Do Groups Make Better Software Decisions?

Software decisions are challenging. And, Group Dynamics play a big role in finding the right software for your nonprofit.

It is no surprise to many that organizations rely on groups,teams, or committees to come up with a decision on software. In fact, it’s rare today to rely on a single person to make the software decision. In this short article, I wanted to shed some light on how group dynamics can be good and bad in making that very important software decision.

How to Address Group Dynamics in Making Software Decisions

Why are teams formed to make software decisions? I believe the thought process behind this is that while one person bases decisions on their own experiences and biases, a group applies their collective experiences and differing perspectives to come up with a better solution. In our opinion, it’s important to form a group to perform the software selection task, however, the leader of the group should realize that there are some negative consequences that may arise due to group dynamics in making software decisions. And, in order to provide the best overall outcome, various dynamics must be addressed before they become detrimental to the decision-making process.

The following are some of the most common negative dynamics based on psychological principles that can result in poor group decision-making, and a few smart thoughts on how to address them:

Lack of Strong Leadership

Weak leadership within a group often leads to one person dominating the process. This often leads to a lack of direction, shifting of focus away from the actual issue, or infighting within the team. The best way to address this is to designate a group leader or facilitator. This person should have great communication abilities, and have the skills and knowledge necessary to guide the group without becoming domineering. If domination occurs, it may require coaching of the leader to point out what is needed from the group as a whole. For example, in a recent software selection review at a nonprofit, it was clear that the Membership Director was the dominant player on the team. And, no doubt was going to do their best to persuade the group towards their departmental needs rather than that of the organization even if it meant giving up in other lessor known and “sizzling areas” like Accounting. In this particular case, we addressed it early on and avoided the derailment thank goodness!


Groupthink occurs when members are more focused on everyone agreeing than they are with making the best decision. This dynamic often leads to a lack of exploration of possible solutions. The best way to deal with this dynamic is to ensure that emphasis is not placed on group harmony. Instead, the members need to understand that personal insights are needed in order to reach the best decision, and that dissent is an acceptable part of the process. This is an interesting psychological principal. It’s not common, for the “leading options” which are perceived to be the “easiest path of resistance” aren’t always best choice for the company. In other words, just because a software option has been around for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s always a fit for everyone.

Authority Deference 

When the leader of the group is a highly influential member of an organization or department, it can lead to team members agreeing, regardless of their own feelings, in order to be seen in a favorable light. This can be avoided in some cases by choosing a leader with a lower or less esteemed status within the organization with varying degrees of success. However, if this isn’t possible or a good idea, it may be worth employing a specialist in software selection to help here as well. In software decisions, there are usually many (siloed) initiatives in the works and it’s important to know that going into the process and during it.


This occurs when there are members of the team that block decision-making by interrupting the flow of information. Common behaviors include aggression, withdrawal, negativity, & possibly unwarranted humor. This typically transpires at the start of the software selection process, however, can creep up at the tail end when a member perceives the decision going a different direction than they desire. When these behaviors are present in the group, strong leadership and coaching will be required to challenge the behavior. And, providing feedback to the member on how his or her actions are affecting others will be necessary, and often eliminates the problem. Across organization sizes, it’s important to have Executive Sponsorship and oversight. And, at the end of the day, be held accountable to the decision making process.

Groups can and do make good decisions. However, each of these dynamics pose a threat to the common goal of finding a software “fit”. But, they can be overcome if they are addressed quickly in group decision making. Monitoring behaviors in the group will ensure that these problems are identified before they result in negative dynamics. This will lead to improved information sharing, improved group dynamics in the software selection decision-making process, and a better software decision outcome.

If you may need help in determining the best software solutions for your organization, SmartThoughts would like to be apart of your group. Contact us today.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Nonprofit Software Dynamics play a role in the decisions for your organization. Be smart.



If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

A review of Nonprofit software options from a vendor who sells is like having a hammer. Everything looks like a nail.

