As technology continues to rapidly evolve, many organizations are finding themselves in need of modernizing their systems to keep up with the times. The Texas Library Association (TLA) is no exception, and they have been working on updating their Association Management System (AMS) to better serve their members. In an exclusive interview with TLA’s Executive Director, Shirley Robinson, CAE, she shares her insights on the challenges and benefits of modernizing their AMS, as well as the strategies they have employed to make the process as smooth as possible. Join us as we delve into the world of association management systems and discover how TLA is adapting to the ever-changing landscape of technology.
Shirley Robinson, CAE, Executive Director of the Texas Library Association, responded to the following questions from TSAE:
Tell us a little about how you are modernizing TLA’s Association Management System (AMS).
For the past 25 years, TLA used more than 20 custom-built Access databases to manage membership, events and other functions. While those systems served the organization well for decades, they were out of date and no longer met our needs. TLA decided to invest in a new, robust, cloud-based AMS with Community Brands on their platform, Nimble. This new AMS will be much more user-friendly and will streamline workflow for staff, as well as make it easier for our members to purchase products, renew membership and register for events. The new AMS will reduce the number of logins our members need to use to access different aspects of their membership, as well as save staff members valuable time since there will be less need for manual invoicing and event registration.
When did you start the project? When do you think the project will come to a close? How many staff are directly involved?
The search process to find the right AMS started in the Fall of 2020, however the implementation began in the summer of 2021 and is expected to close this coming summer. Our entire 11-member staff plays a part in providing institutional knowledge, business process insights and member needs to ensure that out-of-the-box design and customizations meet TLA’s needs now and in the future. A cross-functional staff team and consulting partners have been directly involved with the implementation. We anticipate going live in early summer 2023. Additional functionality will be added over the next year with modules that need a little more time.
What was your first step? How did you get started on such an intense project?
The first step was to break down the workflow for every aspect of our association’s tasks, to help our project management team understand TLA’s structure and needs. We did this by having many discovery meetings to determine the full scope of the project and how we needed processes customized to fit TLA.
What is the aspect you are finding the most challenging?
The most challenging part so far has been finding the staff time to learn a new system, while still running the day-to-day operations of TLA with the old system. We’ve had to adapt some of our processes to fit into the new system. Wrapping up some of the final details of the AMS transition at the same time we are in the last weeks before our 5,000-person annual conference has kept us on our toes!
What is the most surprising aspect up to now?
The most surprising aspect was discovering how complex our organization is! When we look at the association as a whole, we started to see how many different moving parts we have going at all times.
Do you have any advice for an organization who is about to transition their AMS?
Do your research! There are a lot of great companies out there, but it’s important to find the one that fits you best, to avoid having to customize too much.
What are you looking forward to as you get closer to the end of the project?
We are looking forward to rolling this out to our members! This is such an upgrade from what we’ve had in the past, that we know our membership will be thrilled with the ease of the new AMS.
What have been the most valuable resources as your organization has undertaken this process?
Some valuable resources have been the guidance of our consulting group, as well as suggestions from other association executives, such as friends at TSAE who have gone through a similar experience.
What will be the immediate and long-term impacts of this transition?
We’re hoping that the new AMS will make it easier for our members to interact with TLA, by making event registration, membership join and renewal, donations, and purchases simpler, cleaner and easier. For our staff, we’re looking forward to having a modern system to work with. We’re looking forward to saving time and having less technical hassles, which will allow us to better serve the library community of Texas.