Membership Associations are facing a broad range of challenges. Historically, organisational objectives have focused on member engagement, acquisition and demonstrating value, more recently however the sector has seen a shift towards Digital Transformation leading to new and more complex challenges.

Digital strategies that deliver digital transformation are being discussed, planned and presented to Executive Boards all over the country and should be a key consideration for all membership associations today. Understanding how the integration between people, processes and technologies can benefit from the application of considered digital solutions, will in turn deliver benefits to businesses, their customers and employees.

Having first-hand experience of this exact requirement with membership organisations, we have a good understanding of the challenges faced. While we don’t have all the answers, we do have solutions and the know-how that can help mitigate these challenges, giving you a much better chance of success. 

Key Operational Challenges

Research by  Memberwise identified a common problem affecting digital transformation, one that many reading this post will have experienced at some stage - Inadequate integration between CRM/AMS systems and websites.

The impact can be costly and time consuming, delaying projects and pushing budgets to the limit. Putting enormous pressure on marketing and communications teams as well as their digital partners, if handled badly a project can be derailed and make the goal of digital transformation difficult to reach.  

Investing In Solutions

If you’re about to embark on a web project and the CRM and CMS already communicate with each-

other, ask your agency or an independent party to do a full code audit and analysis of the existing integration work. This will identify any opportunities to re-use existing code if rebuilding in the same CMS or even one that’s built in the same programming language. There is no point throwing away workable code if it can be re-used or re-purposed, after all, this will save you time and money. At a minimum, giving your developer the opportunity to look at working code provides a guideline and best practice to follow for the rebuild.  

We also recommend that you share all relevant up to date API documentation with your digital partner to ensure they’re comfortable with this and engage in early discussion around it.

Mitigating Risk

From experience, we hold some assumptions around dealing with integration needs, following our advice stands businesses in a much better place to get it right the first-time round. Here’s what we’ve found to be important when it comes to being prepared for integration:  

  • Make sure all integration endpoints and APIs are complete, fully documented and publicly available with appropriate connection details (including valid authentication details) prior to integration work starting
  • Provide a test instance of all endpoints and APIs that are a suitable representation of the production environment
  • Don’t make changes to integration endpoints, APIs or underlying systems during integration development
  • Ensure current versions of all integration endpoints and APIs have been used successfully in the past
  • Provide support for integration endpoints and APIs from the vendor of the underlying system for the duration of the integration work 

Roles and Responsibilities

It is essential to select the right agency for your business that understands your needs and requirements and can work with you and your partners to deliver a solution.

A collaborative approach between your dedicated web agency and CRM partner encourages direct discussion, allowing them to agree their roles and responsibilities to improve efficiency.

Getting both teams talking prevents delays and helps communication. We recommend setting up a simple Slack channel, it will make a huge difference and giving more time to think about and discuss the project together.

There will always be things that weren’t originally scoped within a project, getting your partners communicating early means you will have the tools and people in place to resolve issues quickly when things do crop up.  

Early Testing

Undertaking prototype and test integration work early in the process gives the project team and wider stakeholders confidence. More importantly, it provides your partners with an opportunity to test the integration and identify concerns earlier.

Problems flagged at this stage can be addressed and considered before design and wireframing, (rather than being left until the development stage which often happens). It also reinforces communication and collaboration between your partners earlier in the project.

Key Takeaways

  • Complete a full code audit and analysis of the existing integration work
  • Share all relevant up to date API documentation with your digital partner
  • Determine roles and responsibilities between agency and CRM partner
  • Communication is key
  • Undertake prototype and test integration work early

Working to our guidance won’t remove all the risks and challenges associated with CRM and CMS integration, but based on our extensive experience, it will put you in a much stronger position to control the controllable.