Tips to make a compelling case to your board how new technology can take your association to the next level.
Your association is growing. It’s time to look at new membership management software to support your changing needs. Here are some helpful tips on how to convince your board it’s time for new technology.
As your association grows, its needs evolve. At the same time, advances in technology don’t stand still for associations, no matter how tight their budget may be.
Failing to keep up with the techno curve, can cause your organization to fall behind. In fact, it can cost you more in lost time and money than taking the step toward new technology.
But not everyone at your organization understands the challenges with your existing association management software (AMS), much less envisions the value a new solution could bring. You need to persuade your organization with a compelling case to consider new software.
The trick is to communicate how to balance the cost of doing nothing with the cost of spending on new technology in an environment where every dollar is allocated to supporting your organization’s mission.
Your ability to identify your organization’s biggest tech challenges and needs will help you better outline options to your board for their review and approval. Based on a clear understanding of these options, you can present a set of recommendations your board is more likely to approve.
Building the business case for new technology for your association: five steps
Here are five tips for making your case in a way that will get you the new membership management software you need:
1. List the challenges
Itemize the ways your current system is holding your organization back. Challenges often take the form of inefficiencies. They generally can be found in three areas: member services, unnecessary time and effort, and technical:
- Member services – If there are areas in which you aren’t best serving your members due to limitations in your membership software, your members are at risk of finding an organization that will better serve them. Create a list of things your members have asked for. Then, determine what effort it would take to fulfill them with your current system – or if it’s even possible.
- Unnecessary time and effort – If corrected, this type of inefficiency can have a huge impact on the productivity of your organization. One way to surface these issues is to talk with each department about where they spend most of their time. For example, account managers may have to work in multiple systems to complete their daily tasks. Or they may be doing a ton of manual data entry because they have no way to automate day-to-day processes. Record these inefficiencies in this list. Replicate the approach for every department. You’ll come away with a long list of opportunities to streamline processes throughout your organization.
- Technical – The role of IT in organization management is to build and maintain your systems, not work in them every day. Are your coworkers overwhelming your IT team with tickets because of glitches in your current software? Do your coworkers have difficulty completing certain tasks without assistance from IT? Is the data in your system inaccurate or difficult to attain? Get feedback from stakeholders in the IT department, and point out these inefficiencies. It helps when you have backing from technical teams.
TECH TIP: Having to work in multiple systems to complete their daily tasks can create big inefficiencies for your staff members. NetForum by Community Brands features more than 30 tools to help your team members create efficiencies and better manage everything from members, chapters, and credentialing to fundraising and events – in one system.
2. Define functional requirements in terms of team efficiency
By listing the challenges and limitations of your current membership software and talking with other departments about their needs, you should have a solid list of the features you’ll need. Take some time to add context as to why those features are necessary. Here are a few ideas of how to do this by adding columns in a spreadsheet:
- Task – For each feature, assign which task it will help complete. Add details about how the task is currently being completed.
- Department – State which department owns the task.
- Requires additional resources? – Does the current workflow require the task owner to reach out to another department? Note that here.
- Time to complete – Estimate the current time and effort to complete the task versus how long it will take with the new system.
- Benefit to members – List the benefits your membership will receive.
By adding context to your wish list of features for the new AMS, you can prioritize your needs. If increasing efficiency is your most persuasive argument for upgrading, start with those features. If your executive team is more concerned with member satisfaction, start there.
3. Do the product research
Your executive team and board of directors need to know you’ve vetted multiple software vendors based on your specific needs. Here’s how to research software options in a way you can present to your management team:
- List your functional and technical needs based on the business challenges you’ve identified.
- For each need, ask the software vendor about how their product can help you with that need.
- For each response, rate how effectively you believe each product solves that need.
- List the costs associated with each software vendor. And, don’t forget about maintenance and upgrades.
- Present this information to your executive team and board of directors.
4. Explain the life expectancy of your current solution
Point out the following aspects concerning the life expectancy of your current member management software:
Members – Have any members threatened to leave if you don’t fix certain issues or offer particular services? For all members who have voiced a concern, point out the others who have had the same issue but remained silent as they shopped around for another organization to join.
Cost – Quantify how much it’s costing you to keep your current system in working order, beyond standard license or subscription costs, to demonstrate how long you can afford to keep it. Also, if the cost to keep your system going for a few months is greater than the cost of an entirely new system, you have a really good reason to upgrade.
Technology – If your system relies heavily on a technology that is being discontinued, bring this up. Your executive team and board of directors don’t necessarily keep up on technology trends and need to be informed.
5. Be prepared for the cost barrier
Remember that there will be an up-front cost to upgrading your membership software. And, cost is most often the cause for pushback from the executive team and board of directors.
The good news is that you’ve already laid the groundwork to focus the discussion on value. You already know how a new system will make your organization more efficient. Plus, you can point out the ways in which you’ll be better serving your members.
But still, be prepared to hear phrases like “this isn’t in the budget” or “this isn’t the right time” during your presentation. Combat this type of thinking with your research and efficiency calculations to create the most compelling case for new software.
Building the business case for a technology change starts early. It starts before you put a software contract in front of your board. It requires a review of the goals and challenges of your organization as well as the potential benefits a new association solution can have for your organization.