ReviewMyAMS interviews association tech innovator Tim Ward

A major advancement in association technology – NetForum rearchitected to be the first cloud-native AMS

Teri Carden of ReviewMyAMS sat down with Tim Ward, architect of both NetForum and Nucleus, to explore what this means for associations. 

Something meaningful has happened in the association management software (AMS) industry. NetForum Enterprise, the longstanding, trusted AMS for mid- and large-sized associations, has been reimagined and rearchitected and is now the first cloud-native AMS.

Given ReviewMyAMS’ role in helping associations understand their AMS options, Teri Carden couldn’t wait to dig into this – here are key highlights of her rapid-fire July 29th conversation with Tim Ward: 

  • The roots of the NetForum team run deep. 
    Teri started the conversation by pointing out Tim’s extensive background in association technology, which gives him a unique perspective. He was the original product architect of NetForum at Avectra (the original parent company for NetForum Enterprise) from 1999-2007. He then founded Gravitate Solutions (originally known as Old Town IT) to provide NetForum implementation and customization services, and he and his teams have been enhancing NetForum for association clients ever since.  Gravitate became part of the Community Brands family in December 2020, when Tim stepped in as General Manager of NetForum. 
  • NetForum Cloud is the future path for NetForum customers.
    Tim explained that NetForum Cloud was introduced as the path forward for current and future NetForum Enterprise customers – a way to take advantage of the latest in Enterprise Cloud Platform technology for both immediate benefit and long-term product success. He added that technology either evolves or it stagnates, and stagnation isn’t acceptable. NetForum Cloud was developed to capitalize on the very latest advances in Cloud capabilities and ensure that customers enjoy the best possible technology for the next 10-15 years “or until the next big things comes along” (ever flexible). 
  • NetForum Cloud is the modern iteration of NetForum – and Enterprise AMS in general
    To further expand on what NetForum Cloud is all about, Tim explained that NetForum Enterprise was the first cloud-based AMS when originally launched (all other AMS systems followed suit) and it has now evolved to take full advantage of today’s cloud capabilities through an overhaul of its foundational architecture. 

Teri’s response, given her comprehensive understanding of the AMS technology space, was “Enterprise AMS has been blown up and rebuilt – hallelujah!

Tim then emphasized that NetForum Cloud isn’t just the classic NetForum Enterprise hosted on Azure servers. It’s actually NetForum, with all its extensive Enterprise AMS functionality, built on the Azure platform. NetForum is now Cloud Native, meaning that it is “serverless” rather than “hosted”, so everything to do with upgrades, patches and the like is now handled by Microsoft via their Azure platform (used by 95% of the Fortune 500). The NetForum team can now focus on the product itself, delivering more of the functionality that associations need to manage their organizations. 

  • Security and Data Privacy – because NetForum Cloud is built on Azure, the NetForum team need no longer manage things like security controls, data backup, and disaster recovery – all crucial, but not the main function of NetForum itself. Now, customers will receive state of the art security and reliability through Microsoft Azure. This is one of Azure’s strengths – Microsoft invests more than $1 billion annually in Azure security and its success in this regard is one of the primary reasons Azure has become “the enterprise cloud”.
  • Auto-Scaling: NetForum Cloud customers now enjoy the benefits of auto-scaling within Azure, which scales servers up or down automatically and immediately depending on organizational demand and computing needs. For example, in the past, NetForum (like other AMS systems) would be configured to handle the period of highest load on the system, such as the high volume of membership renewals that might need to be processed during the last week in the annual membership cycle. With NetForum Cloud, the servers automatically scale to meet higher or lower demand, which is much more efficient and cost-effective for customers. 
  • NetForum Cloud is about more than just Azure.
    Tim pointed out that establishment of the Azure foundation is part of a multi-year plan for NetForum Cloud that also includes, in the very near term:
    • Streamlining support and services processes to continue to improve the customer experience
    • A revamp of APIs to make integrations easier
    • User interface enhancements to ensure an ongoing great user experience
  • Associations can now make more informed, data-driven decisions.
    Nucleus, the first data analytics solutions developed for associations, is featured in NetForum Cloud. It was architected by (you guessed it!) Tim Ward during his time at Gravitate in response to seeing so many client associations struggling to make better use of the massive amounts of data they were collecting in a wide variety of software systems. Nucleus can take in data from any technology system an association might have (such as their AMS, marketing automation, events, learning/certification, online community, etc.), stores it in a modern data lake, and processes it to deliver association staff, leadership, chapters, members, and boards with insights in the form of tailored dashboards for each functional area of the organization, including:
    • Membership 
    • Marketing 
    • Events 
    • Learning management 
    • Fundraising 
    • Advocacy    

Learn more 
The full video recording of the ReviewMyAMS interview of Tim Ward is available for immediate viewing – and if you haven’t seen NetForum quite recently, it’s time to take another look. Find out how NetForum Cloud combines the best of both worlds: comprehensive, tried-and-true enterprise AMS functionality, plus the most modern technological foundation of any system on the market: Request a demo of NetForum Cloud



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