September 16, 2014

What's Training Got To Do With Your Association Management Software?

What's Training Got To Do With Your Association Management Software?

As a business development manager I’ve spoken with hundreds of associations. When an association decides to leave their AMS, they perform a flurry of internet searches with keywords like “Enterprise AMS” and “Association Management Software”. They also tend to reach out to references and colleagues from other associations and organizations boards. They get their list of grievances and newfound desires together and begin to select the AMS that will solve all of their woes.

Pain Points With AMS Systems

Each of my initial calls with a prospect usually starts with some pain point:

  • My AMS can’t do [insert function here]! I thought it could before I bought it, but that’s another story!
  • Our integrations don’t work! Can you help us integrate our systems?
  • It’s very important for us to have Group Registration, but their way doesn’t work for us.
  • We need flow-down membership options, do you have those?
  • Customer service just cuts and pastes answers from their manual, it’s a waste of time.
  • The reporting is bad. We don’t know how to get the most out of our data.
  • We don’t understand tables and columns and rows, our database is confusing.
  • Can we bring over historical financial transaction data? We can’t figure out how to do this with our old system.
  • We don’t have IT support, can you help us?
  • We really wanted to partner with a company, but all they did was throw the software at us and say, “Good luck.”

What do these pain points have in common? The commonality here is the customers inability to get the system to do what they need it to do for the successful operation of their organization. And, by and large, that comes down to training. And the one remark I never, ever hear? “We didn’t purchase enough training!”

This is true every time a customer service rep walking into my office saying, “We have a problem.” I start by asking, “What does the customer think is wrong?” The conversation they had with the client is then relayed. When they finish, I ask “Ok, in your opinion, what do YOU really think is wrong?” 90% of the time, the answer is the same - “They didn’t get enough training.”

90% of the time, when an association has difficulty with their #AMS, the answer is the same - they didn't get enough training”

The Importance Of Training

Training is an essential part of the process of implementing your new AMS. Training is where your staff learns everything they need to know about your new AMS. It’s where they can try to use the system under the supervision of someone who can help them if they get stuck. It’s where they can ask questions, get feedback and learn new things about their software. Training is an essential part of your association’s onboarding for your new system.

I often get “beat up” during the sales process. Both parties want to sign a contract feeling good about the money they spent (or earned). You’re asking the board for a lot of money, perhaps more than you ever have before. We all want to negotiate and prove that we got a great deal. Here’s a crucial piece of advice: Don’t negotiate for less training just to get the total contract value down. You’re just shooting your staff in the foot!

The Benefits Of Training

Giving your team proper training has numerous benefits. Here are a few of them:

Training Helps Your Staff

Post go-live, your staff will need to learn a new system that they’ll use every day to run the association. The more the staff knows the better they’ll work. If you’re purchasing association management software and you want your staff to run the association efficiently, get them trained efficiently. Put as much investment into your staff and expanding their knowledge base as you do investing in the purchase.

Training Allows You To Use Self-Service

Many software solutions allow self-service. This means that anything that the vendor can configure in the system, you can too. In this way, your software is really yours. Ultimately, the idea is that you can make your own changes without having to pay the vendor to do them for you. You want to enable your association to take advantage of self-service by utilizing the wisdom of your own internal leaders, don't you? You can’t accomplish that without proper training.

Training Saves You Money

Training saves you money too. Think of all the times you’ve had to pay billable hours to a consultant, whether external or part of your association management software company, to figure something out that could have been taught to your staff in training. Save money for your association in the long run by investing in training at the get-go.


Training is an essential component of any association’s software onboarding process and budget. If you’re trying to cut corners in your budget, training is not the place to do so. In fact, training is something you should invest in due to the benefits it has for your staff, their autonomy and ultimately your bottom line. The next time you think about training, I hope you’ll think about it in this way.