Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 37 seconds

Navigating the Year-End Software ‘Shopping’ Rush

upgrade237As yet another year winds down, many associations are embarking on their annual budget reassessment, making decisions that will greatly impact their operations for the coming year and, quite possibly, beyond.

If you're in the process of considering an upgrade to your association's membership management software, this selection could have a far-reaching impact not only on member management, but also on your association's content management system, e-commerce and e-marketing functionalities.

Considering this, proper due diligence is essential when contemplating a member management software upgrade. A good first step is to meet with each department that will be using the software and discuss two or three "must-have" features. Armed with these criteria, it becomes much easier to narrow your scope to a handful of vendors. Once a few software options have been selected, discovery sessions and overview demonstrations can help determine if the technologies identified address your needs.

For instance, AGN International - North America, a worldwide association of separate and independent accounting and consulting firms, recently replaced its own member management system. Prior to deciding upon a vendor, the association established criteria that supported the process. For example, the association knew that its ultimate goal was to consolidate all of its constituent communications on a single platform. With these objectives in place, AGN was able to streamline its search by immediately eliminating vendors unable to fulfill this requirement.

Even with a checklist in hand, however, obstacles will inevitably surface. These challenges can range from purchasing authority delays to limited time and resources to devote to the process. To help navigate through the rough patches, keep in mind that selecting member management software is a weighty business decision that, as I mentioned before, can have far-reaching implications. And although the process may be time consuming, it will take even more money and resources to repeat it, should your constituents be unhappy with the decision.

So how do you know you've made the right decision? To measure this, it's important to build a strategic plan with financials that outlines operational objectives the new system should meet. For example, ask questions like, does the team need a more efficient way to reach prospective members? Will an event management tool help the organization launch events? Assigning each of these strategic functions a representative metric will be helpful throughout the decision process.

For instance, when the National Association of Educational Procurement (NAEP) recently upgraded its member management software, the organization tied specific metrics to the process. The NAEP expected its new system to enable the association's members to pay dues online and manage certain items on their own, providing the staff with more time to focus on other member needs. With these guidelines in place, NAEP was ultimately able to call the new software purchase a success, as 75% of its members now use the website to register and make payments.

This time of year especially, it's easy to get swept into a foolhardy rush towards making purchasing decisions. But you-and your association-will be much better served taking a few extra steps to ensure that your new system strengthens and streamlines your member management processes, rather than adding more work to it.

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