How to Select a New Association Management System (Part 1 - Understanding Your Requirements)

So you've been with your current CRM or Association Management System(AMS) for 10 years now, your solution is using technology that's end of life, and your provider has offered you an upgrade to their latest version.

What do you do? Stick with the devil you know, or find something that can deliver what your business will need as it grows?

This blog is in two parts, with the first looking at the requirements, and the second on turning those into something that suppliers can respond to. 

Why are you changing?

The example given in the introduction is a typical by-product of being with a supplier for a long time and is often the catalyst for change, but you will also need to identify what issues you’re currently experiencing and how they are impacting your business to decide the overall outcomes you are looking to achieve with a new CRM / AMS solution.

Next with your outcomes identified, consider what needs to change in order to reflect this. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all checklist, here are some simple questions you may want to ask:

  • Efficiency – are small changes to a member's subscription taking a disproportionate amount of time to execute? How long are renewals taking?
  • Cash Flow – how are you invoicing and collecting payments for membership? Is this affecting the running of the organisation?
  • Self-service access – are your members able to access and update their details? Can you benefit from this and make your staff more efficient?
  • Engagement tracking – are your members getting value from you? Do you know what their touchpoints with you are?

The important thing here is to quantify what you're looking to achieve, as this will to help define the features required in any software.

How big a system do we need?

Many organisations often forget to include some of the basics when specifying a system, and remembering to do this will ensure you get something fit for purpose from suppliers capable of delivering it.

Remember to consider:

  • Number of named users who will be using the system along with the type of access required – i.e. heavy, medium or light usage
  • Number of existing and future members for the initial contract duration, so storage space and options can be determined
  • How should the system be deployed?
    • Cloud or On-Prem?
    • Are there physical location requirements, i.e. UK, EEU, US?
    • For Cloud, what are the SLA's and Uptime?

What Functionality is required?

You've documented the outcomes you're after, and you now need to map the required functional features. This is where a good working knowledge of CRM or AMS applications is critical and maybe the time when you either start to look at the services of a third-party consultant who can give this impartial advice, or buy something off the shelf that will help.

Typical Features Expected

The core features expected in any Membership System would include the following:

  • Core CRM capability for contacts and organisations, with an extensible database allowing forms and extra fields to be defined easily
  • Sales pipeline management and forecasting
  • Configurable and extensible Customer Service (or Case Management) with SLA management
  • Dashboards and management reporting across all areas of functionality
  • Integration with Email and document production
  • Email Marketing, Campaign Automation and Surveys
  • Events management with CPD
  • Subscription management with Invoicing, payments collection and Direct Debit processing
  • Self-service portal access
  • Committee management
  • Fundraising, including pledges, legacies, donations, funds and Gift-Aid
  • Integrations to Finance, card payment gateways, Direct Debit processors and other systems
  • Automation and Workflows

This is not an exhaustive list, but do remember to consult with your stakeholders and users to find out what specific areas of functionality they are looking for, in case you can include them in the specification or a trend starts to emerge.

What Next?

You've now got your requirements defined together with buy-in from end-users, so it's time to start looking at procurement budgets, engaging with suppliers and turning your requirements into an ITT/RFP document – and this will be covered in Part 2 of this blog soon.

Contact Us today for a consultation on how Subscribe360 with Dynamics 365 can transform your membership solution.