Your association is about to begin the search for a new Association Management System (AMS). You’ve identified the critical features and compiled department wish lists. Perhaps you are working with an outside consultant to help you through the process. Your consultant may even have a score card of some kind to allow you to measure one system against another. After all, if you run through each element on the spreadsheet and total the points your answer should be clear right? Wrong.
Step Away from the Spreadsheet
What many associations and even industry consultants sometimes fail to consider is the softer side of this very important search. When you step away from the spreadsheet, have you really considered who you are about to enter into a longterm partnership with? Who is the company behind that checkbox? Will your organizations work well together? More often than not, cultural alignment is missing from the RFP and yet it is one of the most important success factors in any major technology initiative.
Cultural alignment is the shared beliefs (either explicit or implicit) that exist between and association and its partner.
So, how do you assess culture? Here are some helpful tips:
Travel to the AMS vendor’s offices to get a feel for the staff, the environment and the overall vibe. Meet with the people you may be working with as well as the support staff who will be supporting you after implementation.
Read Glassdoor Reviews. Employees can paint the real picture of what the inner workings of an organization are like. Both positive and negative reviews can share some interesting insights on leadership and culture. Good companies know that providing good service to customers starts with treating employees right.
Compare organizational values and ask about them. Are the company values ingrained in the culture or are they just words on a wall? Are they similar to yours or different? Like a foundation to a marriage, company values must be respected and shared in order to have a good partnership.
Go with your gut. There isn’t a spreadsheet cell to assess gut feelings. A gut feeling is something that tells you “this feels right.” Don’t shy away from having a conversation about your selection committee’s gut feelings. This will help bring important issues and concerns to light so they can be openly discussed.
Why should you care about cultural alignment? Teri Carden, from ReviewMyAMS.com, recently pulled a word cloud on all of the review titles and narratives on the website. And the top words that appear time and time again: customer, service and support!
“I think this is important to note and is significant when determining the ongoing relationship between the AMS vendor and the client. I often say that finding the perfect AMS is like finding the perfect husband or wife. They just don’t exist. And folks, this isn’t a joke. There will be disagreements, missed deadlines and misunderstandings, but being aligned with a company you can trust will allow you to move past those hurdles much quicker.” -Teri Carden, Founder, ReviewMyAMS.com
Food for Thought
In summary, culture plays a major role in a successful partnership between two organizations working together. Without a good cultural match the relationship may be doomed from the start. Make sure cultural alignment is evaluated on your next AMS RFP.