Don’t Get Fired for Building Your Own Association Software

Association CIOs: Ask yourself these six important questions before building your own AMS.

Think your association’s needs require custom-built software? The risks to your job and your association might not be worth it. Read on to find out why.

With an in-house developer, your association might be tempted to build a custom Association Management System (AMS). This temptation might have grown even stronger with the availability of powerful development platforms, such as the Salesforce CRM platform, that can empower a business analyst-turned-developer to try his/her hand at building software to run an association.

But when it’s time for a new AMS system, experience shows it’s usually better, cheaper, and faster to buy than to build. After all, if a problem has been solved in a commercial product, why try to solve it again? Why not focus your team’s time on other new and critically important challenges for your association?

Six important questions to ask before building your own association management system

Do you have the resources?

While your association may have a developer or two, does it also have a product manager, product owner, business analyst, release engineer, scrum manager, quality assurance engineer, technical writers, and the other roles necessary to create, launch, deploy, and support software that is central to the success of your organization?

And what about tools? Does your association have load testing tools to measure and optimize performance? How about tools to look for security issues? These are expensive tools that typically require specialized knowledge to operate.

Of course, one option is to outsource the building of custom software. Keep in mind, though, that these firms do not have the association-specific expertise required to develop an AMS. Sure, members of your team could provide some of the expertise required, but it would be more than a full-time job to document the details of this effort. Do you really have extra staffers to spare for such a project?

Do you have the vision?

Custom-built software is created to meet a current need. It typically doesn’t capture the vision for what your organization may face in the future.

With established AMS software, you get the benefit of decades of experience and deep knowledge of associations and software development best practices. You also get optimized scalability, security, platform, and storage features as part of the software.

Did you know? Nimble AMS was founded in 1992, packing decades of association and software expertise into the Nimble AMS product.

Do you have the time?

Building a custom AMS can take years to complete. Can you realistically wait three or more years for the software project to be completed? Even if it could be completed in a year or two, could your association wait that long? And, remember, by the time you’re finished, the commercial AMS systems will be that much further ahead.

Did you know? Even with a large, dedicated team, Nimble AMS took several years to develop – even with the advantage of building it on the Salesforce platform, which eliminated the need to develop a proprietary infrastructure.

Who will monitor and maintain the software?

Once the software is complete, who will be there to maintain and enhance it long term? Keep in mind that you’ll be running software that only your organization is using. It will be up to your association to keep it running and enhance it to meet future requirements. By building your own software, you run the risk of moving your IT team from a strategic role into a break-fix role.

Did you know? Nimble AMS customers are set up for success with helpful resources including documentation, training, and customer support.

What will it cost?

It’s important to do a deep dive on the actual cost. Say you have three developers with a fully-loaded salary of $90,000 – that is $270,000/year, and it will likely take multiple years to build and launch the software. If it took two years to launch (very optimistic), labor alone would be $540,000.

Now, factor in tools, training, and the likely need to involve other staff labor for requirements, testing, documentation. The initial development cost could easily be north of a million dollars. That is significantly more cost than your organization will likely spend on a modern, commercially available AMS. ​

Did you know? In addition to offering a lower-cost option than custom-built software, Nimble AMS takes a “continuous delivery” approach that helps offset costly upgrades and risk.

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot. Your team of developers could quit. The project could take far longer and cost much more than expected. The software could not work correctly. If (more likely, when) this happens, the board will call you to the table and probably ask you the five questions listed above. You could lose your job. Given how critical the AMS function is for any association, you could also have a negative effect on the mission of your organization. Is custom-built software really worth the risks?

Did you know? Nimble AMS offers a safe alternative to custom-built software, allowing you to manage every aspect of your association while providing all the benefits customers love about the Salesforce platform.

Why build when you can buy?

The main reason for taking on custom-built software is that there is no existing product that meets your association’s requirements. In today’s market, there’s no need to put your job, and your association, in jeopardy. ​If your organization has a unique need not offered by a commercial AMS, you can customize a solution for that specific need versus taking on the risky task of building an AMS from the ground up. While adding customization requires some additional cost, the cost pales in comparison to writing an entire AMS for a few unique requirements. ​

Did you know? For customers with a very complex or non-standard dues structure, Nimble AMS has elaborate and flexible dues setup options. For the very few associations whose needs these options do not meet, Nimble AMS offers the ability to call a custom set of code to model the required needs.

Move beyond traditional AMS systems to use modern technological innovation and access capabilities and features that once were available only to Fortune 500 companies.

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