Kevin M. Briscoe is a writer based in Baltimore, Md., and a former editor of NSBE Magazine.

With connectivity and efficient communication in mind, the National Society of Black Engineers is rolling out a new association management system (AMS) that will enable officers, staff and supporters to collaborate more effectively with NSBE’s membership. Scheduled to launch this fall, the new system, dubbed “NSBEConnect,” is “plug-and-play,” with a number of different modules — ranging from membership management to various e-business tools — that can be turned on or off as necessary.

“From a corporate and administrative standpoint, the new AMS is a fluid system,” says Nicole Yates, NSBE’s director of membership and registration. “The interface is well-organized and intuitive. It makes sense.”

The previous association management system was implemented several years ago, when support for the old NSBE Online system was no longer available.

“The AMS offers easy navigation and can be customized — or ‘skinned’ — to look just like our current NSBE site,” says Sylvester Harriett, NSBE’s manager of information technology. “It has cool technology that works and adds functionality for the NSBE community.”

Essential Extras

Among the add-on features, which reside on a “rapid application development” platform and deal mostly with business processes, are tools for management of awards, cases, surveys, products and inventory, sales force automation, campaigns, committees, customer relationships, business intelligence and events.

“When it comes to data collection, the new system is well-aligned with what we’re looking for,” adds Yates. “Logic is built into it, so users don’t have to work so hard. It asks questions about each member and will allow us to create a better narrative around them.”

For example, in the membership renewal process, NSBEConnect ensures that member information will always be correct, by prompting members to edit and update information as applicable. It also includes regional maps — along with a corresponding list of existing chapters in each region — that make it easier to select affiliations and membership types.

To give NSBE staff and constituents ample time to examine a number of options, customize specific features and test them, the AMS is being implemented in two phases.

Two-Part Rollout

In Phase 1, the project team is implementing select base modules and other essential customized modules, and is testing and integrating key third-party enhancements. This phase includes the membership/subscription, chapter management, accounting, fundraising/grants and advertising modules.

“My NSBE Community,” another much-anticipated feature of NSBEConnect, is scheduled for launch at the end of November. My NSBE Community allows users to easily share best practices, documents, video and more across private, secure networks. Its users can also create their own interest-based communities, schedule and manage regional and chapter events, and use mobile capabilities to stay connected around the clock.

The new AMS is being rolled out over a 10-month to 14-month timeline that began in September of last year. Since then, the project team has advanced the system through a conventional design-build-validate-deploy process.

“The users are intimately involved in the testing of the system,” says Yates. “As a result, we don’t expect a gap between expectations and what the system will be able to deliver.”

On Sept. 15, 90 percent of Phase 1 configurations were ready for testing, says Harriett. He adds that Deloitte signed on to assist with the user acceptance testing by NSBE subject matter experts, members of the Professional Executive and National Executive Boards, and other stakeholders. During the user acceptance testing, the testers are expected to test identified requirements and scenarios; use a specified template to document processes; describe the steps required to complete tasks and outline the expected results; document errors and system defects; capture screen shots of errors or defects to aid in resolution, and perform several iterations of the outlined process.

In Phase 2 of NSBEConnect’s implementation, the project team will implement additional customized modules and integrate additional third-party enhancements to select base modules. The final go-live date for Phase 2 is before March 9 next year.