Category Archive: Association

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 4: Product Partner Chosen, Now What?

Noel-Shatananda November 12th, 2020 by

You made your product selection, and are excitedly looking forward to implementing your new AMS platform. Now comes the decision to select an implementation partner.

Look carefully at who you plan to use to implement your chosen product. You want a team that understands your business, knows how to integrate all the best of breed systems that you plan to use, and is experienced. The implementation team from the product company could be a great fit, but evaluate if they possess the experience to be your comprehensive systems integration partner.

Far too often, we see associations make the product selection and expect the implementation partner to take them to the finish line. That can be a recipe for failure. Here are some areas that need consideration as you get ready:

Assemble Your Implementation Team

  • The Project Manager (PM): Identify a project manager for the new AMS implementation. Implementing an AMS can be time-consuming, requiring a lot of coordination, organization, and communication, and might require up to 20 – 24 hours a week on average. This time commitment will be higher in the beginning with discovery, will be slightly lower during the build/execution phase of the project, ramp back up at user acceptance testing, and go live. Frequently we see associations assigning people to the role who are unfamiliar with project management, are unaware of what an implementation requires, and, more importantly, already have a full-time job. If you find yourself in such a predicament, we recommend hiring a part-time external project manager to help. The expense will pay for itself ten-fold with a successful implementation.
  • The Project Sponsor (PS): Identify a project sponsor for the implementation. This person is usually someone from the executive team who keeps a finger on the pulse of the project and is responsible for the project’s success. The PS usually meets with the implementation partner’s PS monthly and ensures that the project is on track. The sponsor check-ins are usually held independent of the project manager’s check-in and gives the sponsors a chance to discuss items that either side sees and that the PMs are unable to handle. This is also an escalation point for the PMs and the members of the core team on either side as it relates to the project progression.
  • The Core Team (CT): Behind every successful implementation is a great core team. Your core team should consist of staff members from every department that will be using the AMS or will be impacted by its implementation. Having a mix of a power user (staff person) and a manager (decision maker) per department represented is crucial to success. Having only the staff person will result in the system being designed for today while having only the manager will result in the system being designed for tomorrow disregarding the nuances of today. Lastly, select people who will want to own their piece of the implementation and will be your champions across the organization. This will have a direct impact on adoption.

Develop a Timeline and Mutual Processes

  • Kickoff: Have a formal kickoff meeting with all of the staff that will be using the system and the systems integrator. This meeting should have Association leadership in attendance and the Executive Director laying out how the AMS will tie into the strategic vision. This helps clarify to staff the importance of the project and also ensures their participation and commitment.
  • Communication: While there are many aspects of a project that will be discussed during the kickoff, we would like to highlight the importance of communication. Ensure you use a collaborative tool for all communications between the members of the teams. We have seen teams use emails and it has been disastrous as information is frequently lost, especially if there is a change in resource.

Manage Your Data Wisely

  • Data Governance: The implementation of a new AMS could be the best opportunity to visit your association’s data governance. Contemplate bringing in a consultant to help if you should need to.
  • Clean data: As you contemplate the many aspects of data governance, begin thinking of how you are going to get clean data into the new AMS. We recommend not trying to use the new AMS for cleansing the data, even if it professes to have great capabilities for it. Rest assured that once you are in the midst of the implementation, adding data cleansing to the mix will prove detrimental.

Know What It Will Take

We often see associations overlook what a new AMS implementation truly takes in terms of the association staff’s time. Ensure that you talk through your staff’s time commitment with your chosen implementation partner to consider what it will really take to implement a new AMS.

For more resources surrounding an AMS Selection and Implementation Journey of your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team at fusionSPAN today!

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 2: Always Have a Request for Proposal

Noel-Shatananda October 16th, 2020 by

As an organization that specializes in AMS support and implementation, we typically step in after the selection of an Association Management System has already been made by your organization. Our first step is to ask the AMS partner or association for their Request For Proposal, but a surprising number of clients never issue one.

What is a Request For Proposal?

A Request For Proposal (RFP) is a document used when an association is seeking support or consultation on a tool, product, or service for their organization to leverage. The RFP is designed to outline the requirements for a specific project, and is used to solicit bids from vendors for the association to consider during the process.

