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Advancing the AMC Model

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 23, 2016

Advancing the AMC Model - How We All Can Contribute to Our Collective Success


Greg Schultz, AMCI’s 2016 Chair, has been one of the Board’s most vocal advocates of the importance of marketing the value of the AMC model. As he leads the Institute’s efforts to increase awareness and interest in working with AMCs, we asked Greg to share where the Institute will place its focus, and how members can get involved.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing AMCs in marketing to volunteer leaders and association executives?

Lack of awareness - Research we undertook a little over a year ago still showed a lack of awareness for the model and how it benefits associations – and this is consistent for volunteer leaders, captive staff, and organizations providing goods and services to associations.

Offering options/flexibility – Many organizations express interest in using an AMC’s services on an ad hoc basis prior to considering full service.

Communicating competency around transitions – Currently, organizations are more apt to consider the services of an AMC when they have reached a fork in the road. They may have reached a tipping point in appreciation of the lack of sustainability of their current business model, a planned or unplanned executive director transition, or the need for a rapid response to an opportunity or crisis in their space.

Perception – Whether it is keeping an association’s brand independent, delivering expertise in specific industry or professional sectors, or having real passion for an organization’s mission, there is uncertainty that AMCs go beyond being efficient general managers for associations that cannot afford to directly employ full-time staff.

Cost and value – Volunteers and association staff generally appreciate that AMCs provide efficiencies, but they often measure value in terms of cost reduction rather than value creation and growth.

What is AMCI doing in 2016 to address these challenges?

Our mission is to increase awareness and tell the AMC story around areas that resonate with our primary markets: association volunteers, stand-alone staff and third parties that have trusted relationships with association boards and staff.

Our tactics fall into two major areas:

Improve: Improving the quality and reliability of the services AMCs deliver benefits all AMCs. We continue to promote accreditation and best practices within our industry. This year we will introduce new webinar education programs for AMC staff.

Prove: We need more proof of the value AMCs bring – why it makes sense to move from an asset-depreciation management model to a value-creation management model. In 2015 we completed an independent Financial impact Study that demonstrated AMCs provide a greater return on investment than a standalone management model. http://www.amcinstitute.org/?page=numbers. In 2016 AMCI will support new research that will demonstrate the reach and impact of the AMC industry.

Promote: We have developed a message platform that addresses the concerns I noted above, head on. And we are increasing strategic outreach and direct engagement with influencers, volunteer leaders and standalone staff. Continuing to promote the results of the independent Financial Impact Study is a key part of our 2016 marketing program. And we are creating and distributing more content that demonstrates the expertise of the AMCI member firms, innovations being undertaken that advance the association industry, and value/benefits of working with AMCs. This component is critical to the overall program, it provides qualitative proof to support our qualitative research. But we need members’ support to make it work.

How can members get involved?

More content and more attention translates to more focus on value of the model...

We need your content that demonstrates AMC leadership, value and success. Make sure AMCI is on your media list, send case studies, blog posts and material that your company has generated to promote your own successes and value. We will push it out via AMCI channels, and your organization will be credited. Win-win!

Be part of the online community and discussions on the AMCI LinkedIn group and Twitter, and encourage your staff to do the same. Contribute your content and thoughts to our social media channels and retweet and repost AMCI content to help spread the message.



Contribute your data by participating in AMC surveys (there’s one coming out in soon).

We will continue to refine our tactics and measure our results. We are making progress! If you have ideas or concerns send me a note gschultz@kellencompany.com or get in touch with AMCI CEO Tina Wehmeir at twehmeir@amcinstitute.org.

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Improving the RFP Process

Posted By Cal Harrison, Monday, December 7, 2015
What an Association Can Learn from their HR Department About Hiring AMCs 

Cal Harrison photo Cal Harrison.jpg Hiring an association management company (AMC) is a lot like hiring a staff person -- but on a temporary instead of permanent basis.

In the effort to get associations focusing on the qualifications of an AMC during a selection process instead of using a low-bid proposal (RFP) process, the AMC consulting world has an unlikely ally – the human resources department.

