstrate all the key member interactions and transactions like joining, registering, and buying. Better yet, I would ask if I could test a system as a member and I would study the user interface. Is it intuitive? Are there unnecessary steps and clicks? Do I get errors? Can I go back and change my answers? What if I already paid, can I go back and change my answers then? What kind of confirmation emails do I get? Are they prompt and what do they look like? I want to know that the system works like web users have come to expect that websites work like and that the system will not be glitchy, frustrating, or time-consuming for users.
  2. Search searches – For AMSs that also have CMS capability, I would thoroughly check out the search. Members hit the search button before they try the navigation. How robust is the search? Can I easily make sure everything in the site is searchable using the words and phrases my members use? I want to know that when members go to the search bar they find what they are looking for quickly because if they don’t they will stop thinking of the association as the first place they go when they have a problem.
  3. Measuring the key measures – Does the system measure the key measures out of the box? Does it measure renewal rate? And separately new member renewal rate? If the AMS is also a CMS, does it measure page views and the path members take when they are on the website? If the AMS sends emails does it capture opens and more importantly clicks? I want to know that the AMS will provide accurate data so I can make critical strategic decisions.
  4. Segmenting members – Does the system make it easy for clients to segment members by behavior? After segmenting members, can I then track, measure, and communicate with that segment? I will want to target at-risk members and high potential members and other segments of members, like members by career stage, and see how changes in the association impact these segments.
  5. Plans for innovation – What is next on the innovation plan for this AMS? How does the company prioritize system innovation projects? How do clients make a case for changes? I want assurance this system is going to grow with my organization.

What else should an AMS do to improve member’s experience with our associations?

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