While there are a variety of ways to format the proposal, they typically take time and resources to create. Make sure this is a project your association is fully committed to doing before beginning the RFP process.

Here are some things to consider as you create an Request For Proposal for your AMS Journey:

Clearly Defined Needs: This builds directly off Step 1 in Your AMS Journey, “Ask Why.” Be sure to have a high level set of needs with a strategic vision as you begin outlining this document.

The More Detail, The Better: Now, take that strategic vision the organization has and break it down into detail level requirements. Do not go into the tactics (the how) but clearly state the requirement (the what) in an AMS agnostic way. A typical example could be, “the new AMS supports memberships that can be anniversary (day of purchase) or calendar (yearly) based.”

Hire a Vendor Selection Consultant (VSC): Contemplate hiring a vendor selection consultant who can help you get the details finalized. They usually come with deep knowledge on what an association your size should typically look for. Larger organizations with a bigger staff need to consider this more, since the complexity of their processes are usually higher.

Caveat: Some VSCs may come in with a lengthy list of potential requirements that an organization your size may typically need. Ensure you choose the ones that are most relevant to your organization for the present and the near future. However, beware of adding bells and whistles that you do not need into the basket.

Reduce Complexity: Work with the consultant who would be an unbiased third party to evaluate your existing processes and make the hard decisions on which processes stay, and which ones need to be eliminated. Beware of legacy workarounds: we tend to see a lot of processes that organizations want us to implement that were actually workarounds put in place to overcome a deficiency of the legacy AMS.

Evaluate Bylaws: Oftentimes fusionSPAN has been asked to implement a piece of functionality because the bylaws mandated it, when in reality it made very little sense. We recommend that the association take this opportunity to look at its bylaws carefully to evaluate its relevance during the request process.

It’s your blueprint: The RFP will be the blueprint of the tool that will take you into the future you aspire to march towards. At the end of the day, ensure you are confident and happy with your blueprint.


There are a variety of resources and templates online for your association to use when creating a RFP. Make sure to highlight your organization information and required details for this implementation, as well as budget info, deadlines, and any questions you will have for potential vendors. Remember, the idea of this proposal is to specify your needs to help find the best fit for your association.

Stay tuned for Step 3 of Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption, where we discuss choosing the right Product Partner for your association. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSPAN with any of your AMS implementation needs!

10 Keys to Client Success

Avatar photo March 12th, 2020 by

Client Success

Happy customers do not equal more business.

Over the last few years, customer service continues to become outdated, while customer success has arrived as the new kid on the block. Contrary to what some may think, customer success is not merely a rebranded version of customer service. Customer success is changing the ideology behind the customer relationship. It means companies are shifting away from a transactional approach to the customer relationship and moving to a customer centric business model. Happy customers with a great customer experience no longer guarantee retention…it is the addition of customer outcomes that make the relationship sticky.

Customer Success (CS) = Customer Experience (CX) + Customer Outcomes (CO)1

Customer Success is the business methodology of ensuring your customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success Management is the process of proactively orchestrating and managing towards your customer’s achievement of their desired outcomes.2

In order for organizations to be successful and retain customers, it is imperative that the customer understands how your product aligns to their business strategy and meets the objectives they hired you to solve. When your customers have a great experience, but their business objectives are not solved through your relationship, they are at risk of leaving.
The Customer Success Manager (CSM) role is positioned uniquely to be the internal advocate for the customer. The CSM understands the business needs of the customer, and can help champion those objectives cross-functionally to achieve the success of the customer. Furthermore, the CSM carries a different relationship with the customer than sales, as they are set up to be a trusted advisor and consultant for the client. Let’s look at 10 keys to success when building your customer success strategy.

Client Success

10 Keys to Client Success:

1. Anticipate Customer Needs
It can be difficult to rise out of the email cycle of reactive responses. Customer success is not only shifting from reactive to proactive, but it reaches further to being predictive and anticipating what our customers need before they do. I previously worked for a company that specialized in employee recognition benefits, and one of our products involved a Yearbook designed for significant employee milestones that included a picture and congratulatory message from the CEO. Thanks to Google alerts, my colleague received a news flash that the client’s CEO would be changing at the end of the year. Instead of waiting until the change happened to start lengthy design changes in the Yearbook, my colleague reached out to acknowledge the upcoming change and how that would impact the client’s Yearbook design. Additionally, he provided a timelines and next steps that would be required. The customer contact was thankful for the proactive communication that enabled a seamless design transition.

