Don’t get fired for building your own association management software

Do you think your association’s unique needs require custom-built software? The risks to your job and your association might not be worth building your next AMS.

With an in-house developer, your association might be tempted to build custom association management software (AMS). It may seem easier than ever to custom-build software for your organization, due to the availability of powerful development platforms, such as the Salesforce CRM platform, that can empower a business analyst-turned-developer.

However, you will need to ask yourself if your organization is prepared to embark on the immense task of building, developing, and implementing your AMS. Here are some questions to get you started.   

Six questions to ask yourself about building your AMS 

When it’s time for a new AMS, 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? If you have unique association needs, you can always configure your out-of-the-box AMS to address your remaining specifications through a mix of applications or software integrations. 

So, before building your next AMS, consider asking yourself these six vital questions: 

1. 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 the 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 have extra staff to spare for such a project? 

2. 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 a deep knowledge of associations and software development best practices. You also get optimized scalability, security, platform, and storage features as part of the software.

Drawing an analogy to the iPhone and apps, “the core of consumers grew up on this technology and it is their expectation,” said Wes Trochlil, Owner of Effective Database Management. “All of this is about managing expectations. Those who are tempted to build believe they can build the perfect monster. Because the perfect off-the-shelf AMS software doesn’t exist, an organization will feel encouraged to build its own AMS. In my experience, they rarely build something that meets their expectations.”

3. 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? Remember, by the time you’re finished, the commercial AMS systems will be that much further ahead. 
 
Additionally, can you spare having staff members pulled from their daily tasks to work on building your new AMS? Your employees will need to dedicate continual maintenance and review to your software development and upkeep. Is building an AMS an effective use of your staff’s time?

“I worked with a big organization that was building its entire AMS,” said Jeff Golembiewski, Vice President of Business Solutions and Partnerships, at Community Brands. “I talked to them in year three of their build and they were only 60% done with their software. If you choose to build your software, it’s a perpetual, ongoing process. To use a house analogy, by the time you finish building, you may be ready for renovations.”

4. Who will monitor and maintain the software? 
Once the software is complete, who will be there to maintain and enhance it in the long term? Remember, 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 software, you run the risk of moving your IT team from a strategic role into a break-fix role. 

Nimble AMS customers are set up for success with helpful resources including documentation, training, and customer support. Due to this winning formula, the Nimble AMS customer satisfaction rating is 98%.

“I live in a condo, and I think you can compare that to enterprise-level software,” said Moira Edwards, President of Ellipsis Partners. “In a condo, you don’t have to worry about daily maintenance, and you can always paint or rearrange the furniture to your specification. When thinking about building software, you’ll want to consider, do you have the capacity for major development projects, or are you more of a condo owner, where you’d prefer to let someone else look after your software?”

Nimble AMS offers continuous innovation and upgrades. With three seamless upgrades a year, all Nimble AMS customers stay on the same version, helping you to leverage the latest technology for your association.

5. What will it cost?
It’s important to consider the cost of building your software. When it comes to both building or buying your next AMS, the decision can be a big lift. However, if your organization decides to build your AMS, you will be responsible for the total cost of ownership. You also must invest in maintaining the software, developing the AMS, and investing ongoing resources into the technology.

When considering total finances, building your next AMS will cost your association significantly more than what you will likely spend on a modern, commercially available AMS. 

6. What could go wrong?
A lot. Your developer(s) 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 negatively impact the mission of your organization. While you’re focused on developing your AMS, you could inadvertently degrade your member experience. With staff focused less on your members and more on internal matters, you risk losing members and damaging member loyalty.

Is custom-built software worth the risk?

Nimble AMS offers a safe alternative to custom-built software, allowing you to meet your unique association needs, improve both the staff and member experience, and provide all the benefits customers love about the Salesforce platform.

Why build your AMS when you can buy (and configure)?

The main reason your association might consider building its AMS is that it feels like no software will meet your association’s unique requirements. However, because the cost of building software is detrimental to an organization’s staff, finances, and resources, many organizations today will choose another option. Often associations will choose an out-of-the-box AMS that meets most of their staff and member needs and then configure the remaining specifications.

With Nimble AMS, you have an out-of the-box solution software solution that offers continuous innovation and countless integration options. If your association has unique staff and member needs, you can configure Nimble AMS with thousands of apps in the Salesforce AppExchange or countless software integrations with the Community Brands suite of products.

Learn more about building or buying your AMS

Discover more tips about building or buying (or both) your next AMS. Watch our on-demand webinar today: To build or to buy, that is the question.

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