Management Software Offered to Encourage `E-Associations'
Hyman, Julie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
A Reston association software provider introduced a new product last week designed to transform trade groups into what the company calls "e-associations."
MEI Software Systems came out with PortalPlus, a companion product to Association Plus, its association-management software. The new product is designed to help trade groups have a stronger Internet presence and capitalize on the electronic commerce trend.
"Our viewpoint is that associations need to be connected to the Internet and most of them have valuable databases of information from which they can build a very powerful e-commerce site," said MEI Director of Marketing Susan Burns.
"[Associations] are on the Internet, but they're not utilizing it as a business tool," she said.
PortalPlus allows associations to set up a Web site, including its member directory and calendar. The groups can then track site visitors' interests, and lets visitors browse associations' libraries, contact other members, and buy publications and other merchandise.
Ms. Burns said that associations must become more Internet-savvy.
"Associations are facing competition from unlikely sources," she said.
Competition includes vertical portals, Ms. Burns said. These sites are virtual communities on the Internet, which bring together people and businesses with like interests without the framework of a trade group.
"They need to get up and running and have their own portal sites . . . to become the association of the 21st century," she said.
She said MEI has about 2,000 customers, most of whom use the company's association management software, which tracks members.
But MEI is not alone in the association software market. In 1997, the American Society of Association Executives conducted a technology survey, and found that Advanced Solutions International Inc. of Alexandria and Austin, Texas, had the most popular management software.
Of 1,200 respondents to the society's survey, 40 percent said they used association-management software. Thirty percent used iMIS Advanced Solutions' product, 12 percent used software put out by Smith Abbott, and 3 percent used MEI software.
Advanced Solutions introduced the first Microsoft Windows-based association-management software in 1991, and Edward Wendling, the company's marketing coordinator, said its products are still cutting-edge.
In addition, the company, unlike others who retail directly to customers, sells all of its software through resellers, which it claims gives it an advantage.
"We sell through resellers, and that's made a huge difference in that we're able to provide local support, training and implementation and it's allowed us to grow much quicker," Mr. …