2. Advisors Are Not “Yes” People
CSM’s tend to be people pleasers. We should do whatever makes the client happy, right? We need to pause before we adopt that mentality. A CSM plays the role of a consultant to the client, not an order taker. When a CSM knows when to say no and explain why it will benefit the client, they become a trusted advisor that is able to manage the interests of the client as well as their internal organization. Although the client may not want to hear “no”, they ultimately want to understand a best practice approach that will give them the most value out of their partnership. This is best accomplished at the beginning of the relationship where you can define your role and how you and the client can expect to work together.

3. Open-ended Questions & Listen
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity about your customers will make you a better CSM. Open ended questions allow you to understand what your customer is actually thinking and creates space to gather additional insight about their business objectives. Look at the balance of the conversation… Are you doing all of the talking? Are their responses stuck in a Yes/No cycle? In order to master the art of information mining, a CSM needs to be comfortable with silence. Great conversations start with “Why”, “How”, “What”, “Tell Me More”, or “What do you mean by that?”.

4. Do What You Say You Will Do
This goes without saying when you think about people you trust. Keep your promises. If you tell your customer you will have a report to them by tomorrow… then get it to them tomorrow. If for some reason you can not make a deadline, then proactively reach out to the customer to reset expectations and own up to your mistake. Blaming others or making excuses reduces your credibility as a trusted advisor.

5. Know Your Products
Understanding the capability and value of your product is fundamental to being an effective CSM. You can’t be an advisor or consultant if you don’t understand what your organization is brings to the table. Start by learning the functionality and features of your product, and then build a value proposition so your customer understands not just what your product does but why they need it. What business objectives will your product or service solve for the customer?

6. Learn your Customer’s Business
Knowing your customer’s industry will allow you to anticipate business trends and understand your client’s ecosystem. The easiest way to do this is to subscribe to your client’s newsletter, read their trade reports, and set up Google alerts for your customer and their competitors. I once had a large technology client that had some negative press surrounding a lawsuit and an alarming price reduction in stock shares. This happened right around the time their contract was up for renewal. Knowing the intel gathered from the news reports helped me comprehend a larger business strategy behind their workforce reduction and budget cuts to our contract. This understanding shows your customer that you are invested in their business and they have an advocate at your organization..

7. Always be Consulting
J.B. Wood from the Technology Services Industry Association said, “Selling won’t help, but helping will sell.” Many will understand the feeling of walking into a clothing store, only to have a sales person bombard you with questions about what they can help you find. This can turn the customer off because they feel like they are just a dollar sign to the associate. In contrast, if you have someone approach you with styling tips, colors that compliment your skin tone, or information about the pieces you have your eye on, this is better received as helpful information.

The same philosophy goes for your business. CSM’s are differentiated from a sales person, because you are the customer’s trusted advisor that provides helpful information to maximize their adoption and value.

8. Take Ownership
Don’t burden customers with your organizational chart. The CSM is the quarterback internally to carry the ball cross-functionally and needs to own the relationship. If multiple internal stakeholders are communicating with the client, it reduces a narrowed voice and can create conflicting messages for the customer. Do not be afraid to bring in subject matter experts to assist with a meeting; however, the CSM should be present and facilitate the relationship as the liaison between internal and external stakeholders.

9. Know What Customers Need to Be Successful
Your organization wins when your customer is successful, so it is of great value to understand how you customer defines success. What are your customer’s KPIs? Do they have a strategy map? What will get your contact promoted? Understand what your champion in the account needs, and make them look like a rockstar. A great way to do this is allowing your champion to shine in front of their leader by giving them a chance to share what they have accomplished in a Quarterly Business Review or project completion.

10. Forget Happy and Focus on Good Customer Outcomes
ROI > rapport. It’s not that we like angry customers, but outcomes far outweigh “happy” in terms of recurring revenue. If a customer is happy but they don’t see the value of your relationship, they will churn. Other customers may not be happy, but they are successful and have significant results to show for your partnership. These customers have skin in the game and can be leveraged to provide insightful feedback to improve your product. Good rapport can get in the way of outcomes, because it is fleeting the moment a competitor walks in the door with promises of better results. If the relationship is all about great dinners and tickets to the big game with nothing to show for your product, it is not a sticky enough relationship.

