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AMS Vendors at ASAE's 2019 Annual Meeting - Part 3 of 3

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Despite some consolidation there remain plenty of Association Management System options.

Today I continue my review of the ASAE 2019 Annual Meeting with a discussion of how things are changing for Association Management Systems [AMS].

AMS systems were in abundance in the exhibit hall. I’m certain a thrown stick would bounce off one AMS vendor and hit another before finally coming to rest in front of a third. This is despite the consolidation that has occurred, especially with Community Brands’ many recent acquisitions.

[An] opening has appeared for competing association solutions hosted in the cloud

The biggest players were iMIS, Personify, Aptify, and Community Brands’ several AMS options including Abila. The iMIS and Community Brands booths were particularly large, centrally located and busy. Both vendors continue to dominate with their full suite offerings covering all aspects of association needs from back-office, event management, various aspects of member acquisition, engagement, mobile presence and much more. True to form for such big vendors trying to offer end-to-end software suites, it was evident that both companies had pricing and capability tiers for every size of association. I gained the clear impression that these full suite offerings were the safe choice for new and current association and association management customers.

As the web has become the expected user interface (UI) for any software product, an opening has appeared for competing association solutions hosted in the cloud. Existing vendors have been accused of relying on switching costs to lock-in their association customers. Cloud-hosted solutions eliminate the cost of new infrastructure requirements by eliminating infrastructure. Which has invariably meant leaving the still-substantial costs of data conversion, system integration and training. Combine this with high-levels of customer support and what emerges is that a smaller AMS vendor like NOAH can compete with the established players.

Backend platforms exist in a changing competitive environment which changes priorities and supported APIs

Moving to a web UI has created a way for entry to the association market by CRM platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft’s Dynamics 365. With an event presence in the main lobby as well as the exhibit hall, the Salesforce-powered AMS platforms were Fonteva and Nimble CRM. Dropping by to check these vendors out was a must.

These vendors are in a head-to-head competition for customers. Fonteva arrived on the scene about 4 years before Nimble CRM. Both offerings are built on Salesforce and both use the credibility of that infrastructure to argue that moving to or staying with them is a cost-effective, long-term decision. Cost-effective because Salesforce as a backend means improvements and scale efficiencies to Salesforce will be reflected in the AMSes build on them. A long-term decision because, even though both AMSes could be considered newcomers, their backend seems certain to promise durability and longevity in this crowded, fast moving market.

Much the same can be said about Alliance by Protech Associates with its Dynamics 365; Microsoft’s answer to Salesforce. Strong arguments can be made about a greater degree of reliability, durability and cost-effective service coming from a platform that shares its R&D with all the other customers of a CRM provider. However, the caveat is that these backend platforms exist in a changing competitive environment which changes priorities and supported APIs.

What’s your perspective? How do you characterize the AMS strategies? Email me at