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Association Management Systems (AMS): Thoughts of a Newbie


Towsif Nasor


A year and some change ago I was introduced to the world of associations and the technologies they used. As a first-generation immigrant, I’m not a stranger to foreign things, but this was seemingly different. Almost immediately, I was tossed, headfirst, into the middle of an AMS implementation. I quickly found myself needing to understand the unique needs and day-to-day operations of an association. I recognized first-hand, that not all AMS’s are created equal, and they all have their star performers and supporting casts. A year later and several technology projects later, I am eager to share my insights.

Understanding Requirements

Early on, the importance of understanding requirements became very apparent to me. Meeting with key stakeholders to understand current business processes and being able to identify those that felt cumbersome served as a very critical step. Understanding these requirements helped to not only clarify the technical landscape but allowed us to identify key requirements for organizations and highlight areas for potential improvements. It ultimately set clear vision and objectives, allowing the team to lay a solid foundation for the projects ahead. 

Selecting The Right Vendor

Armed with the insights of the established requirements, I embarked on a mission to help identify and select the vendor best suited for the job. This involved extensive research into different vendors, understanding their capabilities, and how they could best help support the organization’s processes and goals. We engaged in conversations with potential vendors, and in detail tried to understand their methodologies, capacity to support our requirements and pricing structures. 

During this process, I realized that not all association management systems were created equal. Some I found supported specific areas of the association very well, but other processes at times could be cumbersome. It also became apparent to me that in order to understand which vendor was best suited for the job, I had to become comfortable with asking any and all questions, even if I thought it was a bad question. Clear and concise answers to those questions are ultimately what helped me become confident. 

This was followed by a formal RFP process, rounds of interviews and demonstrations along with reference checks. Upon identifying the vendor that was best suited for our needs, and guiding our client through contract negotiations, it was time to start the implementation process.

Implementation: Finally getting my hands dirty

The implementation is where the fun really started for me as I finally got to get hands on experience. It always kicked off with an introductory call, where we engaged with the vendor’s project manager. This always gave the team a chance to gather an understanding of the months ahead. This phase involved diving in deep to learning the system’s capabilities and configuring it to best support the organization. Depending on the project, this phase sometimes exceeded beyond the AMS and included components of a CMS which helped manage the association’s website and allowed them to have a platform where members could get engaged. 

During this phase, I also experienced my first significant takeaway that followed me into all future projects, and that was the critical role that data plays in any organization. I realized quickly that incorrect data can lead to flow and become a waterfall of issues, that not only affect member records, functionalities, but billing and the organization’s day to day operations as well. A four-letter word, overlooked, and oversimplified by many, could lead to detrimental effects later down the line; whether it caused duplicates, problems in data reliability or even inhibited data driven decision making.

It was at this stage I realized that while everyone wants a good end product, the project manager on the vendor’s end typically is looking out for the best interest of their company, and it gives me a sense of pride to know that as a consultant and the project manager for the association, I am able to always look out for the best interest of the organization. Following data, we took additional steps to ensure that the AMS not only met all needs but was properly able to support the organization.

The Go Live and Support Saga

The biggest milestone in my career so far was my first go live date. The days before and after going live, while hectic were some of my favorites. It involved heavy communication with the vendor and client, and a lot of work making sure that any outstanding items or areas of concerns were addressed. I sometimes feel as if the value of communication is overlooked and as someone who sometimes battles spurs of anxiety, I’ve been taught that the key to battle that feeling, and find a sense of confidence and clarity, is overcommunication. With that being said, I must mention that in my eyes, there is truly no feeling like setting a launch date and watching all of your work manifest into a living organism. 

Go live is followed by constant monitoring for issues, and fine tuning the system. I found that this is where you receive feedback from your members and can truly establish if your project was a success as you find if your work supports the organization’s needs effectively. This is followed by regular check-ins with the organization’s staff, and concluded with a debrief where we highlight key areas of the experience and future recommendations. We always made it clear to our clients that our support is continued beyond the project itself, and if help was ever needed, we would be there; and to be honest, that is what I find most fulfilling.


The journey from an AMS and association newbie to a consultant with multiple implementations and projects under his belt has been very rewarding. The processes, from discovery, to implementation have educated me on the importance of understanding the needs of each individual client and organization, along with the significance of data. This combined with the satisfaction of seeing a project through to success, has made my experience one I will carry with me, and I hope that it is able to offer some insight and encouragement to anyone else that is embarking on their AMS journey.

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