Before we continue I should introduce what I recommend as the replacement process for the low-bid RFP - Qualifications Based Selection (QBS). QBS is a vendor selection process in which price is not an evaluated criterion. Instead a budget is disclosed by the buyer and the final price and scope are negotiated with only the most qualified firm.

In most RFPs even if price is only weighted at 10%, it can effectively become 100% of the decision if the vendor qualifications are poorly evaluated -- the case in most RFPs. Unless an RFP has a well-defined scoring rubric that uses binary type scores where a proponent can only score 0, 5 or 10 (out of 10) in any category, it is likely that many firms get inappropriately and inaccurately clustered around a similar and subjective qualification score, meaning that the tie-breaker is always low-price and effectively making low price 100% of the selection criteria.

QBS is so effective that the US federal government created federal legislation (The Brooks Act) in 1972 making it mandatory that QBS be used when hiring architects and engineers for any federally funded projects. And since 1972 over 40 states have also adopted versions of this legislation and its use continues to grow in Canada and other countries.

It makes sense that if you’re hiring experts to design important things like hospitals, bridges, labs and buildings that it’s probably best that you hire the most qualified at a fair price, instead of the least qualified at a low price. I would suggest that running an association is also an important thing that is better done by those most qualified instead of those that are cheapest.

Virtually every association that hires AMCs is already unwittingly using the QBS process within their organization – just not in the procurement department. Instead we find the QBS process alive and well in the human resources department where it’s being used to hire permanent staff.

For the record I have never seen an HR department use a low-bid process when hiring a staff person. And in fact if I suggested this to any HR department they would look at me quite strangely, I am sure. Instead of trying to find out who can fill the role for the least amount of money, HR wisely looks for the most qualified candidate within a predetermined and previously disclosed, budget and skill set. They advertise their need for a certain type of expertise within a certain salary range and invite qualified candidates to submit resumés (read: proposals) bearing objective, defensible and credible evidence of their expertise by listing such things as education, previous work experience, specific prior projects, unique training, publications or articles they have written, presentations they have given, research they have completed, awards they have received, etc.

An initial 0/5/10 style evaluation of the resumés (read: proposals) against the objective criteria for evaluating expertise usually yields a shortlist of candidates for an interview – which is really just a chance for the hiring committee to explore and further evaluate candidate claims of expertise with a more robust discussion. The interview is an opportunity to further refine the initial scoring of the shortlisted candidate using dialogue and more specific inquiry.

At the end of the interviews usually one candidate has clearly bubbled to the top, and negotiations then begin with that candidate within the previously advertised salary and requirements of the job.
Should those negotiations not go well, the buyer is free to cease, and move on to negotiating with the second most qualified. In this manner the client is always guaranteed to hire the most qualified staff person for a mutually agreed upon fair price, unlike the low-bid RFP process where the minimally qualified and lowest price typically have the scoring advantage.

“But Cal,” buyers often protest, “hiring one staff person is not the same as hiring an AMC for a million-dollar contract!” Hiring a $100,000 per year employee, with the expectation that he or she will be a long-term employee lasting 10 years or so, is not a $100,000 hiring decision. It is a $1 million-plus hiring decision. It is a QBS-style hiring decision made without a low-bid requirement, using only a two or three-page proposal (read: resumé), and accepted worldwide as the de facto standard for hiring professional staff.

So explain to me again why associations that use a QBS process to make million dollar-staffing decisions can’t also use QBS for million dollar AMC vendor decisions?

Cal Harrison is the President of Beyond Referrals a company dedicated to improving the way professional services firms are hired. His second book Buying Professional Services: Replacing the Price-Based Request for Proposal With Qualifications Based Selection is available at www.BeyondReferrals.com

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Wearable Technology

Posted By James Gaskin, Thursday, October 22, 2015

 Lately I’ve been keenly interested in the potential application of wearable technologies to organizational and consumer studies. As a general rule, it’s bad practice to base research and scientific studies on the latest gadgets until it’s clear what their scope and impact potential is. But I would argue that wearable technologies are an exception. Why are they different from other gizmos we could study? Well, because they actually enable a new mode of data collection that will change the paradigm of what we can study. 