Before you get overwhelmed by ten new disciplines to incorporate on top of your overflowing inbox, mastery of just one of two of these will enable you to better serve your customer base. Ultimately, any way you can demonstrate value to your customer and play the role of a trusted advisor, you will be well on your way to a customer centric mentality. Happy customers do not mean repeat business, but customers with outcomes will be back next year.

Adapted from Gainsight’s 2018 Pulse Conference session, “How to be a Kick-ass CSM,” presented by Sanders Slavens from IBM and Lorna Henri from App Annie.

Ashvin Vaidyanathan, Ashvin, and Ruben Rabago. The Customer’s Success Handbook: How to Thrive in One of the World’s Fastest Growing Careers-While Driving Growth for Your Company. Wiley, 2020.1,2

Four Steps to Prepare Your Website for GDPR Compliance

Christi Liongson May 10th, 2018 by

In less than two weeks (May 25, 2018), the most significant change in data privacy in 20 years and protection regulation goes into full effect. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is aimed at protecting the personal and sensitive information of all EU residents, regardless of where an organization is based. Under GDPR, individuals are allowed greater control over their personal information that is shared with organizations.

GDPR is built around the idea that organizations make good data governance a high priority. While your organization may not be required to comply with the new regulations, ensuring your site and processes embrace the spirit of data protection and privacy will gain and keep the trust of your users. Once your organization has completed a comprehensive data governance review (If you haven’t, check out our blog post on how to do this!), take these five steps to ensure your website matches your organization’s stance on data privacy by design.

1. Make sure your site is secure.

An SSL certificate is a small bit of code on your web server that creates an encrypted connection between a user’s web browser and your website. Having SSL on your website is like sealing your message in an envelope that your recipient will open and read. Having an SSL certificate signals to your users that your organization values the security of any personal information that they share with you.
There are many other benefits to having an SSL certificate installed on your site. In cases where you are collecting payment information, SSL is required to be on your site to meet the security standards set by the Payment Card Industry (PCI). In addition, major browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have started to include a warning for all insecure sites.

2. Review your newsletter, registration, and other email subscription forms.

When it comes to GDPR, one of the major areas of change facing website administrators and digital marketers is how to collect and store email subscription consent. To maintain compliance, organizations must collect affirmative consent that is, “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.”
At a minimum, your email subscription forms must:

  • Be separate from other terms and conditions: Signing up to receive marketing communications must not be a requirement for registering for a service.
  • Contain a clear affirmative action: For consent to be valid under GDPR, users must actively confirm their consent, such as by checking an empty opt-in checkbox. Pre-checked boxes or inactivity does not constitute consent under GDPR.
  • Describe who will be using the information and how: Each form must state the name of your organization and any other third-party services that process the information in the submitted form. You will also need to state why and how the user’s information will be processed.

3. Review installed and active plugins, as well as any information that you collect and store on the website.

Note: While the information in this step is specific to WordPress, this can be applied to any site using any content management system. For non-WordPress sites, be sure you review all modules and custom-built functionalities that may collect and process personal data.

The WordPress community is already hard at work at adding WordPress core tools for GDPR compliance and other privacy laws and requirements. As the website owner, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring your installed plugins, as well as the usage of them, are GDPR compliant.

We recommend you review every plugin that you have installed and activated on your WordPress site for the following:

  • What individual data is being collected by this plugin? Of the data collected, is any of it personal or sensitive?
  • What services process the data that is collected?
  • Contact Form or Comments plugins: Can you add a required checkbox that allows the user to consent the storing and processing of their data?
  • Analytics, retargeting, and tracking plugins: Do you have the option to anonymize the IP address of your users? Can you modify data retention settings?

In addition, make sure that you have an internal process to perform the following:
Manage requests to view and delete user information
Provide a user with a downloadable file of their personal data

There are many WordPress plugins available for download that can help you with the task of auditing your installed plugins for GDPR compliance, implementing form consent checkboxes, and even allowing your users to request secure access to their data.

