7 vows to marry AMS tech and your association mission.

Successful association management software is like a well-constructed wedding cake. Imagine a traditional wedding cake: There are several layers, with the bottom portion the largest and each layer gets smaller as you reach the top one.

There may even be plastic pillars separating each layer. And on top of the cake stands a statuesque model of the bride and groom. For a wedding, the cake represents the foundation of the marriage and relationship, with the couple proudly and securely standing at the pinnacle above the foundation.

The cake would look dreadful, or it wouldn’t stand at all, if the layers were out of order or if certain layers were missing. The cake needs to have every layer, and each in its proper place.

The success of your organization’s association management software (AMS) is a lot like a wedding cake. The top layer of your cake is your happy members. Below the smallest layer is each layer of your association’s AMS, processes and systems, which support member engagement success and the growth of your organization.

So, what are the layers which make for a successful AMS?

Organization mission. This is the foundation of everything your organization does. So, the mission of the organization must be clear before you can begin to address what kind of data you need to manage and how you need to manage it.

Objectives. What are you trying to accomplish with your AMS? Are you trying to reduce staff labor? Improve member engagement and service? Without clear objectives (and measures for achieving those objectives) not just any system could get you there, because you don’t know where you’re going.

Business rules. These rules guide how you do business. How do you sell your products and services, such as events, memberships, learning, etc.? Do you provide discounts? Do you offer refunds? Without clearly established business rules, you will never know if you’re properly using the system.

Association management software. Here is where you need the pillars. Only after the mission, objectives and business rules are established can you insert the software pillars to support your cake. But, the software is just a tool to hold up the rest of the cake. Software alone won’t make your association successful. You still need other critical layers.

Documentation. While you may have already agreed on the business rules, if you haven’t written them down, they are only as good as the staff can remember them. Document your business rules. This will then allow all staff to see what the rules are and will minimize unnecessary and unproductive discussions about how your association does business. Take note: Documentation comes before training. Effective training cannot occur until you’ve established your business rules and how you’re going to process data in the software.

Training. Training is near the top of your cake, because everything below it must happen first. Only then will training be successful. Too often, you may assume the challenge with your AMS may be a lack of training, when, in fact, you’re missing the layers below training, such as documentation and clear business rules. And, training will be ineffective without clearly established business rules and documentation for your staff to refer to after training is complete.

Success. Finally, with all your layers in place, you now have association management success. And with such success comes happy members.

So, how does your AMS wedding cake look? Are all the layers in place? Are some out of order? Have you tried to insert the proper software pillars, but in the wrong place?

The long-term success of your AMS depends on having all the layers of your cake in place, and having them in the right order. Using this model, you can identify where your cake is lacking and address those challenges. Happy baking!

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