You Can Get A Good And Flexible AMS, But It’s Not Going To Be Cheap

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In last week’s post I stated that Association Management Systems (AMS) can be good, flexible, cheap – pick two. You can get Good and Cheap, but it won’t be Flexible’; you can get Flexible and Cheap, but it won’t be Good. This post is going to focus on Good and Flexible.

GFC - GFThere’s are a number of vendors who offer robust AMS platforms that can be customized to do just about anything you would need. But, the implementation fee alone is going to be north of $150K. Depending on the depth of your requirements gathering process, the initial proposal could come in lower, but I can assure you that by the time you’re done with the vendor’s business process review, the implementation cost will rise above this mark.

The reason these solutions are so expensive, is because the core “product” is just that – a core, a foundation, a framework. It’s not suitable for anyone out of the box. Instead of buying a car, you’re buying a chassis that will be built out and customized to your specific needs. This is also true of the newer Salesforce and Microsoft CRM-based AMSs. The difference between the public-cloud CRM-based platforms and the others, is that the platform they are built on is highly extendable, scalable (elastic), and they have given rise to ecosystems that give the customer greater choice in apps to extend the functionality and vendors to provide customization and support (albeit, Microsoft is significantly behind Salesforce on these fronts).

Back to why they are so expensive. Programming is very labor-intensive, and demand for good programmers far outstrips supply. This why the implementation fees for a high-end AMS are often many times the annual subscription or purchase price.

We’re all spoiled by the beauty and simplicity of applications we use every day like Amazon, Facebook and Google. They’re everywhere, how hard can they be to develop? Don’t let their simplicity fool you. Each of these examples are comprised of lines of code numbering in the tens-of-millions.

Let me break it down. A decent Java programmer can write anywhere between 50-400 lines of code a day. That programmer will cost you $200 per hour. Then factor in project management, QA and documentation and you’re looking at a blended rate of $250-$300 per hour of development. It’s not uncommon for the implementation of an AMS in this category to require a 1,000 hours of implementation.

Because of the amount of labor required to implement these high-end AMSs, there are no economies-of-scale that mass market applications like Office 365 or Salesforce provide.

Pros

  • Generally good at all major aspects of association management: Membership dues, Meeting and Event management, Product sales, etc.
  • For the right amount of money, they can be customized to do, or integrate with, just about anything.
  • If your needs or business rules change, your AMS will be able to accommodate the changes (cha-ching), so you won’t have to change your AMS. This can be a huge consideration, particularly for larger organizations.

Cons

  • Expensive to install
  • Expensive to modify
  • Most require third-party social platform
  • Most are siloed and can only integrate with third-party systems via their API or Web Services requiring costly custom programming to use

 

What it all boils down to, is that if you want good and flexible, be prepared to spend at least $250K+ in your first year. If you are comparing systems that meet your needs, and one is built on a proprietary platform and the other is built on a public cloud platform, pick the public cloud platform.

But, what about an association that doesn’t have a quarter of a million to spend on an AMS. There are several good systems available for an implementation fee under $50K and an annual fee less than $25K. The only catch is, good and cheap isn’t flexible. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, as you’ll see in my next post – this can be a good thing, so long as you’re flexible. Stay tuned…