You’ve taken the plunge and decided to invest in membership management software for your organisation, but how should you go about choosing which system is best for you, and what should you ask potential suppliers?

Is it their own, or are they reselling someone else’s system?

Some software developers still write and sell bespoke, unique software packages for individual clients. For some membership businesses who have complex requirements, this may be exactly what you want and need. However, the ongoing costs of maintenance updates and bug fixes can be expensive.

Perhaps the supplier has taken an existing piece of off-the-shelf software and adapted it to suit a particular industry sector, such as membership management. There can be downsides to this scenario if the off-the-shelf software is developed and upgraded at a faster rate than the add-on.

Are you being offered an off-the-shelf dedicated piece of membership management software?

Be clear before you start what the supplier is actually offering you as it can have a huge impact on cost and development later down the line.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, offers some useful information about the differences between bespoke and off-the-shelf software.

If you’re looking at membership management systems, companies like https://www.ofec.co.uk/web-and-software-development-services/membership-management-systems.aspx have nearly 20 years of experience in their field.

What’s covered in your contract?

Be certain that you know exactly what is included in your contract. Is it just the software and installation? What about data migration from another system or even paper records?

How will you be charged for your software?

More and more software houses are moving to a subscription model versus an up-front charge. This can make it much more cost-effective for most businesses and help to improve cashflow. However, for some organisations, paying up front will be a better option, so you should make sure this is possible.

What support can you expect?

What does the supplier offer, and does it come directly from them or a third party? Does it include on-site visits or just telephone support?

What about ongoing fees?

What else will you be charged for in the future? Are regular upgrades included, or will you have to either pay more further down the line or face being left with a system that is out of date?