What to look for when shopping for a new AMS

We say it a lot, but it’s true; regulatory authorities serve an important function by protecting the public interest and helping ensure the competence of the professionals and organizations they license and oversee. And because they provide such a critical service, it’s important that they have the best tools available to them to work accurately and efficiently.

On the other hand, technology evolves so rapidly, it can be hard for regulators to keep up. Even in this day and age, many regulators are using sewn-together “Frankenstein” solutions to handle their information technology requirements. It’s not uncommon for some regulators to still rely on complicated spreadsheets, constant importing and exporting of registrant lists and email lists and data extracts, and even pen and paper forms slinking back and forth through snail mail.

Upgrading your association management software (AMS) is no simple affair though. Finding a new AMS can represent a significant investment for your regulatory authority, and not just in terms of sheer dollars. Remember, if you do decide to invest in a new AMS, you’ll likely be using it every day for many years to come. That makes it even more important to make sure you get the best solution possible to meet your regulatory needs.

So what exactly should you be looking at when you’re shopping for a new AMS? We’ve pulled together a few of what we consider to be the most important considerations brought up over the years. Of course, Alinity ticks all of these boxes, but really these are the features you should be asking about regardless of the software solution you finally settle on. These are pretty universal concerns for regulators looking at acquiring a new AMS.


This first one is a given, but its importance can’t be overstated. Regulatory authorities work with a lot of highly sensitive personal information, and you can’t afford to take chances with it. For every AMS you wind up looking at, make sure the vendor is well-versed in current security best practices. Grill them about encryption, role-based module access and, presuming you’re looking at a cloud-based provider, the physical location of the servers, and data backup and redundancy.

Find a cloud-based provider

Speaking of the Cloud, make sure any association management software you’re seriously considering is cloud-based. There’s a lot of good reasons why software has shifted to the Cloud in recent years. It makes the software easily accessible from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. You don’t need to install expensive new hardware, and most of the time cloud-based software doesn’t care if you’re working on a P.C. or a Mac. Nowadays all you should need to be able to use software is virtually any device capable of running a reasonably modern browser, and an internet connection.


Regulatory authorities are just too diverse to be handled by an out-of-the-box solution. Sure, all regulators need application and renewal services, and we all understand what’s meant by continuing competence audits, regardless of whether we call it a competence audit or a learning plan verification. But individual workflows themselves can vary widely from regulator to regulator. What works for dental hygienists in Manitoba isn’t necessarily going to work for dental hygienists in Alberta, let alone for architects in nurses in British Columbia. That’s why it’s important to make sure that any AMS you consider has deep customization options.


An unfortunate downside to deeply customizing software is that doing so often destroys the ability of the software to receive updates in the future. The customized implementation just becomes too different, and you wind up missing out on important security and feature updates. So make sure when you’re shopping around that you check to be sure your implementation can be customized without compromising the software’s upgrade path.


This one goes hand-in-hand with customization. You shouldn’t even be contemplating a vendor that can’t provide the core services you need, but is that all they offer? What about additional services not currently covered. Can the software your contemplating be expanded in the future to further address your needs? Do they have additional modules of functionality, even if you’re not in the market for them immediately?

You should also dig into the nitty-gritty of the software’s details, and consider the availability of additional features that aren’t part of the main software or overall modules. Can you perform other functions not normally associated with a “primary” function? Features like daily provincial provider extracts, CIHI extracts, or reporting may not warrant an entire module of functionality on their own, but they’re also an absolute must have for many regulators. A software that has a broad scope of available optional functions will more likely be able to handle both current and future needs.

Regulatory Focus

There are plenty of association management systems available, but there’s an important difference between self-regulated professions and professional associations. While a standard AMS may feature many useful functions that regulators and professional associations share, like basic member management functions such as applications and renewals, they often lack an understanding of the nuanced needs of regulators, particularly when it comes to the fundamental difference we touched on earlier; regulatory authorities are tasked with protecting the public interest, while professional associations often promote the profession itself to the public. These are two very different mandates, despite their surface similarities, and making sure you find a software provider that understands your needs can mean the difference between a software solution that works well, and one that just works well enough.