Price is a big factor in any large purchase. But determining cost can be tricky.
Here are three things I would want to know before buying a new association management system.
“How much does it cost?”
In my experience working with many associations, as organizations look for their next association management software (AMS), that’s one of the first questions they ask. And, it makes sense. Price is a big factor in any large purchase.
But, determining cost can be a tricky thing. Multiple factors go into the cost of a new AMS system. Plus, pricing between any two AMS systems is not always an apples-to-apples comparison. When you boil it down, what’s important is the true cost of owning the system over time and making sure the system meets your organization’s needs.
With these ideas in mind, here are three things I would want to know before purchasing a new AMS system:
It’s important to understand several concepts before evaluating the cost of a new AMS system. Here are some of the key concepts:
Operating costs – Sometimes known as ongoing or maintenance costs, this refers to the cost to own the system over time. It can look very different depending on the type of solution and technology you choose.
License payments – Do you want a “perpetual license” in which you pay more up front and save in subsequent years, or a “software as a service” solution, in which you spread payments out over the lifecycle of the system by paying a fee per user per month?
Upgrade costs – The product will need to be upgraded over time to ensure you are using the latest features and functionality. Consider if you will upgrade the AMS yourself or pay a consultant to do it for you. Or, in some cases, the software updates are automatically included as part of the cost of the system.
Support fees – It’s important to understand what level of customer support you receive as part of your software fees and what levels cost extra.
Hardware and hosting fees – Consider if your organization will host the software on your own hardware or if the AMS is hosted in the cloud by the software vendor.
Customizations – Ideally, you will be able to configure your AMS to meet your needs. But, that is not always possible. Consider how much the system can be configured for your requirements, and how much customization you will need to do yourself or pay the vendor or a consultant to do on your behalf.
As you gather requirements for your new AMS, you might find that the list just keeps getting longer. Keep in mind that the longer the list, the more complex the AMS implementation, and the more the AMS system will cost.
The good news is that there are ways to streamline your requirements so you end up with the functionality you need at a lower cost. For example:
- For each requirement, ask yourself why it is a requirement. What are you trying to accomplish? For example, at Nimble AMS, we often see that associations describe the solution they seek by outlining very specific processes or series of steps. However, after digging in, we realize the goal of that process can be accomplished in a simpler way in Nimble AMS.
- Once you’ve decided on your project requirements, try to stick to your list as best you can. Changes to your requirements once you choose an AMS system and get started on implementation can result in added costs. So, if you need to make adjustments, be sure to have an approval process that must go through internal project management personnel. This will help filter out “wants” from “needs”.
- Prioritize your requirements. You can get started with a phased implementation that addresses your most basic requirements first, and then move on to more complicated processes or unique requirements in a later phase. This approach can help you get onto your new solution faster, while pushing some implementation costs to a later date.
As the saying goes, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” It’s not uncommon these days for associations to put a large amount of funds into a new AMS system only to be hit with additional, unexpected costs during implementation.
Be wary of any AMS vendor offering a lower than average software or per-user cost. They will likely try to make up this cost during implementation in areas such as data migration, product integrations, training, and project management.
But wait. There’s more.
These are just some of the factors to consider as you look for the next AMS system for your association. Learn more about AMS pricing, tips on how to keep the costs of your new AMS system down, and how to build the business case for your new AMS so you can get the approval you need to move forward:
Watch the recorded webinar, How Much Does an AMS Really Cost?