How This Changemaker Put His Association in the Fast Lane

Rafael Maldonado, Chief Information Officer of the National Automobile Dealers Association, went under the hood to give his organization an overhaul.

When your association is using a management system that is old enough to vote, you’re bound to have some problems. Rafael Maldonado, the Chief Information Officer of the National Automobile Dealers Association, can tell you all about some of the fun little “quirks” he’s found using an 18-year-old system. “We couldn’t take payments online, we had to create about 20 ancillary systems around the AMS in order to service the organization, we couldn’t integrate with newer technologies, we…”

Maldonado could go on and on about the issues of using a system that was created back when VCRs were still popular, but in short, his team had to create so many customizations to keep their system functioning that it became impossible to upgrade without undoing everything. They couldn’t innovate, they couldn’t move forward in any meaningful way, and, it bears repeating, they couldn’t accept online payments. They were heading down a dead-end street fast.

So Maldonado decided to slam on the brakes and put the system in the shop. He figured that the pain experienced by a complete overhaul would surely be outweighed by the benefits a new Association Management System (AMS). And he was right. Sure, there were a couple of little bumps in the road, but when there was a problem, he found a reliable partner in their new AMS technology provider, Impexium.

Maldonado says his association vetted a list of six potential AMS platforms over the course of a year before landing on their chosen provider, and cautions anyone contemplating taking similar steps to take their time and ask lots of questions. “When you are going through a major change like this, the partnership is extremely important,” he says. “Because I can guarantee you one thing and one thing only: nothing is going to be 100 percent perfect on day one.”

Maldonado says he is thrilled with the results. A key benefit for the association members is the new system’s self-service capabilities, like the ability to check invoices, update information and set up autopay. “It’s been a huge benefit to our members,” he says. And it also opens up time and resources within the organization to allow them to do something they couldn’t do in a very long time: innovate.

“We’re doing a pilot now to have Amazon Alexa speak to the AMS,” explains Maldonado. “Imagine a world where you can say, ‘Alexa, tell me what the membership penetration percentage is today’ and she can go back, connect to the AMS and tell me exactly what that is. That’s where we’re going with these things—trying to make it very easy for our executives to be able to make decisions based on sound information in real time.”

Also exciting for the folks at the National Automobile Dealers Association? Yep, that fixed that whole payment problem. In fact, NADA has now collected over $3,000,000 in online payments. “Guys will come in my office and say, ‘Hey, Rafael, we just collected $300,000 in online payments!’ And they’re excited because we couldn’t do that before,” says Maldonado. “It’s awesome.”

Change may be the only constant in business – but that doesn’t make organizational transformation any easier. Association leaders are balancing competing priorities and increasing demands, enough to make even the most driven executive fall victim to the inertia of the status-quo.

But not every association stays still while the world seems to change around them. For his willingness to upset the association technology status-quo, Impexium is proud to recognize Rafael Maldonado as one of 2018’s Association Technology Disruptors!