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The Politics of Switching Association Management Software (AMS): How To Get Board Approval

The Politics of Switching Association Management Software (AMS): How To Get Board Approval

Have you thought about switching to a new AMS but aren’t sure where to start or how to approach the rest of your association’s staff or board of directors with the idea? There’s a lot that goes into switching, and it’s not always an easy process. Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s discuss the politics that go into getting approval for a new AMS and the internal discussions you should be having with your team. 

Identifying why you want to switch AMS providers

Before approaching the board or whole team with the idea of switching to a new AMS, it’s important to prepare for the conversation by identifying some key points.

  • Why do you want to change your AMS? Create a list of the reasons why your AMS is no longer serving you. As you talk to more of the staff, this list will grow beyond your personal complaints into a holistic view of the need for a new AMS.  
  • Write down a list of pain points in your current AMS. Why is it no longer adequate?What are you missing with your current provider that is crucial? Does your AMS have downtimes that affect your staff or members? All of these questions should be taken into account when considering the switch. 
  • Consider the features and functionality of your current AMS that you and your staff like. Make sure to highlight that just because you’re considering switching to a new system, you won’t be losing the functionality that you need. 
  • How does your current AMS impact the member experience? Remember that your members drive your work. If they are unhappy with the online interface or find it confusing to use, that’s really important to know and to point out when approaching the subject of making a change. Your AMS is a big part of the member experience and, if it’s easy to use, your member’s level of engagement and likelihood to renew goes up.  
  • Is your current AMS missing functionality that could attract more members or add value to current membership? Think about features such as the ability to offer certifications online through your AMS, the functionality to renew membership on a mobile device, or an easy-to-navigate member portal. 
  • Find out what other staff members are saying about the AMS you are using. Is the events director stuck using Excel spreadsheets because the system can’t handle the details of the event or related sponsorships? Does the membership director need a more efficient way of managing contacts or streamlining the renewal process? If multiple users of the AMS have complaints, highlight that. 
  • Are you missing integrations that are crucial to your association’s day-to-day operations? Similar to the last point, find out what other third-party systems or homegrown apps the rest of your staff uses. Are you able to effectively integrate them into your current system? If not, is there a different system that’s able to integrate successfully

After you’ve done the internal research on the needs of your association, make a list of the alternative solutions that could fill the gaps you are experiencing with your current provider. If you’re able to show that you’ve weighed the pros and cons while providing other options, your reason for change becomes more compelling. 

Common arguments against switching and how to address them

There are common concerns that are brought up by the board or staff when discussing the possibility of switching to a new AMS. Understanding why your association might be reluctant to switch before approaching them with the idea will help you when presenting your case. 

We're comfortable with the Ams we have now

Think about why you’re comfortable with your AMS. It’s good if you know your AMS like the back of your hand, but if you’re having to perform numerous workarounds or schedule in expected downtime, there’s probably a better AMS out there for you. Ask yourself, is your current AMS serving you in the best way possible? Refer to the research you have already done internally on where your system is falling short. Put your members at the center of your reason for switching, as everything you do should drive value for them. 

Training and learning a new ams takes time

Yes, learning and training on a whole new system can be overwhelming. But, compare the time that training will take to the time that can be saved with a new AMS. Hours of back and forth emailing between potential sponsors for events can now be an automatic approval process. Spending days sifting through spreadsheets to find out when each membership expires can now be put on auto-pilot. If you’re able to spend less time on these tasks you can focus on what actually matters, providing the best member experience possible. When you’re researching other providers, consider the training programs that they offer. How does the provider assist you during the implementation and training process? If they offer training videos or in-app guidance, it might be easier to learn the new AMS than you think. 

Switching to a new AMS is expensive

It’s true that purchasing an AMS is often one of the biggest investments an association makes. But what if you could prove cost savings with a new AMS? Is there a more cohesive system that could do the job of multiple systems you’re paying for now? A new AMS might have functions that serve the purpose of several systems. If your members are unhappy with the current AMS, that could affect renewals and engagement. If your constituents are happy, they are more likely to renew their membership and attend events that bring in more revenue for your association.

Who's driving the change? 

It is common for board approval to be required when purchasing a new AMS. Before going to the board with your research, consider the staff members’ needs that you have already unearthed. Who is already on-board with wanting to switch? If you’re able to say that you have talked to the membership director or events director and that they are having issues with the AMS, it goes a long way. If you’re the executive director, is there someone on the board that you can approach before talking to the whole board? If you have someone on your side, they can act as an executive sponsor to the desired change, making the conversation more persuasive. Consider the dynamic of your board of directors and team so you can anticipate any challenges that might arise. 

Presenting the research to the board

So, you’ve done the leg work and now it’s time to present it to the board. It’s crucial to show you’ve done the due diligence necessary for such a significant expense and operational change. Make the case for the switch by demonstrating staff and member needs, communicating internal buy-in, and presenting alternative options.

With your board’s approval, you can begin to conduct the search for an AMS that will better serve you and your members.

To learn more about the search and implementation timeline check out this blog post

Download Our Checklist for Selecting and Implementing a New AMS

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