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AMS Implementation: Why a Business Process Discovery is Essential BEFORE Making a Move

One of the biggest challenges with association management system (AMS) implementations is that organizations often confuse processes in their old system with their business requirements. When this happens, organizations request customizations to make the new system function like the old system. [Read one of our related blog posts: Enterprise AMS: When is a customization right for you?] Wasn’t the original goal of selecting and implementing a new AMS to improve—not maintain—your business processes?

Understandably, it’s hard for people to separate what they do (process in the current system) vs. why they do it (business requirements), and that’s generally not something a vendor is going to be able to separate out for clients. It’s the difference between accounting claiming they need a report with 12 specific columns run every month (process in the current system), vs. knowing that the reason they need that report is to follow up on open A/R once a month (business requirements). If the client doesn’t explain the why and instead focuses on the what, the vendor will likely build a report when an automation process may be more efficient.

Business Process Discovery Planning

This all leads into a business process discovery prior to implementing a new system. This makes a lot of sense, since a business process discovery can also help define what you will need in a new system. But how do you prevent the business process discovery from becoming current system processes? Staff will struggle to separate the two.

One more costly option is hire a consultant, who can offer a fresh perspective during your business process discovery. Alternatively, if money is an issue, consider replacing a consultant with other staff.  Staff, if strategically selected from across your organization, may be able to bring a similar fresh perspective, if they are far enough removed from the day-to-day of other departments.

Business Process Discovery Steps

Now you have a discovery team identified, have them go through the following steps:

  1. Have staff identify all the current system processes they complete that require the AMS.
  2. Explain the business process that each system process supports. Business processes should be described in such a manner that anyone can understand them. Note that in some cases, multiple steps may relate to the same business process. Generating renewals and dropping expired members could both be related to 12-month membership terms.
  3. Once finished, trade off their document with at least two people from other departments to review.
  4. The reviewers are responsible for ensuring the business requirements are clear. If the business requirements are not instantly understandable by the reviewer, then the requirements will need to be further clarified. For instance, the reason all memberships are issued as proforma is because the organization uses cash-based accounting.
  5. Go through a couple rounds of edits until everyone is satisfied that the business requirements are no longer reliant on the current system.

Post-discovery

Once the business requirements are solidified, that document should serve as the foundation for all future decisions. When reviewing new potential AMS systems, ensure that all the business processes are supported. Once implementation begins, ensure processes in the new system are identified to support the business process. Staff should ensure they focus on business processes, and because the business process document was a collaborative effort, staff should feel comfortable calling out when they hear someone describing the old system processes instead of business processes. Granted, there are cases where the old process and new process will be very similar, but as long as the business process was the catalyst for the new system process, that’s not a bad thing.

Conclusion

While a business process discovery can be a time consuming exercise, the activity is far less painful than implementing a new AMS that does not accommodate an organization’s business processes. Additionally, by having staff from across the organization collaborating on processes, departments can better understand how their actions in the AMS impact others. Ideally, that collaborative spirit will carry on well beyond the AMS implementation, ensuring the long-term success of the system.

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Justin Burniske

Justin Burniske

Justin serves as the Director of Enterprise Solutions at fusionSpan, bringing his experience implementing and overseeing an association management system for an education nonprofit. Additionally, he brings his positive, can-do attitude to any project on which he is working. Justin graduated from University of Maryland’s MBA program, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining fusionSpan, Justin taught middle school math and worked with education nonprofits. Also, he wants you to know he loves his family.

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