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Systemizing Your CMS Partner Choice


Club management software (CMS) is one of the most important elements of the modern health club, which means picking the right software partner is essential.

There are several companies on the market vying for your attention, so choosing the one for you can seem daunting. However, there’s a proven method for making a smart software partner choice, and it starts with knowing your club’s objectives.

“To quote the great Stephen Covey, ‘Begin with the end in mind,’” said Mike Rucker, the chief digital officer at Active Wellness. “This may seem like a no-brainer, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen operators shop vendors without predetermining their own goals and objectives. Each club has a unique set of needs, wants and desires based on their respective business model and current environment.”

Before evaluating software solutions, it’s essential to identify your club’s greatest needs.

“What are the largest problems facing your club?” asked Rucker. “Is it financial management, sales and marketing, or system integration? Clearly defining your existing business problems will lead to picking the best solution.”

According to Rucker, it may be easy to consider a software solution amidst promises of incredible, flashy features, but focusing on the basics in the early stages is essential. “There will be plenty of opportunities to co-create new solutions with the vendor you go with, but if you don’t take this first step, you’re much more susceptible to being oversold,” he said.

With clearly defined needs and expectations for software, you’re ready to begin comparing different companies and determining how well their products will meet those needs.

“List the most important criteria in its own row of your favorite spreadsheet program,” explained Rucker. “On the top, in individual columns, list which management software solutions are on your radar.”

You can lay out your research however you like, but you should arrange it so you can cross-reference each company’s software features and your desired outcomes — known as a “decision matrix.”

“Begin by assigning a weight to each piece of criteria and rank them in order of importance by row, starting at the top,” said Rucker. “This puts what matters most front and center.”

And if no names immediately come to mind, a quick internet search will help. Rucker suggested to start with searches on Google, in trade magazines and via online directories, like Capterra. “Of course, also solicit recommendations and opinions from any industry colleagues who are familiar with the software you’re evaluating,” he added.

From there, it’s a simple matter of ranking each solution. Moving through your list of criteria, give each vendor a score — on a scale of 1 to 10 — on their ability to meet that need. At the end of each column, add up the scores and you’ve got actionable data to work from.

Outside the immediate benefits of a new software solution, there are also several long-term factors to consider when making your choice, such as the need to integrate additional platforms or a mobile app.

“In addition to addressing your overarching business goals, ask yourself how much customization you think you’ll need,” advised Rucker. “Are third-party integrations important — or will they be in the future as you grow? Are enterprise features important? Do you need an out-of-the-box mobile solution, or are you willing to invest in this separately?”

With all your basic software requirements, prospective companies’ features and possible future-facing needs in one place, your choices should be pretty clear. “If you’ve done your homework, you now have a shortlist of qualified vendors,” said Rucker. “Each vendor is going to have its own strengths and weaknesses.”

Analyze the technology of each company and how they align with the needs you’re looking to fill. Once you’ve identified the company that aligns the closest with what you’re hoping to achieve, pick up the phone or send an email to start a conversation.

Then you’re on the right path to a successful partnership

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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