Is the Traditional AMS in Trouble?
Over the past few years, from time to time, I would see a question in the association community about CRM options. That is, association staff that were looking for options to the traditional Association Management Software (AMS) platform. Invariably the discussion would settle on Salesforce and then someone would point out alternatives such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM – but these two platforms would typically rise to the top.
Options to the Traditional AMS
Recently, the chatter about options to the traditional AMS has increased. In February 2015 alone I saw more than 30 comments in ASAE’s Collaborate online community. It is driven by the fact that Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM have huge customer bases and have created APIs (application programming interfaces) that are easy to work with for third-party developers. And developers have responded. Salesforce has over 2,500 apps in its appexchange online app store and the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Pinpoint has many thousands as well.
For third-party vendors it’s basic economics – go where the demand is and you’ll sell more apps. For companies and associations looking to improve their technology ecosystems, the CRMs with bigger app stores offer more and easier options. And fascinating ecosystems are developing – see my post The Anatomy of a New Association Marketing Ecosystem to see what associations can do with these ecosystems.
The Empire Strikes Back?
So where does this leave the traditional AMS providers? I would suggest that they are in a tenuous situation. Most AMS third-party vendors are not cloud-based SaaS apps – so creating a marketplace where customers can purchase apps is not really possible. At least for the time being. Last week, however, Abila launched it’s own marketplace – called the Abila Marketplace. While I applaud this move, at first glance it appears to be more of a list of partners than actual apps that you can purchase.
The economics (mass market demand) simply aren’t there for potential developers either. Call me foolish but associations that remain with the current AMS providers may be left in the past (having to pay many thousands of dollars for each integration) or they will move to other CRMs with app stores full of options and promise.
One interesting strategy could be for the AMS providers to create their own apps for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM – similar to what Nimble AMS and Fonteva (MemberNation) have done. I don’t see that happening…yet… but it would be fascinating!
What do you think? Is the traditional AMS in trouble?