A “Best of Breed” Software Ecosystem: The Future of Associations

The days of one or two platforms controlling all aspects of your technology stack are gone.

In the association world, the AMS used to be the center of the technology universe. Most association functions would get shoe-horned into whatever the technology could accommodate. But as APIs have become more accessible, organizations can create an orbit of technology around the AMS, populating it with platforms to manage things like events, content, education, and publications.

Rather than relying on a single, monolithic platform to manage your association, you can stitch together systems that do exactly what you need them to, selecting a platform that fits the exact needs of each department. Think of it like getting to choose the tools in a swiss-army knife. This is referred to as best of breed ecosystem, and it puts your organization in control.

Read further to learn what to look out for in an API-centric environment and the exciting innovations it allows. But first, out with the old. What did the old model look like, and why are associations moving away from it.

Out with the Old

In the past, if associations had trouble finding a product to meet their needs, they may have built their platform in-house. Or they would make other concessions. For instance, purchase something so robust that it took forever to implement and had various unused features. Worse, if an enterprise solution weren’t in the budget, an association would settle for a platform that only met some of their needs. Associations are no longer stuck with only undesirable options. The “best of breed” trend has been materializing for a few years, and many associations have already jumped on board. 

Recently Adage held our annual company retreat, the APEX Hackathon. We were thrilled to have Reggie Henry, Chief Information & Engagement Officer at ASAE as the keynote speaker.  Reggie covered top association trends to watch, out of the ASAE Research Foundation’s Drivers of Change document during his keynote. This document outlines the 50 most significant trends impacting associations and seeks to help association leaders tackle changes affecting their work and life. Reggie noted the future of associations should shift from an AMS-centric ecosystem to API-centric technology environments.

Out with the old. This new way allows for increased flexibility and saves time and money. It’s also consistent with the user-centric approach evident in the for-profit marketplace. Giving association members and staff what they want, need, and expect. 

Best of Breed’s Golden Rule: Check the API

These smaller, more agile systems can communicate with each other through APIs. An API, or application programming interface, is a way for developers and other software packages to integrate with your software.  APIs are a way to tie software together and let your different products “talk” to each other.

Answer these three questions before purchasing new software:

  1. Does the API have good documentation? Good documentation allows you to know If the API will meet your needs. Find out what the integration will look like and what information the API allows to flow back and forth. Knowing this can prevent time lost and decrease implementation costs.
  2. Is the API Open? Know your business use cases and check whether the software packages you are considering will integrate to meet your business needs.
  3. Is the API secure? Find out what the platform’s security protocols are and if they match with your organizations’ security requirements.

Once you’ve considered these three points and validated them against your business requirements you should be poised to take advantage of an API-centric ecosystem.

Innovations Available in an API-Centric World

Now for the good part. Here are some innovations available to your organization when you take adavantage of an API-centric ecosystem.

Audience experience

Typically, members submit CAE credits via email or even fax. Then visit a different site for event registration and go somewhere else entirely to access the community platform. An API-centric setup allows for a single-sign-on portal that enables your members to track CAE credits, purchases, event attendance, and more.

This also gives your organization the power to easily see your member’s full engagement in one area. Perhaps people who typically subscribe to a particular journal are also more likely to attend a specific event. Having the community platform connected as well will allow you to identify advocates (or detractors) and listen for topics, products, or services that are interesting to your member base.


We mentioned a portal that tracks purchases, but with an API-centric ecosystem, you can leverage true ecommerce. Implementing product or service recommendations and incentives can increase non-dues revenue.

Product recommendations allowed by best of breed software
Product recommendation example from our partner, Episerver.


Now that you have all your member data in one place, you can begin to automate some processes and free up resources for growth and process improvement. Take advantage of member renewal emails or text messages at a cadence of your choice. Decrease the need for manual import and export of data. When your systems are connected, you can concentrate on keeping data clean instead of tracking it down.


Personalize the content your visitors see on your site based on each member’s current journey and actions of similar visitors. Consider a healthcare association that serves both patients and providers or a trade association that serves members with various career stages. You can serve content that is relevant to their wants and needs, increasing their perceived member value.

Data Democratization

Improve decision-making by providing all departments access to appropriate data. Instead of one department waiting on a report from another, create transparency with an API-centric ecosystem. Of course, this doesn’t include access to personal data, and you’ll set permissions to ensure security and member privacy.

The Future is Now

Best of breed is here to stay.  Embracing this approach delivers a better user experience and decreases the costs and risks of customizing software that wasn’t intended to be customized. Simultaneously improve member satisfaction and empower association employees with connected systems that are easier to use.

Want to chat about your association’s unique needs? Reach out.

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