For many, the thought of searching for the right nonprofit software is daunting. In fact, it’s the last thing on the “Must Do List” but the most important item to complete. In this article, we will shed some light on the challenges and inherent issues with software assessment or software selection consulting being performed by a company who “Sells” or “Implements” one software tool.

Buyer Beware in your advisor for Nonprofit Software

Personally, I have heard the expression hundreds of times, but I never explored enough to determine if there was any psychological basis for it. And, actually during my research for this article, I found out that Abraham H. Maslow in 1962 in his groundbreaking, Toward a Psychology of Being, actually studied the following phrase

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Anyways, many of us know and have heard that expression before, but in essence, it implies:

  1. With limited tools, single-minded people apply them inappropriately or indiscriminately
  2. If a person is familiar with a certain, single subject, or has with them a certain, single instrument, they may have a confirmation bias to believe that it is the answer to/involved in everything.

As a consultant who is laser focused on the evaluation of software and working with organizations seeking software solutions, it’s critical in our mind to be agnostic.

Agnosticism or Atheism in Software Selection

What is Agnosticism Agnosticism is typically associated with views on religion, but we actually use the term in essence to underscore that at SmartThoughts we do not believe that there is one software which best fits every operational problem. The other extreme is Atheism. Again, typically associated with religion. But, we believe it’s important to note that we are definitely not against or reject the belief or existence that no solution exists. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. we believe that there are some terrific solutions on the market today which can and do provide a solid solution to address the needs of many organizations. There isn’t, however, one size that fits all situations. 

The Challenge with having only a Hammer

To be clear, it’s required to be passionate about what you provide or sell in order to successful.  But, I also believe there is a challenge in acting as an “objective” third-party adviser when you actually only “sell” one product which is ultimately going to be your solution. Frankly, to purport you can be objective is absolutely ludicrous. And, in my mind, why this expression resonates with me most. A purported solutions provider (implementer or software vendor) which states that they can provide your organization with an objective “assessment” yet only have “one solution”, is not objective.

We are Aspiring to be different than the alternative software advisement firms!

In our opinion, if you are seeking true software advice, we believe it’s important to seek some of the qualities below:

  • Spends more than 15-20 minutes on the phone to understand your needs
  • Doesn’t implement or train on specific software
  • Continually researches software options which may fit various needs
  • Acts as an expert analyst to continually search/review/& provide software product reports
  • Experienced in the uniqueness of software for your industry or category reviewing Ex. Customer Relationship Management Software, Membership Software, Donor Software, Marketing Automation Software etc.
  • Demonstrates the values of choice by being truly agnostic and has a track record of working with a multitude of software providers
  • Listens and seeks to truly find alignment between software products and your specific needs
  • Respectful of a vendor organizations “Sales Process” but also adheres to the needs of the client
  • Has strong relationships with software vendors who solve problems in your industry
  • Does not have a “Leads List” to pull software options from based on paid advertising dollars

As the Chief Software Adviser at SmartThoughts, I am charged with setting the tone and adhering to integrity in the selection process. I am responsible for fostering collaboration between clients and vendors in order to truly find a solution which meets the needs of all parties involved.

The good thing is that there are many options. The bad thing is that there are literally hundreds of options for various sectors and unique needs which can be confusing. We believe that it’s our job at SmartThoughts to take the time to align the needs of our clients with the proper vendor who can provide a solution. It’s our job to understand what makes various software unique in order to do that. In short, we are on a constant search to uncover the DNA of the software.

There is software (s) which can be the “Best Fit” for organizations needs. However, as a software advisement firm we do not have one hammer for every challenge we face. If you would like to discuss our approach and tired of getting hammered by the noise, please give us a call. We would be excited to explore the various tools which may be right for you. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


We do not sell nonprofit software, we listen, and solve problems with software for nonprofits.

AMS Software Review of Altai Systems

A SmartThought AMS product review of Altai Membership Database Systems for free download


In our “Search of a Membership Software Series”, we have prepared a quick look at Altai Membership Software System in this article.

