Embrace Digital Transformation and Master Platform-Based Association Management

Guidelines for selecting the right solution and building organizational resilience.

By Dirk Behrends, Vice President, Association Solutions, Fonteva & Protech

Some associations remain deeply tied to their proprietary association management software (AMS) solutions—after all, they’ve invested ample time and money building them. In that context, it’s understandable that the phrase digital transformation—defined as any IT modernization that fundamentally impacts how an organization operates and generates value—can be daunting.

But while the buzzword sounds like it came straight out of a marketing department, the business value behind digital transformation is significant. The past few years have made it painfully clear that association executives must embrace technological change to ensure business continuity.

Emerging research affirms this premise: A recent study conducted by Altimeter suggested that digitally mature companies were more adept at maintaining strategic focus during the pandemic. “They focus on digitally driven innovation, incorporating a new wave of technologies with an intensity that is outpacing the market,” researchers stated.

Simply put, digital transformation provides associations with a clear competitive advantage. That’s because proprietary AMS solutions, or legacy systems, prohibit associations from keeping up with next-generation cloud technology.

Integrations and customizations designed to engage members and drive non-dues revenue in legacy systems become difficult to maintain, and recurring licensing and maintenance fees add up.

Associations that depend on legacy systems are also forced to schedule costly, time-consuming software upgrades that plummet productivity and diminish the user experience. What’s more, in-house association IT staff bear the burden of maintaining security protocols—a dangerous prospect in today’s high-risk threat environment.

Association Software Platforms vs. Legacy Solutions

The solution is to make the transformative shift from proprietary or legacy AMS systems to association software platforms. These integrated, association-specific technology suites are built on trusted, true-cloud business platforms like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365.

By moving operations to true-cloud platforms, associations can simplify their technology stacks, reduce costs, and unlock the security, accessibility, and flexibility necessary to build a scalable and resilient future.

“Basing systems on cloud platforms is not just an IT decision—it’s a business decision that strategically positions your association to fulfill its mission regardless of what the future brings,” said Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer at Fonteva & Protech. “Here and now, associations have options, but they’ll be handcuffed in the future if they do not select a true-cloud platform solution today.”

“The new normal in the association world is focused on systems that are built on a platform that serves as the center of an association’s membership intelligence,” Fabbri continued. “While that’s not new at all for businesses outside the association space, it’s something associations need to pay attention to.”

The key to choosing a fitting association platform is education, and that’s where resources like come in. Bookmark this site now, and you’ll have a go-to source of expertise from subject matter experts on how to mobilize technological change.

Technological change is crucial considering that more than 76 percent of businesses already describe their relationship with technology and digital transformation as “generally average or above average.”

“ will make the lives of association leaders and staff easier,” said Erin Lemons, Senior Director of Marketing at Fonteva & Protech. “The site helps mitigate risk by advising readers on how to select and use enterprise-grade solutions built on top of world-class customer relationship management tools.”

Ensure a Predictable Future

In a recent global survey, a whopping 97 percent of organizations said “the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sped up digital transformation processes in their organizations,” with 68 percent reporting that digital transformation “sped up a great deal.”

By embracing the right platforms, association executives can ensure greater security, foster seamless member experiences, leverage cutting-edge research and development, and encourage employee advancement through the reduction of manual processes.

“Recent events have laid bare the underlying inflexibility of the systems and processes associations have in place,” Fabbri said. “On top of addressing consumers’ expectations that associations provide a Google-like user experience and deliver services like Amazon, associations also have to ensure they don’t have all of their eggs in one revenue basket.”

To forge a strategic path forward, Fabbri said associations must work to understand how to continue to engage their members—preferably before their members know what they want.

“It’s not just about collecting dues,” he said. “The questions that associations need to answer with their technology are about how they can better serve their members’ needs in the future. Where can you fill gaps in the market? How do you become the go-to information resource for your industry? Simply looking back at who needs a reminder to pay their dues is the association model of yesterday. And the organizations that don’t evolve—or transform—will get left behind.”

In early 2021, Togetherwork acquired Fonteva, a platform solution built on the robust capabilities of Salesforce. Toward the end of 2021, Togetherwork acquired Protech, an association platform solution built on Microsoft Dynamics 365. Through, Fonteva and Protech educate the industry on technology that empowers associations to deliver a modern member experience.

(Handout photo)