December 12, 2017 How to choose a technology vendor for your association Richard Green, Business Development Manager, North America

How to choose a technology vendor for your association

Finding a technology provider you can trust and who understands the needs of your association can be a tough task. There are a number of key things you need to consider, before signing on the dotted line.

Evaluate your association

Before you can select a suitable supplier it is critical to determine your association’s needs. Organize a brain storming session and write a checklist of requirements, separated out into ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’. Armed with this information you can then create a shortlist of potential providers and interview them more effectively.

Understand your member requirements

Just as you need to understand your association’s needs you also need to get inside the minds of your members. There is no point spending time and money on new technology or products unless you are certain that there is a demand for them.

Get feedback on technology habits and requirements of the end user and add them to your checklist.

Due diligence

Thorough due diligence minimizes your risk of picking the wrong tech vendor, so once you have created a shortlist you need to evaluate the suppliers.

Gather and analyze background information on the following areas:

  • Financial stability
  • Expertise
  • Innovation and development
  • Proven track record  

For a detail on exactly how to go about researching these areas download our full guide to evaluating tech vendors.

Understand their technology

A supplier may use the latest technology, but software and systems change at an exponential rate. Your supplier should be happy to talk about their product roadmap and demonstrate an active approach to product development.

If they promise a particular functionality, make sure you see it demonstrated.

Who owns the data?

Data is the key to understanding your members and ensuring future success and growth. When evaluating potential providers, ask which data systems they use and how this data will be fed back to you. You also need to find out who owns this valuable data. No matter how happy you are with your provider right now, you could go your separate ways in the future and you need to know how the data can go with you

Data security

Your members have trusted you with personal information, so it is imperative that this data – and your association’s reputation – is protected. Interrogate any potential vendor to find out what processes they have in place to protect your data and manage your security.

Operational fit

The vendor may be able to help you reach your current business objectives, but what happens beyond that? You need to look to the future, consider how your association’s requirements may change, and find a software provider that can scale accordingly.

Integrating with existing systems

Don’t be dazzled by sexy new systems claiming they will transform your association from average to awesome. Find out if your own systems are compatible with the provider’s, before jumping into bed with them. Figuratively speaking…

Service and support

No matter how carefully you choose your provider, problems will inevitably occur. Assess customer support to ensure you receive prompt and professional help, and check the costs involved.

Training users

Find out how easy the new technology it to set up and how long it will take to learn to use. Most vendors will provide training, but ask if it's included with the implementation costs. If you’re a big association look for a vendor that offers a personalized on-boarding process that will get you off to a strong start with the new tools.

Negotiating the contract

There are a number of different ways to pay for outsourcing your technology, and it’s important you choose one that fits with your cash flow requirements, rather than your provider’s agenda.

Options include:

  • Fixed price
  • Time and materials
  • Incentive based
  • Revenue share
  • Pay as you use/Pay per unit

For a full explanation of each payment option download the full guide to choosing a tech vendor. And don't forget to read the small print to find out if they are there any hidden fees.

Agree Key Performance Indicators

It’s imperative to agree Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) before you sign a contract, to ensure you and your vendor are working towards the same goals. You also need to agree who will measure them, how they will be measured it, and how often.

Take it for a test drive

On paper, a software or system may look like the perfect choice, however, when your staff and members use the technology, it might not meet their expectations or needs. An on-site software demonstration will determine the capabilities of a product and give you and your team the chance to see if the vendor’s claims are true.

Do your research

We can offer all the advice we have, based on our years of experience in the technology industry, but there is no silver bullet when it comes to finding the right technology partner. Every association has different needs, every vendor has different products, every partnership has a different outcome.

It is only by researching your association, your members, prospective vendors and the technology involved, that you can have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and who can help you achieve it.

It’s all about being prepared. Make sure you know exactly what you want and what questions you need to ask to find it. 

tech vendor guide download