(Reposted from August 2011. Amazingly, much of this blog post still applies.)
Association management companies (AMC) provide management and specialized administrative services to associations and societies using a for-profit approach that runs not-for-profit associations like businesses, as defined in Wikipedia. It’s hard to say how many association management companies are on the Web, but certainly there are hundreds, and thousands if you include the association management companies who specialize in managing homeowner associations. They range from one person organizations to international companies with regional offices.
As you might expect, their websites’ range in capabilities as well. I thought I’d take a look at what is within that range.
Obviously, there is the interactive brochure. This piece of the website shows the geographic areas of service, if limited, that is provided by the association management company. More importantly, it shows the real life services that the company provides to their client associations/societies. I’m not going to go into the range of these things other than what they can and do provide as services ONLINE for the clients now.
Standard business options, using the Internet, are being utilized by association management companies. Online billing to clients, and online payment by clients, are now more commonly used. Document storage – particularly of documents and resources shared by the AMC to their specific clients – is provided by some companies. There are several ways that these things can be done, but these are the kinds of things an association may find under an AMC client login option on the association management company’s web site.
Larger association management companies also now provide web design/development for their clients if desired. If the association management company is big enough, they have an internal staff that is responsible for almost all aspects of the client’s web site and experience, but at the state level there is more subcontracting of that service by smaller association management companies to web developers. There are benefits and drawbacks for either practice, and an association management company can provide quality professional service either way – as in all cases on the web, it just depends on the capabilities, commitment, scalability and planning abilities of those working on the web site, as well as the business practices and scale of the association management company.
Web development/services can cover a wide range of options for a specific association, there’s no reason to get into the details other than it can cover basically almost anything you can find an association’s web site today.
Benefits for an AMC having in-house web development personnel include:
“One Company” messaging to the client association when communications include web development personnel.
Complete control of creative and administrative processes with no company-to-company handoffs.
Long-term in-house vision building for association client web sites in the future with technical, administrative and creative management staff.
Of course, drawbacks to having in-house staff usually involve money, opportunity and stability. It can be tough to retain quality technology staff in some markets, and in other markets, hard to afford them. And there has to be enough work to make the quality hires in the first place.
Fortunately for smaller association management companies, there are benefits of subcontracting the web development process for their clients as well, which include:
The ability to build a “team” of developers by utilizing various firms depending on the needs of their client. “Have a viable alternative” is standard practice. The ability to upgrade site applications or designs can be easiest if you have a variety of resources to tap into. Subcontracting may allow an AMC to have greater technology options to offer to their clients.
Cost control – subcontracting removes many costs involved in direct hiring, from payroll taxes to office and equipment supplies. If an AMC’s web development needs are sporadic, then the costs may be more sporadic as well and not necessitate a salary commitment.
Even if an association management company has a technology staff directly employed, there are reasons to subcontract from time to time for the reasons above. Scalability in both cost and resource is more flexible.
Of course, the downside exists. Messaging to the client requires more funneling between the technology team and the association, as the AMC often will want to be the intermediary. Company culture also needs to be understood and learned by the development contractor, and sometimes that takes a while. Finally, businesses fail, and an association management company needs to monitor the success of their subcontractors as best they can so they do not paint their client into a corner. It’s wise to hire those who have a track record of longevity in the field, and even better if an AMC can find a company that has focused on associations for a period of time, as they will understand the needs of such organizations.
BTW, interesting blog post about association outsourcing to AMCs increasing this year can be found here, with some survey statistics.
Kessler Freedman, Inc., teams with association management companies to build community web sites for the associations they manage.