Buying association software is a big decision. Making the wrong choice can cost you hundreds of thousands, even millions! Besides the price tag, there are the implementation costs, the time wasted on ineffective/clunky software and the time that your employees wasted trying to use the program.

If you can select the right association software the first time around, then you can avoid these costs and get the admiration of your employees instead of their 2 week’s notice. The right association software for your company will empower your staff to push the limits of their productivity, learn new technologies and learn new ways to improve the way they work.

The wrong software won’t do any of that great stuff, which is why you need to avoid these mistakes at all costs:

1. Starting with a Vendor Picklist
Having a good AMS vendor pick list is a good thing right? Yes and no.

It’s great when you’re further in the software selection process, but if the first step you’re taking is by evaluating vendors, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

2. Using Price as your only Criteria
I’m not saying the price isn’t important, but, as they say, you get what you pay for. You may not need the fully upgraded package, but it’s still a mistake to pass on an AMS solely because it’s a few thousand more than you expected to pay.

You’re making an investment in the effectiveness of your staff, so you need to choose the solution that will solve/automate most of your staff needs while giving your members more value for their time. If you want that ROI, then you need to give your people the tools that they need.

At the end of the day, choosing a solution that costs less will inevitably mean you’ll have to go back to the market and repeat the entire AMS software selection process all over again.

3. Not Involving all Stakeholders
Maybe you’re excited to spearhead the software selection process, but the whole project can go belly-up if you don’t involve all key stakeholders.

Make sure during the process that you involve your board, executive director, membership manager, accounting team, and even get feedback from a couple of key members. If you can have key members try the software, all the better. Involving all stakeholders is a best practice to make sure no members show up on your doorstep carrying pitchforks and torches. It will also make it easier to get funding approved when key members have hands-on experience with your proposed AMS.

If you can involve all stakeholders in the selection and adoption process, the whole AMS selection and adoption process will run much more smoothly.

4. Trusting your IT Department too Much
Don’t get me wrong, definitely, involve your IT people in the process. However, do not let them make the final decision or fool you into thinking that you can have the vendor scrap certain customizations because they can build it themselves. The last thing you need is

1) your IT people won’t be the core users of the software, and won’t be engaging with it on a daily basis.
2) They most likely will not have access or familiarity with the software or have the time to make the customizations that you need.

5. Avoiding the Cloud
I don’t know why, but some people still do not want software that exists in the cloud.

Cloud software lowers your tech overhead costs because there’s no server-side installs and vendors automatically update the platform with each new release. This ensures that you’re not stuck with an outdated platform like AMS Version 10 when they’re on AMS Version 250.

6. Falling in Love with Flashy Features
You’re buying an AMS to help solve specific problems. A common mistake that associations make is focusing on a single flashy feature rather than the overall functionality of the AMS.

Don’t get carried away or make decisions based on a certain flashy feature. Instead, focus on functionality: the holistic often “unsexy” features that will help your staff better conduct their day-to-day operations.

7. Not Identifying the Pain Points You Want to Solve
Before you start addressing features, you need to understand what problems you’re currently experiencing.

  • Are you experiencing pains with regards to managing member lists and groups?
  • Is billing a hassle for your team?
  • Does reporting take too long?
  • Are your members not engaging?

Whatever your pains make sure to create a list. This will help you stay focused when picking software that is right for your association.

8. Choosing What you Want not What you Need
Once you’ve identified your pain points, then you need to find an AMS with the features to fully address those needs.

Create a list of must-have features that will solve your pain points. This ensures that you don’t get blinded flashy or unnecessary features, and having a list of clearly defined needs will go a long way in lowering your overall costs. You’ll be able to tell vendors what you need, and avoid getting up-sold on unnecessary items.

9. Putting your Decision off for too Long
I’m not saying rush into any decision. However, the decision-making process can often take a long time — especially with board approval, involving other stakeholders, etc.

Do your best to streamline the process by establishing clear goals, pain points, and need lists. Then, create a list of vendors and go through the sale process with them. Once you tell them exactly what you want, then you’ll be able to determine which vendor is right for you.

Finding the right vendor already takes a considerable amount of effort, and once you find them odds are you’re going to choose them. So, why put off the inevitable? Delaying a decision will ultimately cost your association more in terms of lost productivity.

10. Not Tracking Results
You should always track the effectiveness of whichever Association Software you end up choosing for your company.

Track the progress of employees in learning programs, record the productivity boosts that result in process automation and, most of all, track how much value your members are finding in your AMS. You’re investing in the effectiveness of your employees, so track the ROI that your Association software is bringing to your employees and your company. If it turns out that a software isn’t actually the magic bullet it seemed to be, tracking ROI from the beginning will ensure less time is invested in the dud program.

Always track the ROI that an AMS brings to your company.

Choosing association software is a big decision, one that involves people from the board to staff, to other members. Making a mistake during the AMS selection process can be costly and time-consuming, and if you use these tips as a guideline, you’ll increase your chances of success. Always understand your needs before you choose a software and always track its ROI so that you can be sure you’re getting your money’s worth.