4 steps to build a business case for new membership software

As your organization grows, eventually the time will come to move onto new association management software (AMS). While your software worked to meet your association’s needs in the past, you might notice signs that your AMS is no longer keeping up with your evolving processes and needs. 

Rather than rushing into an AMS investment decision, you’ll want to consider all options for your association. Options like whether you should build your software to meet your unique organizational needs, if you should buy your technology, or perhaps leverage a version somewhere in-between. 

Whether you choose to build or buy your software, we’re here to guide you through the process! Read our blog with three key steps to help you create a business case to get executive buy-in and board support for new association management software.

Step 1: Consider the decision of building or buying software

What’s the difference between “building” and “buying” software? What can this important difference mean for your organization? Consider these vital factors before making an investment decision: 

What it means to “build” your software. In a recent conversation with Wes Trochlil, President of Effective Database Management, he referenced the metaphor of building your own home. If you choose to build your home, you can tailor everything to your liking, configuring every detail to your family’s needs.

The same goes for your organization and software. If your association has highly specific needs, perhaps you should consider configuring your software to meet your targeted staff or member needs.

What it means to “buy your software.” Continuing the house metaphor from above—if you decide to buy a home, you often will choose a dwelling that best meets your family’s needs as is.
The same can be said for buying software. Oftentimes your AMS will meet most of your staff and member needs right out of the box.

The gray area between buying and building software. Concluding the home metaphor from above—many homebuyers will opt to buy a dwelling that meets most of their family needs and over time, will renovate the rest of the home to ensure it’s up to the family’s unique needs.

Many organizations will choose to buy an AMS and configure it to meet specific association needs. With this option, you allow most of the pre-bought software to function as intended, but you configure the remaining features to best meet your staff and member unique needs.

Do your research. Before investing, ensure your organization truly understands an AMS’ capabilities and all it can do for your organization and your members.

Step 2: Go beyond the numbers for your business case

After you have a better sense of whether your organization plans on building or buying its software, you’ll be ready to keep the conversation flowing about your AMS. Often when organizations consider a technology investment, executives and board members can get hung up on pricing estimates. Rather than focus on the price tag, communicate your association’s need for the software and the value it will bring to your staff and members. 

Here are some discussion points to help you go beyond the numbers as you build your business case: 

  • Recognize the time for change. Is your association making organizational changes, updating its website, or another critical system? If so, this may be the opportunity to approach your leadership about a new AMS. Explain how new software can add value to your organization by streamlining staff processes, improving the member experience, and helping you reach your association goals.
  • Get personal. Be clear on what the direct benefit to leadership will be. Detail how your new AMS will give greater visibility of membership data and enable executives to make better decisions. Develop a clear understanding of your goals, and show how the new AMS can facilitate and drive those goals.
  • Talk benefits, not features. Instead of discussing software features like a “responsive member portal,” mention improving how members can use the portal to manage their details and understand the association’s value proposition and the value of membership. Show leadership how better reporting and business intelligence can give them more clarity into revenue, including reporting on which programs helped drive revenue and which aren’t yielding results.
  • Clarify the risks of doing nothing. While there is a risk with any new system, leadership needs to be in the loop about the risks of doing nothing. These may include:
    • The brand or image of the association. 
    • Falling behind the industry competition.  
    • Staff and member retention issues.
    • Data hygiene and the risk of data silos.
    • The continued investment in outdated technology. 
    • The difficulty of achieving your organization’s mission. 

Step 3: Prioritize technological needs and be prepared for questions 

As you create your business case and prepare to present, you’ll want to consider why your organization needs to purchase new technology. When you identify your software needs with executives and board members, you’ll communicate your business case more effectively.  
Also, note that leadership will likely have multiple questionsYou know your board best; anticipate any questions they may have and prepare any answers in advance. Consider creating a brief executive summary that gives a succinct overview and addresses anticipated questions.  

Learn more about investing in new technology for your association

Choosing to invest in a new system is a major decision. Catch our on-demand roundtable discussion and learn best practice tips about building or buying your next AMS from industry experts.

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