User testing

Five key considerations for associations looking to ditch all-in-one tech platforms

Using a single system to run your association’s CMS, AMS, events, community tools, etc. is rarely effective. Here’s how to lay the foundation for an ideal tech back-end.

Here’s the typical question we get:

Our platform for managing our website does not meet our needs. Currently, everything we do online is under one platform (web, AMS, forums, groups, store, event reg, surveys, career center, etc). We are also looking at integrating communities and evaluating our member communication tools (forums, listserves, newsletters, etc).  How do we approach this change? The process of pulling one egg out of the all-in-one basket at a time is quite daunting.

1. Good call moving away from the all-in-one approach.

It’s really rare that one tool can be all things to all organizations. It’s like building a house — you really want specialists (architect, general contractor, electrician, etc.) to get the best benefit. Knowing you have a problem is the first step!

2. Create very detailed requirements documentation for each tool in your arsenal (or ones you plan to add on during your migration).

It’s fine to start with a list of current features and functionality (i.e. our CMS provides admin workflow; our community tools use SSO via our AMS; we use APIs that handle x,y and z, etc.).

From this list, then add on additional needs, functions and integration. This will be your master list to vet all software and tools moving forward. It’s too easy to get overwhelmed by vendor’s tech tool feature listings — having your own custom needs documented is the way to ensure you’re really getting what YOU need.

3. Begin with a tech anchor and build your solution outward.

If your AMS is your rock, then start there, researching the tools that can best augment and leverage your data. If you love your CMS but your AMS isn’t up to snuff, then work accordingly to find a better member data solution. If you do need to burn everything to the ground and rebuild, it’s still best to determine you lynch pin to success and begin there.

4. Demo, demo, demo!

You’ve simply GOT to see these tools in action to determine if they are really a good fit, and to identify any blind spots you weren’t aware of during your initial research. Don’t just go with the standard tech tour of features, but actually watch this in use at another organization/client.

Bonus is that the client will likely be quite candid about what works and what features are lacking. For example, responsive web design has become standard for seamless desktop/tablet/smartphone delivery, but MANY top association tool vendors have not updated their software to support this fully yet.

I explored this issue with several association execs in my recent article in Associations Now.

5. Ensure the long-term feasibility and integration of the solutions you select.

The beauty of technology these days is that you can typically pick and choose the best solutions without being tied to a single offering.

A smart tech partner will help you make the most of your time and financial investment by determining the most effective implementation of your tech tools, whether through APIs, web services, SSO and other delightfully geeky things that I won’t bore you with in this post (but feel free to contact me to chat further)!

Layla Masri

About Layla Masri

Layla is a co-founder of Bean Creative. She leverages her ad agency background and 15-plus years as a marketing and web copywriter to maximize interactive impact for strategic planning, usability/accessibility, and digital promotion.
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