In the past few years, there has been a noticeable push by associations to leverage enterprise constituent relationship management (CRM) platforms from Salesforce or Microsoft as the platform for their association management software (AMS). This push has been driven by multiple factors, including the need for:

  • CRM. The modern association understands the need for a detailed view of its membership to drive: data-based decision making, which requires that the data be easily gathered, maintained and reported on; and modern marketing, which requires easily slicing and dicing membership data so the right message is delivered to the right person at the right time.
  • Innovation. Last year, Salesforce spent $946M on research and development. In contrast, non-CRM-platform-based AMS systems simply do not have the funds to keep up with future-forward technologies including mobility, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Extensibility and Training/Community. With the need for multiple technologies, such as learning managements, content management, CRM and AMS systems, today’s associations must be able to easily connect their technology, as well as have access to training, documentation and user groups.
  • Performance and Scalability. As associations are starting to collect more data and use more systems, performance becomes even more important. Just think: if your association appeared on Ellen tomorrow, would your community portal be able to handle the spike in traffic? Today’s associations require a platform with thousands of computers with redundant data centers all over the world to ensure performance.

Making the Correct Platform and AMS Choice: 3 Questions to Ask

It may seem daunting to choose not only the platform (Salesforce or Microsoft), but also the AMS (there are two Salesforce-based, and five MicrosoftCRM-based, AMS systems) that are right for your organization. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are three questions to ask to help point you in the right direction:

#1 – Is every customer on the same version?

Do you use Facebook, Twitter or gmail? What version of those products are you using? The truth is that you are using the only version there is because that is how modern software is built and delivered. Your CRM and AMS systems should be no different. Here are three reasons why a single version is important:

  • Innovation requires it. To continuously deliver new capabilities, a software company must focus on innovation versus supporting multiple software versions.
  • Support is better and fixes come faster. If a software company has only one version to support, it can focus on one system and will be able to diagnose issues and deliver fixes more quickly.
  • You won’t be left behind. Most associations that are looking for a new system are doing so because their current software has fallen behind. If your association is going to be innovative, it needs to be running the latest and greatest software.

What to know:

Nimble AMS, which is built on the Salesforce platform, is the only enterprise AMS software in the world in which every customer is on the same version. At the platform level, every Salesforce customer is on the same version. In contrast, Microsoft CRM still has customers running CRM 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 365.

#2 – How innovative is the CRM platform?

Innovation is a key component in an association’s race for relevance, and its AMS and platform will be key to driving and supporting that innovation.

What to know:

Every year, Forbes Magazine documents the top 100 most innovative companies in the world. This year, Salesforce ranked third (just ahead of Tesla, who makes self-driving electric cars). While this is quite a feat, it is nothing new to Salesforce. They were number one in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017, and number two in 2015 and 2016.

Where did Microsoft rank in the top 100 most innovative companies? Nowhere. Microsoft did not make the list.

Most associations that are looking for a new system are doing so because their current software has fallen behind. If your association is going to be innovative, it needs to be running the latest and greatest software.

#3 – How is the AMS backed, financially? How financially stable is the AMS provider? You would choose an enterprise CRM because they can afford to fund innovation. Shouldn’t you expect the same from the AMS provider?

What to know: Nimble AMS is backed by Community Brands, which has the backing of a billion dollar investment firm. With 30,000 customers and more than 2,000 staff members, its software is used for 100,000 events.

A few other things to consider

Do you want to have a highly desirable skill set? Last year, over 300,000 new jobs called for Salesforce skills. That’s why it’s no surprise that Indeed ranked Salesforce Admin and Developer in their top 10 best jobs of 2017.

At the same time, association professionals and those that support them get up every day to make this world a better place, and Salesforce aligns with that mindset. Mark Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, put forth the 1-1-1 program whereby Salesforce donates 1 percent of its time, 1 percent of its product and 1 percent of its money to support nonprofits. Salesforce’s $230M in grants, 3.2M hours of community service and 37,000 product donations are making a huge difference. This year Salesforce donated $50M and 1M volunteer hours to for computer science education in the United States.

Ready to learn more about Salesforce vs. Microsoft for associations? We’d love to chat. Contact us today.

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