CRM or AMS? By Altai Systems

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1 CRM or AMS? What Associations should know about how a Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution for membership management compares to traditional Association Management Software systems By Altai Systems September 20, 2012

2 Table of Contents What is better Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Association Management Software (AMS)? 3 Why would a Non-profit need Customer Relationship Management? 3 How does sales software meet the functional needs of an Association? 4 What are the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics CRM over an AMS? 4 What are the advantages of using Altai Systems and Altai Membership? 7 Altai and CRM functionality your association needs 7 Appendix 1 xrm Reference Architecture 9 Appendix 2 Altai Portal Architecture 10 Appendix 3 Examples of Support Options Available with CRM 11 September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 2

3 CRM or AMS - Which solution do you need? What is better Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Association Management Software (AMS)? The answer is that it depends on the Association. If the organization only wants the software to bill dues, manage event registrations or put people on committees, then the most functionally mature software with the lowest cost may be the best. However, today s progressive Associations need more than standard association functionality to meet the value demands of their members and be more competitive in the marketplace. This document will discuss some reasons why many associations are moving from AMS to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and why your Association may need to do the same. Why would a Non-profit need Customer Relationship Management? You might ask the question: What does an association need with a Customer Relationship Management system? Associations today face more pressure from the corporate world - whether that is for-profit companies selling similar products and services to your members or social networks allowing people with like interests and specific business roles to collaborate without the need for an association. This has required association executives to operate their organizations more like a for-profit business and consider retaining market share and assertively trying to acquire new members. Fifteen years ago most associations would not view their members as customers ; most would not use the terms sales and marketing. However today these terms are frequently used by Association Executives when discussing their strategic plans to grow and maintain their membership, and create non-dues revenue. Wikipedia defines CRM as: a widely implemented model for managing a company s interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients to return, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service. Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments. Measuring and valuing customer relationships is critical to implementing this strategy. If you simply replace the words client and customer with member in the above statement, you could easily consider this the definition of an enterprise solution any Association Executive would want for their organization. September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 3

4 How does sales software meet the functional needs of an Association? To start with, Microsoft developed Dynamics CRM as an xrm platform (See diagram in Appendix 1). Essentially, Microsoft developed Dynamics CRM to allow Partners to extend the solution to meet the unique needs of specific vertical markets, while also allowing Clients with the proper technical skills to meet their unique organizational needs. xrm.com provides the following as an explanation of the xrm framework: Software developers and business analysts commonly define xrm in one of two ways. In the first definition, the "x" in xrm refers to extended relationship management, which represents the extension of CRM platforms far beyond customer relationship management. In the second definition, the "x" is an algebraic variable that can represent almost any relationship that a business needs to manage. In both definitions, expanding the functionality of the CRM platform is the key. An xrm solution can manage more than relationships with customers; it can manage suppliers, employees, partners, assets, knowledge bases, and just about anything else a company might wish to manage in a relational database. The Altai Systems Association Management Software, Altai Membership, is an example of an xrm application built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. By choosing Microsoft Dynamics CRM as the development platform, Altai Systems provides a proven upgrade path for clients. Microsoft has committed millions of dollars in research and development for CRM and has continued to release new versions at an aggressive pace. Originally introduced in 2003, Microsoft CRM is now in its 5 th generation, and Microsoft is releasing new functionality every quarter. By closely adhering to the Microsoft CRM development requirements the products developed by Altai Systems align with the upgrade path thereby providing an ongoing enhancement cycle at no cost to the client other than standard maintenance. More information on Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be found at Because of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform and the unique architecture of our Altai Membership and Altai Web Portal (See diagram in Appendix 2), we typically do not need to do code-level customizations for our clients. However, another unique aspect of our solution is a Business Engine layer that separates any customizations from the core software components. This helps to insure the client s upgrade path and protect their investment. What are the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics CRM over an AMS? Microsoft CRM is developed and constantly enhanced to help organizations streamline their processes, allow staff to stop doing mundane tasks so they can focus on revenue generating activities, grow revenue and ultimately improve the bottom line. If you want to improve the performance of your association, CRM is made for you. Here are some of the advantages of Dynamics CRM over association management software: September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 4

5 Microsoft Dynamics CRM The entire system is designed to capture knowledge about the customer and their wants. CRM allows the organization to see the client s interest, understand who the best customers are, know which products and services are generating the most revenue and then allow the organization to market those products and services to the customers who are least engaged. Dynamics CRM was designed with workflow automation built in from the beginning. It s not an add-on. This means automating business processes is central to the functionality of the software. Dynamics CRM was developed from the start as a marketing platform. This marketing functionality has been improved upon through 5 generations of the product based on feedback from thousands of companies. Dynamics CRM marketing capability also includes the availability of dozens of 3rd party marketing add-on solutions that work seamlessly with Dynamics CRM. The ability to extend the solution. As we ve already shown, Dynamics CRM is designed from the ground up to be flexible and extendable. In addition to the ability to easily create new entities, forms and fields, you can also develop your own custom workflows to make CRM fit your business processes. This flexibility also extends to the web as Dynamics CRM is a completely web-based application. Microsoft also provides extensive API s that are used by many thousands of developers so that Dynamics CRM can integrate with other solutions and easily allow an organization to Association Management Software AMS systems were designed with the specific goal of successfully managing 4 key tasks: tracking member contact information, billing dues, managing events, and producing static reports such as labels and badges. Marketing, sales and business intelligence designed to help generate revenue have always been an afterthought to AMS functional development. For many generations of AMS products, the user interface and process workflow was an afterthought. The systems were meant to be a database, and few resources were put into how to make the association staff s job more efficient. Most AMS systems do not inherently contain marketing functionality, and no AMS comes close to the Marketing automation that exists in Dynamics CRM. The choice of 3 rd party add-ons for AMS is also typically limited because other vendors see limited value in developing solutions for the small customer base available for each AMS vendor. While most AMS systems provide some level of configuration, none of them have the flexibility of an xrm system and the proven ability to protect and upgrade changes to the application like Microsoft CRM. Even the more advanced AMS solutions that provide a tool-kit still rely on their own proprietary SDKs and APIs as opposed to the much more widely used and supported September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 5

