The core of an association’s technology stack is the AMS database (Association Management System). It houses your membership data, gathers dues, collects event registrations, automates email marketing, and more. Depending upon the AMS you’ve selected—they span a wide range from free web tools to enterprise-level software—it may even handle the majority of your workflow.
But this is the digital age. The AMS is not the only software in your technology balancing act. IT departments are managing larger and larger portfolios of software products and services for their organizations. After all, everything we do is moving into the virtual space—commerce, communication, finances, marketing, record-keeping, et al. If there are gaps in the capabilities of your AMS database (or if another software has a more sophisticated approach), a separate asset will be called to the front line.
This is all well and good…until your other software needs access to information stored within your AMS database but doesn’t have the APIs necessary to retrieve it. Suddenly, there’s a grossly inefficient duplication of efforts (rekeying data, manual side-by-side comparisons, maintenance on two essentially redundant databases). Or worse—you’ve got to hire a development team to write custom AMS integrations for every incompatible software and accept the risks of a jury-rigged software ecosystem.
Your Software Stack Counts on APIs
Modern software is centered on the API. A platform is only as good as its ability to integrate seamlessly into your workflow and pull or push information between various companion software at will. If there’s too much friction or complexity, it’s simply not worth the effort.
Perhaps your AMS has basic email automation functionality, but you can see incredible value in a more nuanced approach with specialized marketing software. A marketing platform could offer personalized nurturing, analytics, campaign management, and other functions that may be limited or absent from the AMS. Without the APIs you need to link the two systems, any advantage gained from the more robust platform will be lost in the added work and labor of getting your membership data to and fro.
There are Two Sides to Integration
An improperly integrated software stack is essentially fighting a civil war over data—where it belongs, who has access, which software is more important. An advanced AMS may even come packaged with a versatile suite of APIs for mainstream software, but this isn’t enough if the platforms you pair with it aren’t also built to integrate with the AMS database.
Likewise, a minimalist AMS (perhaps a free version) could lack the necessary APIs to integrate even with leading marketing platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Marketo. In this age of database integration, the role of an IT director is less about manual fixes than it is about managing these APIs and selecting platforms on the merit of their integrations.
How Do I Keep the Peace?
- Invest in software solutions that come out of the box with a comprehensive list of APIs for all the platforms you use (or may need in the future).
- Keep up with “technical debt” by modernizing legacy systems and gradually replacing them with newer systems that are consciously designed for integration.
- Consider SaaS solutions, which are easy to move on from or upgrade as your needs shift. There’s a reason organizations have overwhelmingly moved to the cloud for IT products. For example, only 15% of SuperOffice’s customers subscribed to their cloud CRM back in 2010. By 2019, that slice had increased to 97% of the pie.
- Your SaaS provider may be able to assist with any custom integrations between your AMS and their system if the AMS database lacks native APIs. We do this for our OpenWater software, handling custom integrations on a case-by-case basis for organizations that use our submission management system for grants, abstracts, scholarships, and more.
With these approaches, you can prevent war from breaking out between your AMS database and other software, so you’ll save time, money, and plenty of headaches.