Please note that this summary is not intended to provide our full report but rather should serve as a quick overview of the Altai software system. For those interested in learning more, we have prepared a detailed “Smart Report” for Association Executives who would like the full view.

The full report available upon request from Association Executives provides detailed information about the product in an easy to read question and answer format.

Altai Customer Relationship Software for Associations

Brief Summary of Altai AMS: 

Altai Membership is a flexible enterprise level Customer Relationship Management software solution based on the foundation of the Microsoft CRM platform.

Per Altai Systems, Altai Membership is a solution that can be implemented to work the way you do, to support and ensure your business processes are both followed and automated where possible. It is a flexible application for Associations looking for a solution that can be tailored to their needs.

Altai Membership is a scalable solution that will grow with you. Altai is led by a team of seasoned developers and implementers of Microsoft Technologies including Microsoft CRM, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Project Server and many other Microsoft tools which understand the Association market place.

They have an extensive network of CRM consulting providers and software technologies which they provide in order to provide solutions for their association clients.

What features does Altai Systems include? The highlights below:

  • Membership management for both companies and individuals
  • Configurable membership list management – chapters, subscriptions, local, national, committees, etc… You can create and manage any lists and groups as you need.
  • Configurable dues billing
  • Quote, Sales Order and Invoice Processing
  • Receipts processing
  • Events and program management
  • Awards and nomination management
  • Certification and CEU Management
  • Relationship tracking – who knows who?
  • Fundraising and donor management
  • Legislative and Lobbying management
  • Diverse campaign management capabilities (i.e. dues bill reminders, event invites, fundraising, etc…)
  • Project Management
  • Workflow automation and management
  • Website integration
  • Powerful querying capabilities across modules
  • Flexible and extensive reporting capabilities

Where does Altai Systems likely Fit?

  • Mid-Size to Large membership organizations.
  • Organization looking for traditional customer relationship management functionality rather than historical AMS architecture.
  • Organizations looking for Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Microsoft Office Shop – Outlook, Excel, Word, Exchange, Sharepoint etc.
  • Altai’s School Board Association Solution(SBA) makes it a nice fit for respective organizations.
  • Back office accounting applications – Dynamics GP & SL, QuickBooks and more.
  • Social Listening features to see just how hard your social media efforts are actually working for your association.
  • Those wanting a choice of service options through a vast network of Microsoft partners and development partners.

Key Strengths of Altai Systems?

  • Customer Relationship Management foundation
  • Fair pricing due to low overhead
  • A philosophy of simplicity over complexity
  • A tight focus on usability
  • Users can maintain, configure and upgrade without programming
  • Deep experience with CRM and Association Management Software development
  • Appropriately sized solutions
  • Excellent client relationships
  • Altai’s School Board Association Solution(SBA)

A Quick look at Altai Systems: 


Is Altai CRM the Best Membership Software for Your Association?

We don’t espouse to the belief that there is “one best AMS” for everyone. But, Altai AMS may very well be your best fit.

However, to answer this question with certainty, we need to know more about what makes you unique. And, discuss other insights about this platform which we have curated, clients interviewed, and discuss more detailed information beyond just this summary.

Please know that our detailed analysis and expertise is available upon request. To be sure, our software analysis is not a “pretty brochure”, “marketing noise.” or a “sales pitch.”

Rather, we provide a free objective dialogue and insights designed to help nonprofit executives make a smarter software business decision.

If you are interested in some help with reviewing your options and comparisons, please check out our “vendor matching” services here.

Want More AMS Membership Software Reviews?

Please stay tuned to our ongoing “Searching for A Smart AMS Software” where we will continue to provide further insights into membership database software options designed for our 501(c) 6 membership focused organizations.

For the most recent published reviews, please click below:

And, to obtain a sample list of the database software reviews we have, you may follow the link here 

If you work for an AMS database software system and you would like us to include your firm in our software review process, please contact us.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind. Happy Software Buying!

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.