By: Chris Park on March 27th, 2019
What Association Management Software Platforms Does HighRoad Integrate With?
The Association Management Software (AMS) can be found at the heart of every organization. It manages your member database, it handles subscriptions and member dues, it supports your website.
The AMS does a lot. But it doesn’t do everything.
To provide the best possible service to your membership – and support your long-term growth goals – you need other systems, including a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Salesforce and marketing automation tools like HubSpot or SharpSpring. These systems are an essential part of your stack. And if you want to achieve the best possible results, you need those systems to talk to each other.
At HighRoad this is what we do. We specialize in AMS integrations, enabling associations to take a full-stack approach to marketing.
Why Is Association Management Software Integration So Important?
Integration is about bringing your systems together so that they work together in harmony in the background, leaving your team free to focus on tasks that need human attention. Some key benefits to integration include:
Your systems need to talk to each other, one way or another. If they are not integrated, you probably have some manual processes that bridge the gap. For example, you may need to do a data import once a week, which involves creating the export, moving it to another server, and then uploading it. It’s slow, it’s time-consuming, and it’s an easy way to make mistakes.
System integrations automate all such processes, taking the responsibility away from your team. You also eliminate errors this way, as the integration is usually a lot more sophisticated than simply exporting the data as a file and re-uploading it. And it’s faster, too – integration allows systems to communicate in real time, rather than waiting to be manually synced.
A member logs into the website and changes their contact details. This change is recorded immediately on the AMS, but how long until it appears in the CRM? Will your marketing automation or email automation tools send emails to the wrong address? And, if there’s a discrepancy in records between systems, how do you know which one is right?
Integration eliminates all of these inconsistencies. Full integration means that data flows freely throughout the system – records are updated in all places at the same time. It means that you know for sure that each record is accurate.
Data is the life-blood of any modern organization. With the right tech stack, you can capture vast amounts of critical information about each member, and analytics techniques allow you to make sense of this information.
With analytics, you can identify potential leads, gauge member engagement and measure the efficacy of your marketing plans. But this is only possible if you have sophisticated, fully-integrated systems working in the background.
What Association Management Software can HighRoad integrate?
HighRoad’s unique expertise allows us to work with any AMS. This includes the most commonly-used AMSs, such as
- Your Membership
This list is by no means exhaustive. Our engineers can work with whichever Association Management Software you currently have in place.
What New Functionality Comes from Integration?
System integration can add additional functionalities to your technology stack. Some of the common outcomes include:
If you have AMS and CRM, you may have two records about the same individual. If so, then these records need to be kept in sync at all times, so that a change in one system is reflected in the other.
Segmentation is a key part of your marketing strategy. It’s only as effective as the data available to your marketing automation tools, so these tools require an uninterrupted stream of updated information.
Analytics and reporting
Your platform is working continuously in the background, gathering vital data on the success of your marketing campaigns, such as email open rates and event sign-ups. When your systems are fully integrated, you can pull detailed reports that give you real insight into your membership’s needs.
What’s the difference between spam and legitimate email marketing? Spam doesn’t respect the preferences of the recipient. Spammers let their email automation tools blast out messages without allowing users to change or cancel their subscription. If you want to avoid being flagged as spam and ensure your emails to enjoy a high deliverability rate, you need to integrate the email automation and AMS so that users can manage preferences.
Is AMS Integration Secure? How Does it Work?
Whatever your flavor of Association Management Software, you can rest assured that it will be as fast and secure as ever, post-integration. HighRoad’s approach uses APIs to allow systems to cooperate without compromising each other in any way. An API is an interface that exists between systems, allowing them to talk without ever being fully exposed to each other.
If you’re not familiar with APIs, here’s a metaphor: imagine a restaurant. You’re the customer and you want to order some food. However, you can’t just walk into the kitchen and give your order directly to the chef. Doing so would be extremely messy for you and confusing for the chef (not to mention being a likely health code violation).
So, the restaurant manager puts an interface between the two of you – the waiter. You give your order to the waiter, the waiter tells the chef, the chef prepares the food, and then the waiter brings your food to your table.
APIs are like waiters. They take an instruction (known as an API call) from one system, they pass the instruction to a second system, the second system performs any required actions, and then the API brings data back to the first system.
You can only perform calls that are allowed by the API – in the same way that you can only order food that’s on a restaurant’s menu. This gives you a great deal of control over what happens when systems are integrated and prevents any unwanted changes to data.
It’s an efficient, secure, elegant way to get systems to talk to each other. And it is the heart of the integration process.
Association Management Software Integration Process
When you decide to integrate your systems, you begin a process that looks different for each association, but which breaks down into four main steps:
Before looking at the existing tech stack, you need to look at the current state of your association, plan your ideal future state, and make plans for getting where you want to go.
At this stage you need to ask questions like:
- What are the pain points in our existing processes?
- Where does our approach to marketing need improvement?
- Which strategic goals are we unable to implement due to tech limitations?
- What kind of service do we want to provide for our members?
- Do we have an organizational culture that supports change?
- What kind of data do we need to capture for analytics?
- What kind of ROI is needed to justify an integration?
- How can we support our plans for future growth?
Once you’ve addressed those high-level questions, a partner like HighRoad can help you to start drilling down and putting together a plan of action.
The requirements process is about turning high-level goals (“we want better member segmentation”) into specific technical plans (“we need to capture relevant AMS data and export it to our analytics tool”).
This is where your association management team, your IT people, and integration consultants like HighRoad work together on a real plan. HighRoad will talk to you about your goals, look at your existing tech stack and make recommendations, such as:
- Which existing systems you need to upgrade
- Which new systems you need to install
- Which manual processes you need to review
Once you have signed off on requirements and confirmed the way forward, it’s time to begin the integration.
HighRoad handles this part. Because integration is handled using APIs, there’s rarely any need to disrupt your AMS, so you don’t have to worry about downtime.
Remember, change management isn’t all about technology. Your people will need to be upskilled in relation to the new functionality so that they can get the best out of the integrated system.
You defined an ROI at the start of the project, so now you need to see if you’re achieving it. It’s good to have tangible ROI goals like:
- Increase in new members
- More website activity
- Increased sign-ups for programming
- Higher open rates and click-throughs for email communication
Look at your numbers (which should be easier to do, post-integration) and see if you’re realizing the kind of value you had hoped for.
One thing to bear in mind post-integration is that changes to one part of the tech stack could impact other areas. For example, if you switch to a different AMS further down the line, you may need to configure your other systems. Use a change management strategy when implementing any major system changes.
Communication is vital in every association. This is true for people and equally true for systems. Integration is the key to getting every part of your tech stack communicating and working together to deliver real results.
About Chris Park
Chris is a skilled solution-seeker, well versed in association specific business needs that require leveraging data across technology platforms, and building solutions to accommodate evolving initiatives. With over ten years of experience as a developer, and four years specifically at HighRoad working to solve for association-specific problems, he plays an essential role serving the needs of associations.