4. Update your website’s Privacy Policy statement.

Any organization that processes personal data is required by GDPR to provide clear, accessible information about how user personal data is being used. This is often done through a Privacy Policy statement on the organization’s website. Once you have finished reviewing and documenting your website’s plugin and data usage, you can start working with your legal team to update your website’s Privacy Policy statement.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) comprehensive guide to GDPR includes a privacy notice checklist and what to include in your privacy notice that your organization can use when updating your site’s Privacy Policy and terms of use.
At a minimum, your website’s Privacy Policy should include details on:

  • How and why your organization collects and processes personal data;
  • How your organization gains and records user consent; and
  • What data is shared with other third parties

As a best practice, your Privacy Policy should also include information on:

  • Consequences of not providing personal information – for example, declining to provide an email address will result in not being able to receive member e-newsletters;
  • What your organization is doing to ensure the security of personal information;
  • How users can manage and update their personal information;
  • Information about data subject rights; and
  • What you will not do with their data

fusionSpan can help support your organization’s data audits by documenting what data is currently collected and processed in your WordPress or Drupal site. fusionSpan can help you navigate the new expectations set by GDPR and the impact it will have on your digital strategy.

Refresh expiring Salesforce X509 certificates

Avatar photo September 14th, 2017 by

Tired of receiving the “You have one or more certificates in your Salesforce org XYZ* that will expire soon…” notices? Or worse, when your CEO receives it and sends a panicked email to you at 3 in the morning?

You can solve the countless email bombardment, for you and your users, by creating a new certificate and transitioning all your connected Apps and API’s to use the new certificate. SSL certificates in Salesforce are used by Connected Apps using SAML, SOAP and REST APIs. This post will take you through the steps of creating new certificates with longer expiry dates to replace the expiring ones.

The process of creating and configuring a new certificate is fairly straightforward and can be done in 2 fairly quick steps:

The issue is that Salesforce, by default, will create self-signed certificates that are valid for only a year. This means that every year you have to create new certificates. The process (as described above), is relatively painless, but most of these Connected Apps are third-party integrations, which means there is a whole lot of coordination needed to migrate these applications to use the new certificate. The actual work is relatively easy and just involves importing the certificate by these third-party systems/vendors. The coordination to make it happen and then test all of these integrations is time consuming.

One way to mitigate is to not rely on Salesforce, and just generate these certificates with longer expiry dates.

Note: Most Certificate Authorities (CA) will only issue shorter term certificates because they want to be able to guard against private keys that get compromised. Since we are using a single self-signed certificate, we can change the key and certificate on our schedule.

Openssl is an excellent open source tool to do this. Here is a quick-and-dirty guide to generating a certificate for use with Salesforce:

Step 1: Generate a self signed certificate valid for 10 years

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:4096 -keyout key.pem -out cert.pem -nodes -days 3650

Here the -days flag is setting the expiry date of this certificate for 10 years. You can set it to any number of days.

Step 2: Convert the certificate and key into pkcs12 file

openssl pkcs12 -export -in cert.pem -inkey key.pem -out server.p12 -name salesforce_cert

Note: Use a password when prompted, as you will need it later.

Step 3: Import the new certificate into a keystore file (the format Salesforce expects)

keytool -importkeystore   -destkeystore server.keystore -srckeystore server.p12 -srcstoretype PKCS12 -alias  salesforce_cert

Step 4: Import the new certificate into Salesforce

Go to Setup->Certificate and Key Management->Import from Keystore

and then import the keystore file created in Step 3.

You now have a new certificate available that is valid for 10 years. Just modify any of your connect apps to use the new certificate. And send the public key (cert.pem from Step 1), to any of the external system, so that they can continue working with the new certificate.

ASAE Small Staff Online Conference

Mary Glavin January 14th, 2016 by


Joining ASAE  has been invaluable for our company; specifically, their small staffed community has provided support and possibilities we benefit tremendously from. The opportunities to participate in their conferences, workshops, and to network and engage in this community, centered on modest staff sizes, has been a notable factor to our own growth and achievements. The ASAE small staff focused subset is dedicated to providing small workforce associations the tools to prosper and the insight to combat some of the challenges fewer employees can present.