The Merging of AMS Companies: Creating Cures or Casting Clouds?
The Association market was shaken up in April 2017 when a major merger was announced combining three of the largest players; YourMembership, Aptify, and Abila into a single container company called Community Brands. The combination of these brands represents just over 13,000 of the nation’s non-profits/associations heartbeat software known as the Association Management System (AMS).
So, what does this mean for associations?
Well, that’s a great question and nobody is quite sure yet. What we do know is that the public statement is about better serving the market by consolidating and creating new solutions.
However, the future intention of the group acquisition and its current state of being are two very different things. For this to be successful, there will need to be some major changes on how these three organizations do business. If the goal is to truly serve the association market better, then the following things need to happen:
- The brands need to consolidate. All three of these brands are in direct competition with one another. While though they have different reputations in the market and different strengths, they ultimately fight for the same clientele.
- A core code base and path forward needs to be established for this merging of AMS vendors to have a tangible impact. Even though they can all see each other’s code base now, those features are not as easy as handing them back and forth between platforms. Each of these technology stacks have been built from the ground up following their own philosophies. What’s practical for one may not be practical for the other from a coding perspective.
- A migration path that’s low impact for associations needs to exist. If you’re already with one of these vendors or considering migrating to them, you need to ask yourself, what happens if these platforms consolidate? What does that cost look like for our association? Low cost or no cost at all is the only way.
This may all seem like common sense, but it’s much easier said than done. The good news is that there is significant capital available to overcome some of these challenges. While no one can say, “This is good/bad for associations because of x, y, and z,” we can, however, make some general assessments based on what we’ve learned about the association market tracking history.
This will cast clouds on the industry and hurt associations if they maintain separate brands, separate teams, and internally compete with one another for business. By a product of common sense, one of these groups will begin to suffer early on and that will be reflected in the reliability, support, and future progression of that brand's platform. Ultimately, it makes the acquisition just a grab for financial share in the association market that does not benefit the market.
On the other hand, if overtime either a lead brand or the parent company, Community Brands, can evolve into a condensed AMS platform that focuses on what an AMS should be doing, then the sky is the limit. If you look at the “About” section, you can see the full suite of AMS vendors and association based technologies that Community Brands owns. It will take some time for this story to unfold, but I must admit that I don’t see anything special in this round-up of AMS providers, unless they take the opportunity to create something the industry has never seen before.
If you’re in the process of going through an AMS selection, knowing what these companies are doing and planning on doing is crucially important to the stability of your associations software stack. AMS systems are the life blood of the association and touch all aspects of the organization.
Should you have any questions on AMS selection, feel free to contact us for more information.