The Ideal Application Situation
In my previous post, The Ideal Membership Application, I gave my perspective on what the ideal application looks like. In this post, let's talk about the ideal application situation. By "situation," I am talking about the position your Association Management System (AMS) puts you in. Many of these platforms take a "one size fits all" approach and establishes an application "out of the box" as part of the baseline software. This rigid approach leaves associations with little flexibility. Sure, you can create additional fields on top of those that come standard on the platform, designate (some) fields as required, or even turn off some standard fields that you don't need. Regardless of the level of flexibility, the "out-of-the-box" application is not ideal.
The "Ideal Application Situation" is one where the AMS platform lets YOU create the application for your organization.
Think of a survey or a form builder. Technologies with these types of applications give associations ultimate flexibility, which is what's most ideal. Not only can you create additional fields and require data, but you can change the order of the questions. When an AMS platform lets an organization create its application, it gains the ability to give its application the right flow. No AMS platform is going to accurately account for all of the data fields that each organization needs, and none will arrange the fields in the order that makes sense to everyone organization. A rigid application can cause confusion and even lead to bad data.
For example, imagine having an address section that doesn't include a "County" field as a standard field. Now you have to create one as an additional field. But your AMS has a special section for your additional fields and its stashed 3 pages away at the end of your application while the standard address fields are on page one. That "County" field will be extremely out of place.
How about the "Please explain" comment fields that literally won't make any sense if they do not follow the questions they are intended to expand on? (ex. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? If so, please explain.) Or if you have to create an "Other" field because you can't account for all of the potential options in one field type. Having these fields away from their corresponding questions can have an individual in a different mindset when they address them and can lead to them entering bad data.
Every organization's application is as unique as the organization. A rigid application system hinders organizations from fully expressing themselves. An application/form builder places associations in the most ideal situation to create an application that addresses its needs and captures the best data.