6 implement outside custom development. There are hundreds of companies who are able to support Microsoft CRM. And an association most likely already has IT staff that is familiar with or certified in Microsoft technologies. There is a much shorter learning curve necessary to support the Microsoft CRM solution. Microsoft delivers much more innovation and enhancement capabilities to the Dynamics CRM solution. The product is in its 5 th generation and clients can be assured their investment will be well insulated from changes in technology. There is a very deep level of technical and user support available for Dynamics CRM. This includes not only the documentation available from Microsoft, but also thousands of discussion forums, blogs and user communities. (see appendix 3) Microsoft is a proven leader in technology innovation. There are more than 2.7 million users on Dynamics CRM. This very large user base helps drive enhancements to the solution that will help all types of organizations. architecture and APIs used by Microsoft. With a proprietary AMS you are typically left with only the AMS vendor as an option for support. While some AMS vendors do have partner channels, the options available are still very small compared to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner channel. And your IT staff will have to learn a proprietary piece of software that they have likely never used before nor will ever use again. Microsoft employs more developers and spends more on R&D for Dynamics CRM than the total revenue of the major AMS vendors combined. AMS vendors will always be playing catch-up to the new technology that the major technology players like Microsoft will be rolling out first. History has shown that significant shifts in technology and development platforms are difficult to AMS vendors to make and expensive for their customers in terms of product upgrades. While many AMS systems also have user groups, they are often controlled by the vendor or the group is simply too small to provide a broad or deep knowledge base. While AMS vendors do generally have specific knowledge with regard to the functional needs of their customers, this narrow view of functionality and business requirements can limit their ability to think outside the box when it comes to solution enhancements. AMS vendors will continually be followers of technology improvements. September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 6

7 What are the advantages of using Altai Systems and Altai Membership? The principals and staff of Altai Systems have decades of experience working with associations. That experience shows in the deep functionality available in Altai Membership. Our non-profit specific functionality is created in Dynamics CRM following Microsoft s xrm application framework, using the tools within the product to take advantage of the CRM platform instead of trying to build on top of it. The Altai Business Engine allows custom configurations to be made without using codelevel changes to the application. This insures a smooth upgrade path. The Altai Web Portal is controlled from within CRM. This allows customers to configure their shopping cart experience, create new web forms and control role based security for the Web Portal without programming and without engaging Altai. We are very good at project management, and have experience implementing projects as small as 5 users to as large as 400 users. Our approach is to make the client as self-sufficient as possible. Out business model does not include having our customers call us every time they need something configured in their system. Our goal is to make every client a reference, and our customers will tell you we are achieving our goal. Altai and CRM functionality your association needs Membership Management Individual and organizational membership Dues Billing Committee Management Relationship Management Track member participation Subscription Management Event and Education Management Single function or multi-function/multi-day events Trade show Management/Booth Sales Continuing Education Tracking Certification Program Management Sales/Order Management Quotes and sales order management Invoicing and receipts Product and inventory management Coupons/discounts Manage advertising space sales September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 7

8 Fundraising Management Campaign Management One-time and recurring donations and pledges Accept donations online Fundraising events Grant Management Accounting Batch management Deferral and Proration scheduling Manage multiple companies Integrate with Dynamics or other accounting software Member Web Portal and Shopping Cart Member Profile Unified Shopping Cart Create custom web forms and make any CRM form available on the web Restricted or unrestricted shopping process Social and Mobile Solutions Sync LinkedIn profiles to your contacts Sync CRM data to mobile device: contacts, s, events, tasks Make CRM forms mobile compatible Integrate to your Private Social Community Add-on tools to measure and enhance social engagement on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter Business Intelligence Personalized Dashboards Easy to use Query tool Export any query to Excel; dynamic and static spreadsheets Create reports in Microsoft SSRS or any SQL compatible report writer Staff Productivity Enhancements Work within Outlook or a web browser Personalized Staff Workplace (Homepage) Staff Community - follow other staff members, contacts and activities Task assignment and management Workflows for automating processes System Management Tools Add unlimited custom fields with pick lists and validation Create custom forms and expose to the web or mobile device Workflows for automated or on-demand processes Create custom entities Open API for integration to 3rd partly applications Duplicate detection and record merge capabilities Hundreds of Microsoft Dynamics Add-on applications available September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 8

9 Appendix 1 xrm Reference Architecture Source: Microsoft White Paper The xrm Advantage for Solution Builders, April 2010 September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 9

10 Appendix 2 Altai Portal Architecture Dynamics CRM Members hip Participation (committee, chapter, subscription, etc.. Events Financi al Customer- Custom Business Engine Altai Business Plugin Logic CMS Systems (WP, DNN, SiteCore, SharePoint, etc ) AltaiREST Altai Solution Code Base Mobile AltaiCommerce September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 10

11 Appendix 3 Examples of Support Options Available with CRM September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 11

12 September 2012 Altai Systems. All rights protected and reserved Page 12

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