Recently we have seen several accounting vendors introduce online systems for displaying and paying member statements. As a result, many club managers are wondering where to draw the line: should all things related to accounting be hosted by the accounting firm? Would this introduce a level of “tight integration” that would simplify matters?
We think not. We think that all applications which are served by the web and are member-facing should be integrated and delivered by the Internet focused vendor, because the graphical interlocking nature of these applications is very different than traditional accounting functions, and should be left to those who specialize in delivering member-facing systems. The concerns are different, the computers are different, the computer languages are different, the service levels are different, the turn-around times required are different – even the structure of the required support organizations is different. The “tight integration” that is important is the tight integration of all the Internet based systems, which can then use a single industry standard interface to the accounting system as shown in the following diagram:
When the accounting vendor introduces a second online system to display statements (or capture tee times), this increases complexity by introducing not only the additional web system, but two additional interfaces: one to pass the accounting data to the accounting vendor’s web system, and another to provide a single sign-on between the primary web system and the accounting vendor’s web system.
By separating the web system into two parts, tight integration is lost with the result that: 1) The consistency of the artistic treatment is lost between the two systems; 2) Navigational integrity is lost because a member can’t move from place to place in the web system directly; 3) Communication tools, such as email, voice messaging, text messaging, etc. which are available in the primary web system, cannot be used within the member statement web system; 4) Cross-marketing from one part of the website to another is not possible because of the split; 5) Traffic management, a key issue in creating value with a website, is disrupted because all the traffic going to the statement display is effectively going into a black hole, never to return. This reminds me of the suggestion someone made to reduce traffic in Manhattan: make all the streets one-way into Jersey.
For these reasons we believe the best way to bridge between accounting systems and Internet systems is through one simple industry standard interface that keeps all the Internet complexities on one side and all the accounting complexities on the other. Clubessential has just delivered this interface for Jonas/CSG/ClubSelect (with SQL support) and already supports 14 other member billing systems.
When all the web applications are tightly integrated and from just one web vendor, the members see a seamless system and the club staff have just one place to go for Internet support. That’s the kind of “tight integration” that makes sense.