Whether in consulting research, internal studies, or in academic pursuits, most measures in the organizational and consumer studies are collected indirectly through subjective surveys of an individual’s beliefs, attitudes or perceptions. Because these are completely subjective, these measures are not precise and are subject to a great deal of error and bias. To address this issue, researchers have tried direct measurement of physiology (such as heart rate, skin temperature and conductivity, etc.), but until now, the equipment required to measure these physiometrics has been incredibly invasive, expensive, and bulky – potentially confounding any experimental procedures and limiting data collection – and has largely restricted such research to an academic arena. However, with the advent of powerful, commercially available, consumer wearable technologies – such as smart watches – we now have the opportunity to conduct inexpensive, non-invasive studies that will feel natural to study participants and will therefore be less likely to confound data collection and findings.

As mentioned, these devices can provide exact empirical measures of traditionally subjective measures. For example, an increasingly important psychological measure of interest in organizational and consumer studies is called “flow” –- a deep state of immersion when the individual loses track of time, feels intense arousal and control while engaging in a task or interacting in an experience or with others. Leveraging wearable technologies to investigate the flow experience will allow us to detect fluctuations in physiology and to provide an objective, physiology-based measure of the flow experience. Understanding traditionally perceptual measures (like flow) at the physiological level will allow for more precise measurement and will therefore allow researchers to capture, theorize about, and design around these measures more accurately than could be done with the traditional perceptual measures. These technologies may even be leveraged, not only as data collection devices, but as feedback devices.

The new Microsoft Hololens (https://youtu.be/aThCr0PsyuA) is a mixed reality device that overlays a virtual reality on our physical reality. The device also includes an EEG (as well as sensors for skin temperature, blood oxygen level, and skin conductance). If we can detect the neurophysiological patterns that indicate entry into a flow state, sustaining a flow state, and then dropping back to a normal (non-flow) state, we can use that feedback to redesign the stimuli presented to the user in order to keep them in the flow state. Why would we want to do this? Because flow is known to increase satisfaction and return intentions – i.e., they will enjoy our product or service and will intend to continue using it and use it more often. These are good things.

Imagine in a group meeting or event that several attendees are wearing smart watches that track their heart rate, skin temperature, and skin conductivity (all emotional indicators). We may be able to monitor their reactions to speakers and/or topics through a shared app, allowing the results to be applied when developing future sessions. We could also enable participants to better evaluate the sessions best suited for them, creating an enhanced, customized educational experience. 

Has your association considered the implications and opportunities of wearable technology to enhancing your offering? It may be time to start.

James Gaskin is a professor of information systems in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. Dr. Gaskin teaches advanced multivariate statistics for academic research and is the founder of StatWiki, an extensive online database of advanced statistical tools and tools and tutorials and Gaskination, a YouTube channel with over 130 statistics tutorials.

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Charles Hall

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Welcome! I am excited to introduce our new blog and redesigned website. We wanted to build a place where thoughts, best practices, and real world examples of what works -- and what doesn’t -- can be shared. We are committed to providing insights into opportunities, trends, and solutions to give AMCs and the associations they work with a competitive advantage.

That’s why over the coming months you will see many new features on the site. Quick polls to understand what people are thinking right now. Research results that will help association executives, volunteer leaders, and AMC staff make better strategic decisions. Articles, presentations, and videos from people leading from both within and outside the industry. Interviews with experts on a wide variety of topics that are critical to today’s leaders. And opening this forum to a series of guest bloggers to continually get a unique take on what’s going on in the industry.

Most importantly we wanted to create a site that encouraged discussion and conversation. We would love to hear from you and have provided several options for you to give us input and feedback. Please post your comments, your likes, your opinions, or your suggestions so collectively we can generate the next big ideas that will help shape the future of association management. We invite you to join our LinkedIn group or follow us on Twitter. If you prefer, the ‘contact us’ page provides you with additional ways to get in touch – so call, email, or write us. Have a great piece of content you want to share? Send us an email at info@amcinstitute.org.

We know that tapping into a wealth of knowledge and perspectives only makes us all better.

Charles Hall

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